LaMelo Ball

Players Likely To Get Rookie Scale Max Extensions In 2023

The 2020 NBA draft was a strange one for a number of reasons. It wasn’t viewed as the strongest class by scouts and analysts, and there was no consensus top overall pick. The COVID-19 pandemic also (understandably) made it much more difficult for teams to scout and interview players due to travel restrictions.

Rookies from the class were also negatively impacted, as they were drafted in November and the 2020/21 season started one month later, with shortened training camps. Normally rookies have up to four months to spend with their new teams, including summer league and full training camps. The truncated offseason put all players behind the curve, but the ones without NBA experience were hit hardest.

It’s fair to say the 2020 class has been relatively disappointing overall to this point, especially some of the players drafted in the top 10.

However, there are still some excellent players who were selected in the first round, and I believe three of them are basically locks to receive maximum-salary rookie scale extensions at the beginning of July (the new contracts will kick in starting in ‘24/25). They all have areas they need to improve on, but the potential and production are there.

The top candidates

Anthony Edwards, G/F, Timberwolves

After spending much of his first two seasons playing small forward, Edwards primarily played shooting guard in 2022/23 and had a career year, averaging 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals on .459/.369/.756 shooting in 79 regular season games (36.0 MPG). The top overall pick of 2020 was named an All-Star for the first time this season.

Edwards has been durable, has improved nearly across the board in each of his three seasons, is arguably the best athlete in the class, and is only 21 years old. The fact that the Wolves were able to stay afloat with Karl-Anthony Towns missing most of the season is a testament to Edwards’ growth, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

LaMelo Ball, G, Hornets

The 2020/21 Rookie of the Year was an All-Star in year two after averaging 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.6 steals on .429/.389/.872 shooting in 75 games (32.3 MPG). Ball, the third overall pick in 2020, followed that up by averaging 23.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.3 steals on .411/.376/.836 shooting in ’22/23.

The problem was, Ball sustained multiple left ankle sprains and then fractured his right ankle on a non-contact play at the end of February, which limited him to 36 games this season.

I highly doubt those ankle injuries will impact his next contract, though they are a little worrisome. It’s possible the Hornets might push for some type of protections on the deal, but I’d be a little surprised — Ball played 75 games in ‘21/22.

Tyrese Haliburton, G, Pacers

Several draft analysts had Haliburton high on their boards, but he wound up falling to the Kings at No. 12 overall. He played very well in his stint with Sacramento, but his fit with fellow point guard De’Aaron Fox was less than perfect, particularly defensively, and the Kings memorably traded him in February 2022 for a package headlined by big man Domantas Sabonis.

The deal has worked out well for both teams. Haliburton thrived as a full-time point guard for the Pacers to end last season, and he was outstanding in 2022/23, making his first All-Star appearance while averaging 20.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists and 1.6 steals on a sparkling .490/.400/.871 shooting line in 56 games (33.6 MPG).

Advanced stats nearly universally say Haliburton has been the top player from his class through three seasons. His efficiency and excellent decision-making stand out.

The 23-year-old only averaged 2.5 turnovers per game this season, good for a 4.15-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio – an excellent mark. Indiana went 28-28 with him in the lineup, versus 7-19 without him.

The borderline candidates

Two other first-round picks from 2020 are likely to receive massive extension offers this summer, but I’m not sure if they’ll get the full max – I could see it going either way.

Tyrese Maxey, G, Sixers

Given his relatively modest numbers as a rookie, Maxey’s enormous leap in ‘21/22 was pretty surprising (and impressive). He averaged 17.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists on .485/.427/.866 shooting in 75 games (35.3 MPG) in his second NBA season. The former 21st overall pick had a strong playoff showing as well, averaging 20.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists on .484/.377/.940 shooting in 12 games (40.4 MPG).

Maxey maintained his great outside shooting this season, averaging 20.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists on .481/.434/.845 shooting in 60 games (33.6 MPG).

Still just 22 years old, Maxey is electric with the ball in his hands and is one of the fastest players in the league, making him a terror in transition. While he rarely turns the ball over, he’s more of a shooting guard than a point guard at this time, frequently looking to score instead of distribute.

However, he’s only 6’2″, so he can realistically only defend point guards, and he doesn’t have great instincts on that end. Most of the players listed here need to work on becoming more consistent defenders, but the other players have size advantages and are better at making plays both on and off the ball defensively.

