Another week, another edition of rookie power rankings, and this week’s theme seems to be guys who should probably be starting on their team but haven’t made that full-time leap yet. The NBA announced the winners for Rookie of the Month, and it went to two guys who have done the majority of their damage coming off the bench. LaMelo Ball won it in the East, and Tyrese Haliburton won it in the West, and even if they hadn’t won it, the honors would have likely gone to rookies who are also coming off the bench as Tyrese Maxey was also nominated in the East, as well as Desmond Bane for the West.
That shows a couple of things about this draft class, first, it’s clear teams didn’t scout some of these players very well, understandable as the pandemic altered the pre-draft process. It also shows that maybe this draft was deeper than many projected, but not for star power just for solid rotation players.
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Now moving on to this week’s rookie rankings. These rankings will reflect a rookie’s performance on a week-to-week basis only, not the collective season, so these aren’t Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top rookies this week.
Ball got his first two NBA starts this week after Terry Rozier went down with an ankle injury, and it’s safe to say the Hornets are going to have to make some tough decisions in their backcourt when Rozier returns. However, Ball’s highlight of the week came in a surprising win over the Bucks, where he put up a career-high 27 points off the bench, to go along with nine assists, five rebounds and three steals.
He was making tough finishes around the basket left and right, and the best part is, he was locked in on defense and committed just one turnover. He did follow that up though by turning the ball over six times against the Sixers, but that’s just the journey of a rookie guard.
Quickley could be a serious candidate for Rookie of the Year, if only the Knicks put him in the starting lineup. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he plays very patient and doesn’t force anything on offense, and the Knicks are just a better team with him on the floor. New York has an offensive rating of 108.9 with him on the court, compared to 104.5 with him off it.
Quickley is so obviously the Knicks point guard for the future, and yet Tom Thibodeau is stubbornly not putting him in the starting lineup. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer that will last as the Kentucky product continues to prove that he deserves to be a starter.
Watching Edwards play is like watching an old school AND-1 mixtape. His handle is absurd for a rookie, just look at this play where he stops on a dime, leaves the Cleveland defender on skates then finishes through contact at the rim for an and-1. If it wasn’t Jarrett Allen who gave him some resistance at the rim, I have no doubt that Edwards would’ve finished that play with another highlight-reel level dunk.
Despite the fact his efficiency has been all over the place for the Timberwolves, he’s still leading all rookies in scoring this season (13.6). But when his shot isn’t falling, he has to find other ways to contribute. He had a consistent week, now he just needs to string several of those together.
Bane was a finalist for Rookie of the Month, so that should tell you exactly how great he’s been early on this season. His 3-point shooting has been what’s garnered him attention, but he can also put the ball on the floor and get buckets at the rim as well as be a tenacious blocker for his size. The Grizzlies have essentially given him a green light to shoot it pretty much any time he has the ball in his hands, and who could blame them, he’s second in the league in 3-point percentage.
It actually isn’t even fair that Maledon is considered a rookie, seeing as he’s been playing professionally overseas since he was 15 years old. So when you see him make a clutch play while showing no signs of cracking under pressure, it’s likely because he’s used to it. In a loss against the Nets this week, Maledon was a bright spot in the starting lineup for the Thunder, putting up 24 points, while going a perfect 6-of-6 from deep. He’s been pushed into the starting lineup ever since George Hill went down with a thumb injury, and he’s been shooting 50 percent from 3-point territory in that five-game span.
What’s been most impressive about Anthony’s game really all season, but more noticeable now that he’s in the starting lineup, is that regardless of what his scoring performance is that night, he’s still going to go out there and get you like six boards, a couple assists and give effort on the defensive end. For a rookie, it’s always important to show that you can impact the game in other ways, and Anthony has shown that he can contribute even when his shot isn’t falling. Oh and then there’s this ridiculous putback dunk where he flies in out of nowhere to jam it home.
Anthony may not be putting up jaw-dropping numbers, but he’s showed improvement and a willingness to do the little things when things aren’t going his way.
The Rockets have gone 8-4 since James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, which just so happens to also coincide with when Houston put Tate in the starting lineup. In those 11 games he’s started, he’s shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep, while averaging 9.4 points and 5.5 rebounds. His numbers may not paint a picture that shows he’s been the driving force behind Houston’s great play as of late, but he certainly has been part of the reason.
He’s a small forward but handles the ball like a guard, and having another dynamic ball handler on the floor alongside John Wall is a positive for a Rockets team that holds the league’s seventh-best net rating since the Harden trade.
I’m going to keep saying this probably until the end of Haliburton’s career, but every other team who drafted ahead of the Kings is idiotic for not taking this kid. He’s doing far more than most other rookies in his class and he’s still coming off the bench, and the league took notice by awarding him with Rookie of the Month honors in the West. Remember the top two picks in his draft class are also in the Western Conference, and Haliburton has been outperforming both of them.
It will be interesting to see if he has a legitimate chance at Rookie of the Year despite coming off the bench for the Kings. Unlike Quickley, who could easily slot in the starting lineup, Sacramento has De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, two players that are objectively better than Haliburton so the likelihood of him jumping into the starting lineup is low, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t shine off the bench and take the award at the end of the season.
Williams has become Mr. Reliable for the Bulls on both ends of the floor. He just has an old school, textbook way of playing without any flash or frills. From a marketing perspective, that may not bode well for a Chicago team that has been trying to re-engage its fanbase since the Derrick Rose era, but as long as he’s putting numbers on the board and helping his team win, everything else is unnecessary. He’s a tough draw on defense, and he can score at all three levels on the other end, so it’s safe to say this draft pick has worked out well for Chicago.
Avdija missed some time due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Wizards, but since his return, he’s put up two 13-point performances while shooting an absurd 50 percent from 3-point territory. Right now, it’s just a positive sign to see Avdija progressing after missing so much time off, especially for a Washington team that is desperate for continuity.