It was never going to be an easy decision. Three months ago, the Warriors, holding the No. 2 pick the NBA draft as their reward for a brutal and injury-plagued season, addressed a need by taking big man James Wiseman, passing on LaMelo Ball, the big, sweet-passing point guard who went No. 3 to Charlotte.
On Saturday, the Warriors will get their first look at what they passed up when the team travels to Charlotte, where Ball has been stellar lately. He is averaging 14.6 points, 6.1 assists and 6.2 rebounds on the season. In his last 10 games, which includes the last eight as a starter, Ball has boosted his scoring average to 21.0 while shooting 47.5% from the field and 40.9% from the 3-point line.
Earlier this week, Steph Curry spoke about the progress he has seen from Ball.
Warriors face Charlotte on Saturday. Steph Curry asked about LaMelo Ball in advance: “He’s playing amazing. There was a lot of talk about what he could show his rookie year. He’s surprising a lot of people.”
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 17, 2021
“He’s playing amazing,” Curry said. “There was a lot of talk about what he could show his rookie year. He’s surprising a lot of people.”
LaMelo Ball Shines Whihle Wiseman is Injured
He might even be surprising the Warriors. For the season, Golden State has gotten good numbers from Wiseman (12.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 50.3% shooting, 40.9% 3-point shooting) even as he has been inconsistent on both ends of the floor. But Wiseman’s production has not been anywhere near as effective as what Ball has done so far for the Hornets.
After finishing 23-42 last season, the Hornets are 13-15 this year, currently eighth in the East playoff picture. Hornets coach James Borrego spoke of his impact this week:
He’s special. He’s a special player. I love coaching him. He’s developing right before our eyes. He’s young. He’s 19. This is new for him and he’s having a major impact on our program, our team, our city, our culture, and it’s fantastic for our group. He’s only going to get better from here, and we found ourselves a heck of a player, a heck of a person.
There’s room for growth here, which is exciting. That’s why I get excited every day to come to work is to help mold and shape this kid. That’s the beauty of this job. I love him, I love coaching him. He’s a special guy, a special talent, and his teammates love him so all of that is very important for us.
Wiseman has been out for the past 10 games with a wrist injury and it is not likely to play on Saturday night. The Warriors did release a statement this week showing encouraging progress from Wiseman, and noting that he would be ready to play during Golden State’s current four-game road trip.
James Wiseman, who has missed the last nine games due to a sprained left wrist, was re-evaluated earlier today. James is making good progress and has returned to segments of practice. The hope is that he can possibly return to play at some point during the team’s road trip. pic.twitter.com/QxjZ2jYOFU
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 18, 2021
The Warriors lost to Orlando on Friday. After Charlotte, they have two days off then play a back-to-back in New York and Indiana.
Warriors Had Scant Information on Both Ball & Wiseman
When the Warriors were choosing between Wiseman and Ball, it should be noted, they had very little to go on. Wiseman had played just three games for Memphis as a freshman last season when he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because of an old loan.
Ball had only a slightly larger body of work. He appeared in 12 games for the Ilwarra Hawks of the National Basketball League in Australia before he was injured, averaging 17.5 points but shooting just 37.5% from the field and 25.0% from the 3-point line. Ilwarra went just 5-23 last season.
— NBA (@NBA) February 9, 2021
The Warriors ultimately went with Wiseman, choosing the big guy over the point guard with the dodgy perimeter shot. The team also had concerns about Ball’s abiity to lead and his long-term fit with the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Interference from LaVar Ball, LaMelo’s outspoken father, was a worry as well.
Ball has put all those concerns to rest. But he is doing it in Charlotte.
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