The Charlotte Hornets finished without a win in the 2021 NBA Las Vegas Summer League and it barely registered a blip because of one LiAngelo Ball.
LiAngelo, who is the younger brother of Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball and the older brother of 2020-2021 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, served as one of the few bright spots in Charlotte’s winless campaign.
Through five games, Ball averaged 9.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals. His 3-point shooting (.345) was one of the traits that stood out, but he also provided some intangibles that will get him some looks from the Hornets and even other NBA teams looking to fill out their roster before training camp begins.
Things started out on a good note for LiAngelo, as he came out firing in his 2021 Summer League debut against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Ball hit 3-pointers from various spots and remained aggressive on both ends of the floor, finishing with 16 points (on five 3-pointers), two rebounds, two assists, and two steals. His ability to score off screens and quickly adjust to situations (like his touch pass to Kai Jones for the layup) showed how he has the instincts to be an effective player on the court.
However, it seemed that after one game, defenses understood more about how he operated and adjusted accordingly. His scoring went down with each passing game and the quality of shots dropped so much so that in his last game against the Bulls, he finished with more shot attempts (13) than points (six).
It would be unwise to base LiAngelo’s NBA roster prospects solely on his stats as he has also shown that he is willing to do what it takes to help the team, even if it isn’t so obvious to the rest of us watching.
For someone whose shot wasn’t falling as the tournament progressed, Ball remained active on both ends of the floor and always made sure that he kept plays alive for his team. On offense, he would use screens and make cuts to find ways to get open. Regardless if he was rewarded with scoring opportunities, he made sure to stay active in order to help keep the play alive. It also helped that he was careful with the ball, registering only 0.6 turnovers in five games.
LiAngelo was a solid defender who didn’t foul much (1.0 fouls per game when 10 fouls are allowed before fouling out), and stayed on his man even if he picked him up 94 feet away from the basket. Thanks to his build, he was able to switch and fight through screens while also defending multiple positions. In fact, he didn’t back down in the post like he did against Scottie Barnes, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft.
Moving forward, two things also stand out. He barely got to the free throw line (0.4 attempts in five games) despite having a frame that would bode well in attacking the basket. Also, given the fact that summer league defenses were able to adjust to him, what more at the NBA level?
Scouting reports are more comprehensive and defenses can be more intricate at the NBA level. He will thus have to be more aggressive in terms of generating his offense and while he will still get some looks from behind the 3-point line, hardened veterans will make him work for every point.
Taking all these together, will we see more of LiAngelo Ball after this?
Well, the short answer is yes, and that largely stems from him belonging to one of the louder NBA families.
From the perspective of his basketball career, however, it may be much harder to tell what and how much of a role he will carve with the Charlotte Hornets or with any NBA team for that matter.
Regardless of where his future stands, the tools for LiAngelo Ball to succeed are there but at this point, a team taking him in will have to be patient in helping develop the necessary skills that would help him be successful in an 82-game season. A year in the G-League of Europe would also bode well for him as he can continue to get better physically while also developing his skills with game reps that will be much more accessible to him.