As the NBA season is set to tip off in 27 days, it’s time for prognostications galore. In previous articles, I’ve given my stance as to how I see LaMelo Ball’s third NBA season shaping out. In this article, I’ll look to dive into my predictions for LaMelo’s 2022-23 season statistics.
Points Per Game
Let’s start with the sexiest topic — points per game. Last season, LaMelo increased his scoring average from 15.7 PPG his rookie season, to 20.1. The jump itself is significant (+4.4). His field goals attempted increased from 13.2 to 16.7 (+3.5) as well as his minutes (more on this later).
One glaring stat in the scoring column is his free throw attempts. While his percentage shot up to what I expected at 87.2% from 75.8% (+11.4), his attempts stayed the same (3.2 FTA). This is a far cry from LaMelo’s traditional style of play. Going from the JBA League, back to high school, and to the NBL, driving to the basket and drawing fouls was a big part of his game. Even at barely 18 years old with the Illarwara Hawks, LaMelo attempted just shy of 4 free throws per game (3.9). As he continues to get older and get stronger, expect these numbers to rise. I certainly expect a major leap in free throw attempts this year.
With an expected larger workload and role, I predict a scoring stat line as follows:
Prediction – 8.7-19.5 FG/FGA (44.5%), 3.3-8.8 3FG/3FGA (37.8%), 5.7-6.6 FT/FTA (85.8%) = 26.4 PPG
Rebounds Per Game
I don’t believe LaMelo is interested in chasing triple doubles. However, given the Miles Bridges situation being fluid and Montrezl Harrel moving on to Philadelphia, LaMelo may be called upon to play a larger role in the rebounding department. In 2021, LaMelo’s rebounds increased from 5.9 to 6.7 RPG (+0.8).
At 6-foot-7, and the way the NBA game is played today, it is reasonable to expect a point guard to have the lion’s share of rebounds on a team.
I believe LaMelo relishes the opportunity for a larger role. Seeing players such as Luka Doncic who possess similar size and skill likely resonates with LaMelo. Be prepared for a monster year on the boards for LaMelo.
Prediction – 2.1-6.1 ORB/DRB = 8.2 RPG
Assist Per Game
Whether LaMelo admits it or not, I ultimately believe passing the ball and being a playmaker is one of his favorite parts of his game. The creative genius he possesses and the child-like joy he displays with every between-the-legs alley oop pass is awe inspiring. His assists grew from 6.1 to 7.6 (+1.5) in a season’s time.
However, as a playmaker, LaMelo needs opportunities to make plays. With capable running mates in Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward, they make up a serviceable trio. Not having Miles Bridges may cause problems if Charlotte fails to find capable shooters in his place. The thing is, LaMelo is a confident scorer, and can take care of that part himself. Bridges, while talented, can be replaced, but must be replaced effectively. I’d personally prefer to see LaMelo have at least one — if not two — quality spot-up shooters to allow him to space the floor and be the true creator he is.
Given I believe he will have the ball in his hands much more this season, I expect these numbers to increase as well.
Prediction – 9.2 APG
Steals and blocks
I won’t go into too much detail on this category as defense has never been LaMelo’s calling card. However, his natural instincts make him a major threat in passing lanes as well as when he locks in as an on-ball defender. Not to belabor the point, but added size and confidence will help on this side of the court as well.
Prediction – 1.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Minutes Per Game
I saved this stat for last because while not as sexy as the points, time on the court matters. Last season, LaMelo averaged 32.3 minutes per game, up from 28.8 (+3.5) his rookie year. That ranked him approximately 70th in the NBA. I certainly expect that to increase in 2022.
Today’s NBA game likes to utilize much more rest opportunities during games, but stars have to play in order for teams to be successful. I don’t expect Steve Clifford to get too cute with the minutes this year. I expect LaMelo to be in the top 20 of minutes played, which should increase his total amount at least three minutes.
Prediction – 35.8 MPG
If an MVP season is on the horizon, these numbers will certainly turn heads for voters in LaMelo’s favor.