LaMelo Ball will continue his career as the face of the Charlotte Hornets.
In a landmark deal for the franchise, the Hornets and Ball agreed to a five-year, maximum rookie extension worth up to $260 million. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, This is the first deal of its kind for the Hornets since Michael Jordan purchased the franchise in 2010. No other player drafted during the Jordan era signed a maximum extension to his rookie contract.
The deal also represents a commitment to build around Ball from a new team ownership group led by former minority owner Gabe Plotkin and ex-Atlanta Hawks minority owner Rick Schnall. Jordan announced the pending sale of his majority stake on June 16, but would retain a minority share of the team.
Ball has lived up to high expectations since the Hornets drafted him third overall in 2020. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2021 despite injuries, including a broken wrist, that limited him to 51 games. He has improved statistically across the board since then, including as a high-volume 3-point shooter. He made his first All-Star team during the 2021–22 season.
Over three seasons, Ball averaged 19.4 points, 7.3 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 42.6% from the floor on 8.9 attempts per game and 37.7% from 3-point distance. Before an ankle fracture cut his 2022–23 season short by 36 games, Ball averaged 23.2 points, 8.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 41.1% from the field and 37.6% from 3.
While Ball has missed 84 of a possible 246 games over three seasons, the Hornets value his ups and downs on the court and the franchise’s bottom line over any lingering injury concerns. The Hornets selected Alabama’s star forward Brandon Miller with the second choice of the June 22 draft over acclaimed point guard Scooter Henderson, indicating they prioritize Ball as the team’s backcourt leader.
The Hornets hope Ball and Miller can propel a lineup backed by former All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier into postseason contention. The Hornets signed Rozier to a $97 million extension in 2021 that would run through the 2025–26 season.
The Hornets did not make the postseason in 2016, a seven-year drought that is the longest in the NBA. If Miller lives up to expectations and Charlotte’s key players stay healthy, they could emerge as playoff contenders next season. Charlotte posted its only winning record since 2016 (43–3) in 2021–22 when Ball played 75 games. It finished 27–55 last season as Ball missed 46 games.