LaMelo Ball's rookie season may not be over after all.
The Charlotte Hornets guard underwent successful surgery on a fracture in his right wrist, the team announced Tuesday. Ball's wrist will reportedly be immobilized and reevaluated in four weeks.
The injury in question occurred during the Hornets' game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, in which Ball appeared to fall onto his wrist after driving into the paint:
Any possibility of Ball returning would be welcome news for the NBA, which had watched him turn in one of the most electric rookie years in memory up to last weekend.
Is LaMelo Ball still the Rookie of the Year frontrunner?
At the time of his injury, Ball had been leading all NBA rookies in assists (6.1 per game), rebounds (5.9) and steals (1.6). He was also a close second in points scored (15.9) to Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, while boasting far superior shooting percentages (.528 effective field goal shooting vs. Edwards' .451).
With those numbers backing thrilling highlights and the Hornets' most exciting season in ages, Ball winning Rookie of the Year was a foregone conclusion. But now, he's slated to miss at least a month and likely more in a shortened season, which raises the question of whether there's a rookie out there strong enough to close the gap.
Tyrese Haliburton of the Sacramento Kings had been right behind Ball on most rookie rankings for a while, but Edwards has come on strong since the All-Star break. The first overall pick of the 2021 NBA draft has averaged 25.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2,9 per game in his last seven games.
If Edwards stays hot, he's likely to be a natural selection for Rookie of the Year. Either way, the situation raises the question of what's at the heart of the Rookie of the Year award.
Should the trophy simply go to the most productive rookie? Or should it be the rookie who played the best basketball that season? And how about the player who has the brightest future of the group? All three questions could theoretically have different answers in a season, and that can make for a messy debate.
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