What’s popping on Air-Ball?
- WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE DALLAS MAVERICKS?
- BUY OR SELL: SPURS AND CELTICS QUIETLY READY TO TAKE OFF WHILE THE WIZARDS AND PISTONS ARE IN SHAMBLES
- GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: CAN THE SUNS AND BLAZERS OVERCOME INJURIES??
- BAM ADEBAYO CONTINUES TO DEFY THE ODDS ON A PATH TO NBA SUPERSTARDOM
Last week’s theme was winning rookies so I figured I’d continue the trend of making this column have a theme by talking about this trio of rookie guards still working to learn the game of basketball at its highest level.
In the least surprising news of 2021, LaMelo Ball today becomes the first rookie to grace this column twice. The reason Melo is making it back on so soon is well, he’s one of the most fascinating players in the league. While his three-point percentage is normalizing down to 30.8 per cent right now, the rest of his game continues to stay at a high level. Melo’s play has unsurprisingly been a dominant part of NBA Twitter this season and the peak may have been Saturday night against Milwaukee. Ball put up 27 points, five rebounds and nine assists in a big win over the Bucks, completely taking over stretches in the fourth. What impressed me most though wasn’t the raw numbers, or the flashy high lights but rather simply how hard he played. He attacked the rim constantly against Giannis Antetokounmpo of all people showing no fear. Melo even had two game-sealing defensive plays that left me thoroughly impressed. The way he was competing was a step above any level I’d seen from him in high school or Australia and I think that’s a testament to James Borrego and the Hornets staff and roster. For the first time in his career, he’s being held accountable for bad shots, turnovers and lazy defence. Is he better than Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham already, maybe. But by holding him accountable like Borrego has and limiting his time on the court, it’s clear the strides Melo has taken in the mental side of the game. The Hornets are 8-5 when he plays over 25 minutes and 2-6 when he doesn’t. Borrego is no fool, he knows this. That’s why he’s holding Melo accountable and taking some losses this season to lay the foundation. If that foundation holds in the way it appeared to be trending on Saturday night, I assure you Borrego and the Hornets will get the last laugh over the Twitter guys who want him to play 47 minutes.
Facundo Campazzo represents one of my favourite demographics in the NBA. The dude who is a legend overseas that comes to the NBA and has to adjust to being a role player. We saw it with Milos Telodosic a couple of years back and even to a lesser extent with Nikola Mirotic and Ricky Rubio. These guys come over and go from being stars to having to fit into a role and that can be a major challenge. Unlike Telodosic though, I think Campazzo is going to find major success in the NBA. On Sunday the Argentian had a breakthrough performance against the Jazz, scoring 11 points. It’s the third time he’s broken double digits and the Nuggets are 3-0 in those games. This makes sense because when you look at the advanced lineup stats, Campazzo has been a positive addition virtually every time he touches the floor so in those games he scores double figures, he plays more minutes and therefore gets more of a chance to make a positive impact. He’s a member of three of the top four Nugget five-man line-ups and is also the only member of both of the top two-man lineups. Part of how he’s been able to impact the game so positively is his defensive activity. He has great hands and is always competing, helped evidenced by the 2.3 steals per 36 minutes he’s averaging. Offensively he’s still finding his stride around the elite NBA athletes at the rim so his field goal percentage is poor. However, he’s shooting well from deep at 37.2 per cent and his passing has translated beautifully, seeing him fourth in the rookie class in assist ratio. As Campazzo becomes more and more comfortable with the NBA game, I expect him to only improve. He’s playing a completely new role and already finding success early on. As time progresses, I really think the Nuggets have something here with the Argentinian veteran.
It’s no secret Cole Anthony is my favourite rookie. I loved watching Anthony in high school and when he committed to my UNC Tar Heels I was rightfully elated. Of course, his year at Carolina didn’t go according to plan on the court per se, but he showed me a love for the game I fell in love with. Now in the NBA, I’ve been watching him closely and so far it’s been a mixed bag of good and bad. In terms of the good, since he took over Markelle Fultz’s starting role, Anthony is shooting 37.3 per cent from three and, has been an efficient playmaker with an almost two to one assist to turnover ratio. He’s also been a part of four of the top five Magic five-man lineups. On the flip side, Anthony still struggles in the middle game. His floater is inconsistent at best and for a guy who takes a lot of them, that’s a problem. He’s also been just okay around the rim but I’d like to see that improve as well. For Cole to find the level of success in this league his talent flashes he has the potential for, he needs to watch as much Kemba Walker and Chris Paul film as possible. How those two use screens and get into moves that they knock down with their eyes closed around the elbow is an absolute must add to his game. In the case of Walker, it took him some time to develop that game so Magic fans shouldn’t fret. Right now they have a positive impacting rookie point guard which doesn’t come around often. His potential is a lot more than that obviously and it’s up to him to see if he can get there. Only time will tell but so far I think there’s been a lot to be happy with Cole’s game.