Sixers will see LaMelo Ball for the first time on Saturday night.
Coming off a dominant win over the Orlando Magic on New Year’s Eve – a game where the Sixers led by 30+ for the majority of the night – following that up with a home game against the Charlotte Hornets would normally be viewed as another “easy” win. However, the 2020 Hornets are employing a new-look squad these days, one spearheaded by the third overall pick, and international superstar, LaMelo Ball.
Despite there being some uncertainty regarding Ball’s long-term potential due to him not playing college ball, Michael Jordan and the rest of the Charlotte front office didn’t hesitate with the third overall pick. They snatched up Ball, unfazed by his odd road to the draft. Ball possessed a unique blend of size, athleticism, ball-handling, passing, and shooting – the perfect kind of player to build your franchise around.
Thus far, Ball has lived up to the hype. He’s averaging 10.3 points per game while shooting 53.3% from beyond the arc. He’s undoubtedly provided a spark to a somewhat directionless Charlotte franchise, and the Sixers will have to neutralize him on Saturday if they want to secure their fifth win of the season.
Luckily for the Sixers, they have a handful of different defenders that they could throw at Ball. Danny Green has proved versatile when it comes to locking up opposing guards, and Matisse Thybulle is seeing an increased role with Furkan Korkmaz sidelined due to injury.
If Ball is giving Philly major problems, Doc Rivers could also task Ben Simmons with guarding the rookie. Simmons has been lockdown on defense all season long, so taking on a first-year player should be no problem to him.
Outside of Ball, the Hornets are led by the likes of former Celtics Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward. Both have given the Sixers troubles in the past. Keeping them locked up, while simultaneously paying attention to Ball coming off the bench, should ultimately prove to be a doable challenge for this revamped Philly defense. They should in theory have enough wing defenders on the roster to handle all of them, and of course, they have Joel Embiid roaming the paint ready to send shots the other way.
Photo by JB Autissier/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire