Looking at LaMelo Ball’s rookie-leading ESPN Real Plus-Minus

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Jacob Rude
·2 min read
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LaMelo Ball’s opening 21 games have played out nearly as well as one could have realistically hoped. Monday, his 21st game, marked the latest milestone in Ball’s rookie season as he earned the first start of his career.

While no one individual stat can measure Ball’s impact through the first quarter of the season, one of the more generally accepted stats is ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (RPM). A stat that measures the impact a player has both offensively and defensively, ESPN released the stat on Friday after accumulating a big enough sample size to start the season.

For Ball, it paints a picture that confirms what the eye test has shown many. Through Monday night’s games, Ball’s RPM of 0.85 is the best among rookies this season. The only player of note from the rookie class with a positive RPM is Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley at 0.31.

Breaking down Ball’s RPM is also interesting. His Offensive RPM (ORPM) is 3.09, a figure that is not just best among the rookies but 25th in the whole league. However, his struggles on the defensive end, which many projected coming into the league, has him ranked as not just the worst defender in the rookie class with a Defensive RPM (DRPM) of -2.24, but one of the worst in the league. Out of 454 players, Ball ranks 449th in DRPM.

Here’s a look at the RPM of the top 10 picks as well as some other notable picks outside the top 10 among the rookie class.

Only two other rookies listed have a positive ORPM in Quickley and Haliburton. Interestingly, Ball and Haliburton were named Rookies of the Month for January for their respective conferences.

On the defensive side, a number of players have made a positive impact there with Jalen Smith, Onyeka Okongwu and Deni Avdija all having positive a DRPM. However, it should be noted that each of those players have smaller sample sizes than most due to injuries early this season.

Nonetheless, Ball’s impact has been the best among the rookies so far this season as he continues his impressive rookie campaign.