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Don’t count LaMelo Ball out of NBA Rookie of the Year race

Hornets guard could return to action soon and make this year’s Rookie of the Year race interesting.

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball on the court during pre game shoot a round before the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Spectrum Center. Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

LaMelo Ball could be back on the court before May for the first time since he broke his wrist in late March. The Charlotte Hornets announced Monday that the rookie’s injured wrist had healed enough for him to return to individual basketball activities. There’s optimism that Ball could be back in the Hornets’ lineup in 7-10 days, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Ball was the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year before he got hurt, and his return could make the race interesting again. Let’s take a look at who’s in the running.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards climbed to -125 on DraftKings Sportsbook by the end of last week thanks to his impressive scoring, but the Georgia product doesn’t provide much else for his team. Edwards leads all rookies with 18.1 points per game, but his efficiency has been streaky, and he plays on one of the NBA’s worst teams. You don’t necessarily have to win a ton of games to be named ROY, but the other frontrunners have contributed to winning far more than Edwards.

Sacramento Kings GTyrese Haliburton had the second-best odds (+150) last week and trailed only Ball for a large chunk of the season. His averages of 12.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game are modest, but he’s the model of efficiency and is a plus on defense. Haliburton’s game is very well-rounded and mature, but playing behind a bevy of scoring guards makes it hard to be the league’s most impactful rookie. Unlike the Timberwolves, the Kings are still a threat to make the playoffs via the play-in tournament. Haliburton would have to play extremely well down the stretch to win, but the hardware isn’t out of reach for him just yet.

Ball is averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game and led all rookies in those three categories before getting hurt. The difference between Ball, Edwards, and Haliburton is that Ball is viewed as one of the driving forces behind Charlotte’s unexpected success. Ball helped the Hornets climb as high as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference by acting as their top playmaker when he was healthy, and they’ve dropped to eighth since his departure. If Ball continues to play at the level he did before he got hurt and can help Charlotte improve in the standings, he’ll likely be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year. His odds were +200 before news broke of his recovery, and he’s well worth betting on if he’s not the favorite once the odds are adjusted.

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