The new CBA allows players eligible for rookie scale extensions to sign five-year deals – they were previously limited to four-year contracts. With that in mind, I think Maxey is highly likely to receive an offer in the range of $160-170MM over five years, but I’d be mildly surprised if he gets the full projected $200MM+ due to his limitations as a play-maker and defender (whether he accepts less than a max deal is another story).

Desmond Bane, G/F, Grizzlies

A four-year college player out of TCU, Bane was the last pick of the first round in 2020. He had a quality rookie season, mostly off the bench, averaging 9.2 points and 3.1 rebounds on .469/.432/.816 shooting in 68 games (17 starts, 22.3 MPG).

Like Maxey, Bane emerged as one of the most improved players in the league last season, averaging 18.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals on .461/.436/.903 shooting in 76 games (29.8 MPG). He was even better in ‘22/23, putting up 21.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.4 APG and 1.0 SPG on .479/.408/.883 shooting in 58 games (31.7 MPG).

From a statistical standpoint, the 24-year-old has a legitimate argument for getting a max deal. He’s an elite shooter and is a solid play-maker and defender.

My only real questions as far as a max deal are: Can Bane be one of the best players on a championship-level team? Is he good enough at creating his own shot? I did view Memphis as a legitimate contender this year until Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke went down with injuries.

Bane is already an excellent player who has shown consistent improvement year over year. Every team in the league would love to have him. I’m just not totally sold on a full max, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets it, and it’s hard to say he hasn’t earned it.

Hornets Notes: Offseason, Bridges, Ball, Clifford, DSJ, FAs

Whether or not Michael Jordan remains in his position as the Hornets‘ controlling owner through the current offseason, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak doesn’t expect the team to get too aggressive on the free agent market this July, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Kupchak anticipates the front office’s focus to be on re-signing Charlotte’s own free agents and making roster upgrades in the draft and on the trade market.

“Although we have a lot of financial flexibility, we don’t typically go big-game hunting with our free agent money,” Kupchak told reporters on Tuesday.

Kupchak, who has said repeatedly since arriving in Charlotte that the team won’t be active in free agency on an annual basis, said the day could come when that approach changes, but insists it won’t happen in 2023.

“Maybe one day we will get to the point where a marquee free agent would look at our team and we’re winning a bunch of games and he’ll say, ’Hey, that’s a place I really want to go,” he said. “But right now, I don’t think that’s realistic. We’ve got to do it through the draft primarily.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • Kupchak believes that the Hornets, who went 27-55 this season, would have won 40 games “if we had our team intact this year,” as Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer relays. He expects to enter next season with greater aspirations. “In the exit meetings, I made it clear that next year playoffs are our goal,” Kupchak said. “And I feel great. I do want to see this through. I don’t know if I’ll be sitting here 10 years from now. But I’d like to be sitting here a year from now, two years from now, three years from now and watching this team that our staff has put together perform. I think it’s realistic that next year will be a playoff (season).”
  • One reason the Hornets didn’t have their team “intact” in 2022/23 was because Miles Bridges remained unsigned all season long due to the fallout from a domestic violence incident. While Charlotte may still end up re-signing Bridges, it sounds like it would happen sometime during the ’23/24 league year if it happens at all. “The NBA is conducting an investigation and that’s the status of the situation right now,” Kupchak said, according to Boone. “… Even when they complete their investigation there are going to be steps that need to be taken, whether that’s us or other teams. … Maybe there was some thought that somebody or us would sign him during the season. But that’s not possible. So, this whole issue will roll over to July 1st.”
  • Kupchak also spoke in his end-of-season media session on Tuesday about a desire for LaMelo Ball to continue growing into a leadership role for the Hornets and expressed support for Steve Clifford, praising the job the head coach did in his first year back with the team.
  • Dennis Smith Jr., who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has hired new representation. Octagon Sports published a tweet this week welcoming Smith to the agency.
  • Smith, P.J. Washington, and Kelly Oubre, all of whom are headed for free agency, each expressed interest this week in re-signing with the Hornets, Boone writes for The Observer. “I definitely want to be here in Charlotte,” said Washington, who will be a restricted free agent. “This is like home to me now, so this is where I want to be. I haven’t thought about being anywhere else.”
  • In yet another story for The Charlotte Observer, Boone looks for silver linings in a difficult year for the Hornets, identifying five reasons why the team’s future could be bright.

