Has LaMelo Ball already done enough to win Rookie of the Year?
It was worse than it looked.
The Charlotte Hornets are in the middle of a five-game West Coast road trip. If losing the first three games on the trip weren't bad enough, things took a major dip during Saturday's loss to the LA Clippers.
LaMelo Ball was in the midst of one of the most electric rookie seasons in recent memory, putting him in rarified air with the likes of 2019 Rookie of the Year, two-time NBA All-Star and 2020 All-NBA First Team selection Luka Doncic.
But his season looks to be finished after Saturday's unfortunate fall and fracture. Now the question is what impact his injury will have on his Rookie of the Year chances, as well as the Hornets' season moving forward.
The Charlotte franchise – previously known as the Hornets before becoming the Bobcats before becoming the Hornets again – most recently made the playoffs during the 2015-16 season but most recently won a playoff series back in 2001-02.
This season, Charlotte has consistently been in the postseason mix. The team currently sits eighth in the standings (20-21), and much of that success has been attributed to the arrival of Ball and the offseason signing of Gordon Hayward.
Ball's transformation into a star point guard in his rookie season has been remarkable to watch.
He failed to score in his NBA debut at Cleveland on Dec. 23 and didn't earn his first start in the league until 20 games into the season.
But things changed for the wunderkind once he moved into the starting lineup. In just his third start, he scored a career-high 34 points against the Utah Jazz, the team with the best record in the league.
It was the most points by a Hornets rookie since Alonzo Mourning scored 37 all the way back in 1993.
Ball also became the youngest player in NBA history to notch a triple-double when he put up 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists against Atlanta on Jan. 9.
Unfortunately for Ball, when he went crashing to the floor Saturday, his season made a crash landing as well. But given his success and impact on his team through 41 games – exactly half of a normal NBA season – does he still have a chance to win Rookie of the Year?
His stiffest competition figures to be the No. 1 pick from the most recent NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards, who has been putting on a show for the Minnesota Timberwolves of late.
The past 10 games, Edwards is averaging 24.9 points and 6.2 rebounds, highlighted by a 42-point outburst in a 123-119 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.
Edwards' 42 points were a rookie record for the Timberwolves, and he became the third-youngest player in NBA history to put up 40 or more in a game.
Only LeBron James and Kevin Durant did so at a younger version of 19.
This year's ROY race could somewhat resemble last season's.
Zion Williamson was the No. 1 overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans, and in his rookie season, he averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds on 58.3% shooting, huge numbers for an NBA newcomer.
However, Williamson played in only 24 games, and the No. 2 pick from last year's draft, Memphis' Ja Morant, played in 67 games, averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 assists on 47.7% shooting.
Morant also helped carry the Grizzlies into the Western Conference play-in round, in which they fell to the Portland Trail Blazers, while the Pelicans missed the playoffs outright.
Neither Ball nor Edwards has missed a game this season, a fact that will change for Ball moving forward.
On Monday's version of "Undisputed," Shannon Sharpe gave his thoughts on if ROY is still LaMelo's to lose. In Sharpe's mind, missing half of the season will be too much for Ball to overcome. He used the example of Williamson and Morant in saying that the award now belongs to Edwards.
"Zion and Ja Morant. Nothing more needs to be said."
To Bayless, while lamenting Ball's injury, there is still hope for him to be ROY, considering the impact he had on a franchise that was mired in mediocrity for years.
"All of a sudden, Michael Jordan had something he could be proud of and he could sell. ... They had become must-see TV for me. ... I wasn't sure about LaMelo, but now I'm totally sold on him."
One morsel that can't be ignored is the fact that Minnesota, which will take the floor Monday against Oklahoma City, currently has the worst record in the NBA.
The Timberwolves' lack of success could be a saving grace for LaMelo in the ROY race.
But if Edwards is able to string together a few more big games and a few more wins, the ball will be in his court come NBA awards season.