Southeast Notes: Young, Lowry, Jovic, Ball

Trae Young addressed a report that the Hawks might listen to offers for him in the offseason, saying he had more urgent matters to attend to — namely, Tuesday’s play-in game against Miami, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports.

“Especially as the player in the moment, you can’t look at what’s gonna come on next year,” the Hawks’ star guard said. “After the game, if the game doesn’t go your way tonight, what’s gonna happen? Like, you can’t focus on things like that. That messes up your head and then you’re not ready to play so, me, I’m not worried about that. I’m gonna let my game play. After the season, whatever happens, happens.”

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link), Young has developed a “solid” relationship with coach Quin Snyder but the Hawks “are continuing to monitor (his) day-to-day commitment and his habits on a day-to-day basis, on the floor and off the floor.” Atlanta’s front office wants to see if Young will become a better leader and Charania expects Young’s agent, Rich Paul, to have conversations with management this offseason about his future.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Kyle Lowry, who will be entering the final season of his three-year contract in 2023/24, isn’t sure if he’ll require left knee surgery this offseason, according to Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “I don’t know,” Lowry said. “We’ll get to that point when it’s there.” He has been limited to 55 games this season due primarily to left knee pain.
  • Heat rookie Nikola Jovic missed 37 games this season due to back issues and he told Chiang that he’s been battling back pain since last summer. “It’s something that started during the summer league,” Jovic said. “That’s when I first felt it. Then just through the season, it was hurting more and more. At one point, I just couldn’t play anymore. The back injury was bothering me even off the court. So I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
  • LaMelo Ball, who missed 46 games this season due to ankle ailments, said he’s happy with the Hornets, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press“I love it here,” he said. “I can’t really tell the future. We’ll just see how it goes and go from there.” However, he doesn’t want to be on a lottery-bound team much longer. “The main thing is winning. Life if better when you win,” he said. Ball is eligible for an extension this offseason.

Southeast Notes: Martin, Ball, Cooks, Murray

Cody Martin is doing his best to help the Hornets as a leader from the sidelines, but it’s not a role he enjoys, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. A troublesome left knee has limited Martin to seven games in his first season since signing a four-year, $31MM contract.

Martin’s injury problems began in training camp, Boone notes, and he was only able to suit up for one of the team’s five preseason games. Martin played just 56 seconds in the regular season opener and underwent arthroscopic surgery on November 11. He returned in early January after missing 37 games, but could only play six more times before being sidelined again.

“You never go into a season thinking something like this is going to happen,” Martin said. “You are not really ever prepared for it. It’s very, very frustrating. This is the first time I’ve ever had to sit out for an extended period of time. So I’m just trying to do my best to be positive mentally and just continue to do whatever I can rehab-wise and do what the training staff is saying. Unfortunately, it’s taken this long. I’m just trying to be smart with it, I’m just trying to be consistent with it, just do whatever I can.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After undergoing ankle surgery three weeks ago, Hornets guard LaMelo Ball said he’s dedicated to rehab and plans to be 100% by the start of training camp, Boone tweets. Ball added that he still enjoys being in Charlotte, saying, “Yeah, I love it here.”
  • Fresh off winning an NBL title with the Sydney Kings, Xavier Cooks hopes to help the Wizards with their playoff push, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Australian forward signed with the team on Friday and made his NBA debut Saturday night. “It’s been a lifelong dream to get here,” Cooks said. “It’s taken me 27 years to get here. I’m, what, five years out of college? My dream is a little bit different than everybody else’s.”
  • Hawks guard Dejounte Murray feels like he got “closure” when Spurs fans gave him a warm reception in his return to San Antonio for Sunday’s game, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I felt like it was what it should be,” Murray said. “We showed nothing but love, both sides, from myself, the fans, the organization.”

LaMelo Ball Officially Out For Season After Ankle Surgery

Point guard LaMelo Ball underwent successful surgery to repair his fractured right ankle, the Hornets announced in a press release. He has been ruled out for the rest of the season and is expected to make a full recovery, per the team.

The non-contact injury occurred when Ball fell awkwardly after a behind-the-back dribble during the third quarter of Monday’s victory over Detroit. He also missed a significant amount of games early in ’22/23 due to three left ankle sprains.

Still just 21 years old, Ball was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2020 draft. In 36 games (35.2 MPG) this season, he averaged 23.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 8.3 APG and 1.3 SPG on .411/.376/.836 shooting.

As a former first-round pick entering his fourth season, Ball will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. It will be an interesting offseason for the Hornets, as they currently hold the league’s fourth-worst record at 20-44 and figure to land an early lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

LaMelo Ball Fractures Right Ankle, Out For Season

FEBRUARY 28: Ball will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his right ankle, confirms Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 27: Hornets star guard LaMelo Ball suffered a fractured right ankle against Detroit on Monday night, the team’s PR department tweets.

Though no recovery timeline has been formally announced, it’s safe to say it’s a season-ending injury. The non-contact injury occurred when Ball fell awkwardly after a behind-the-back dribble during the third quarter.

Ball has been snakebit by ankle injuries this season. He sprained his left ankle multiple times.

His first ankle injury occurred during a preseason game on October 10 and he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain the following day.

Ball missed the first 13 games of the regular season with the injury, then re-injured his ankle in his third game back on November 16. He missed an additional 11 games while recovering from the second sprain before returning to action in December. Ball sprained the ankle once more in mid-January.

Ball has appeared in just 36 games this season. He was averaging 23.4 points, 8.5 assists and 6.4 rebounds per contest entering Monday’s game. Charlotte is on a five-game winning streak after defeating the Pistons but will have to finish out most or all of the schedule without its top player.

Ball is still on his rookie contract through next season. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension of up to five years this offseason.

Injury Updates: LaMelo, Martin, Dragic, Gallinari, Ingram

Star Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball will not play in tonight’s contest against the Jazz, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Ball has been sidelined since the 18th due to ankle and wrist injuries. Ball has missed 25 games thus far this year with various ailments, mostly related to his left ankle.

When he has been available, Ball has put up solid numbers. The 6’7″ guard is averaging 23.5 PPG on .409/.370/.875 shooting splits, 8.2 APG, 5.2 RPG and 1.1 SPG for the 13-34 Hornets.

Boone adds that Charlotte small forward Cody Martin, who has appeared in just seven games all year due to a knee injury, has also been ruled out for this evening as a result of left knee soreness.

We have more injury news:

  • Bulls reserve point guard Goran Dragic will miss tonight’s game against the Hawks and possibly all of the team’s forthcoming three-game road trip, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (via Twitter). Bulls head coach Billy Donovan indicated that, should Dragic begin to feel better, there is a chance he catches up with the team later on during the road jaunt.
  • Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla offered a minor update on the recovery of injured forward Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL before the start of the season, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “I saw him jogging on the treadmill and I was like, ‘I haven’t seen you run much faster than that in a game,'” Mazzulla joked. “So I thought he was playing tonight.” The Celtics still expect Gallinari to miss the whole 2022/23 season.
  • The Pelicans are “hopeful” that star forward Brandon Ingram can rejoin his club at some point during New Orleans’ current stretch of home games, per Erin Summers of the ACC Stars podcast (via Twitter). “I’m going to see how I feel, but that’s the plan,” Ingram said of his return timeline (Twitter link). Ingram has been unavailable since November 25 due to a toe contusion. Summers adds that Naji Marshall played in half of the team’s practice, and that All-Star forward Zion Williamson will undergo imaging this week.

Southeast Notes: Hachimura, Porzingis, Ball, Strus

Wizards forward Rui Hachimura may have raised his trade value with a 30-point performance Saturday night, but he wanted to avoid discussing a potential deal after the game, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. “No comment,” Hachimura told reporters when they asked if he has requested a trade, although he indicated that he’s looking for a comfortable situation, whether that’s in Washington or somewhere else.

“I just want to be somewhere that wants me as a basketball player,” Hachimura said. “And I want to be somewhere that loves my — likes my game, you know? … I just want to be somewhere that trusts, believes in me. Just I can be myself — that’s my goal.”

Wallace confirms a report from The Athletic this week that the Wizards have discussed a potential Hachimura trade with several teams. The 24-year-old became an instant starter after being selected with the ninth pick in the 2019 draft, but injuries and other roadblocks have limited his effectiveness since then. The team didn’t reach a rookie scale extension with Hachimura before the October deadline, so he’s headed for free agency this summer.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Kristaps Porzingis left Saturday’s game with a sprained ankle in the third quarter, but the Wizards are optimistic about his prognosis, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “Sprained ankle. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said after the game. “We’ll see where it is. I don’t think it’s too bad, but fingers crossed.” Porzingis has experienced frequent health issues throughout his career, but he’s been relatively injury-free this season, appearing in 41 of the team’s 46 games.
  • Hornets guard LaMelo Ball is quickly recovering from a sprained ankle he suffered Wednesday, but a right wrist problem may be a bigger concern, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Ball banged his wrist during the same game, which raises concerns because he had surgery on his right hand as a rookie. “The wrist had been not hurting, but ever since I broke it, it’s been the same little one (thing),” Ball said. “In Houston, I was fine with it until I hit it again … So, yeah once I get over that little hump I think I’ll be smooth.”
  • Max Strus‘ flexibility has been valuable for the Heat in an injury-filled season, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The impending free agent has played 24 games as a starter and 21 off the bench and has seen time at every position except center.

Injury Notes: Ball, Kleber, Wade, Okeke, Okogie

Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball suffered his third left ankle sprain this season in yesterday’s victory over Houston. Ball and teammate P.J. Washington were contesting a layup by Jabari Smith Jr. when Washington landed on Ball’s ankle (YouTube link via ESPN).

While the injury certainly looked painful, the 21-year-old sounds fairly confident he won’t miss as much time as he did with his previous sprains, which sidelined him for 13 and 11 games, respectively.

It feels a little bit better,” Ball said, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “It doesn’t feel like those other ones. … I can walk, so take it day-by-day and see what it is.”

Boone writes that the young All-Star didn’t require an X-Ray or other tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Here are some more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • Maxi Kleber, who underwent surgery on December 20 to repair a torn hamstring, says he’s targeting a return to the Mavericks‘ lineup next month, though he isn’t committed to that timeline (Twitter video link via Bally Sports Southwest). “I’m not out for the season,” the German big man said. “I can’t give an exact date, but I hope I’m gonna be back… preferably before All-Star break, but I don’t want to jinx anything or say anything or make promises. … But that’s the goal.”
  • Cavaliers forward Dean Wade, who has been sidelined since December 2 due to a shoulder ailment, suffered a setback in his rehab process earlier this month, injuring his ankle when he stepped on a player’s foot during practice, a source tells Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “He’s not (doing) five-on-five yet,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said on Tuesday. “Again, because of where he was before, it won’t need as much to get him back to going because it wasn’t as big of a setback.”
  • The return of Magic forward Chuma Okeke isn’t imminent, according to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel (subscriber link). Okeke has yet to resume contact work after undergoing a procedure on his left knee in December. Price adds within the same story that forward Jonathan Isaac is expected to play in a third G League game for the Lakeland Magic on Thursday as he makes his way back from an ACL injury.
  • Suns wing Josh Okogie broke his nose in Monday’s game in Memphis when he took an inadvertent elbow from teammate Deandre Ayton, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Okogie is listed as out for Thursday — it’s unclear how much additional time he might miss.

Luke Adams contributed to this story.

LaMelo Ball Suffers Another Ankle Sprain

Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball suffered a left ankle sprain in the third quarter of Wednesday’s game in Houston and was ruled out for the remainder of the contest, the team announced (via Twitter).

According to Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), Ball was stepped on by teammate P.J. Washington, which apparently caused the sprain. Ball went back to the locker room before being ruled out.

Unfortunately, this is the third time Ball has sprained his left ankle in 2022/23. His first ankle injury occurred during a preseason game on October 10 and he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain the following day.

Ball missed the first 13 games of the regular season with the injury, then re-injured his ankle in his third game back on November 16. He missed an additional 11 games while recovering from the second sprain before returning to action last month.

A first-time All-Star in ’21/22, Ball is putting up big numbers in his third season, averaging 24.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 8.4 APG and 1.1 SPG on .415/.374/.870 shooting through 21 games (34.8 MPG). The Hornets have struggled both with and without him, however, as they’re 6-16 in games he’s played and 6-18 when he hasn’t, for an overall record of 12-34.

If Ball misses additional time, look for players like Dennis Smith Jr. and Bryce McGowens to get more minutes.