NBA

Ranking the Top 5 Rookies NBA 2020-2021

Apr 26, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) reacts after making a three point shot against the Dallas Mavericks in the third quarter at the Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The top 5 rookies for the 2020-2021 NBA season show promise and talent for their future careers. This draft class especially has looked dominant in their debut season. At least three rookies will be future All-Stars, including top-tier names, such as Lamelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton.

However, how do these rookies rank amongst one another this season? Here are the top 5 rookies for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

The criteria for this ranking include individual performance, team value, and promise for the future. Also, statistics are essential, but they do not explicitly show which rookie has performed better than the other. This discontinuity occurs because each rookie has different roles on their team and different usage rates. Consequently, some rookies might have better overall stats but fewer minutes per game than others.

Furthermore, team success is significant in seeing how impactful a rookie is to their team. However, a lot of these rookies play for teams who have struggled this year. The test factor is how the team would change if the rookie were not there versus how they are doing now.

Lastly, promise for the future plays an impactful role in ranking these rookies. If two rookies have similar individual performances, along with similar team success, then the tiebreaker will go to which rookie has the most potential in shining in the future NBA.

Also, this list excludes injuries. Therefore, players such as Lamelo Ball and James Wiseman will be ranked based on how they performed before their injuries. They will not be penalized for getting injured during the season.

Honorable Mentions

May 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) dribbles the ball during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There are so many promising rookies from this draft class. However, only five can fit on this list, so here are the rookies who just fell short of making the ranking.

Cole Anthony

May 1, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) moves the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Anthony is an essential future asset for the Orlando Magic. He is averaging 12.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. However, the Magic are in complete rebuild mode, and it is unsure if Cole Anthony can step up to be their future star. Regardless, he has had an underrated rookie season and has a high floor of a role player.

Payton Pritchard

Apr 27, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) returns the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the fourth quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Payton Pritchard is an explosive player who can cook teams if disrespected. He averages 7.7 points, 1.8 assists, and shoots 41.7 percent from downtown. Pritchard’s stats are not as promising as one would think. However, he is one of the best three-point shooting rookies on this list. It is hard to put him on the list of top 5 rookies because he does not do enough for his team compared to the other rookies. Nonetheless, Pritchard looks like an important asset for the Celtics as the team gets ready for the playoffs. 

#5: James Wiseman

Apr 10, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; Houston Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. (6) blocks the shot of Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman (33) during the second quarter at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

James Wiseman is a fantastic rookie for the Golden State Warriors. He is averaging 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per game.

Offensively, James Wiseman can score from the paint and catch lobs at a high percentage. Occasionally, Wiseman can shoot the ball from a distance, but his shooting is less efficient. If he can develop a better shot from mid-range and three-point distance, then Wiseman can expand his game and add to his versatility, making him harder to guard.

Defensively, Wiseman shows promise. Wiseman is a decent rim protector, averaging almost a block a game. His only faults are his defensive IQ and when to switch on and off players. Although he got injured, Wiseman was valuable to his team. Losing him means that the Warriors lack an extra consistent defender who only improves game by game. However, the Warriors are doing just fine without him as they hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference and look forward to the play-in tournament.

Luckily for Wiseman, he plays alongside a former defensive player of the year, Draymond Green. Draymond Green has been excellent in developing the young rookie. With Green’s on-court coaching abilities, Wiseman shows immense promise when he returns from his injury.

#4: Immanuel Quickley

Apr 28, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley (5) reacts after making a basket against the Chicago Bulls during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Immanuel Quickley is one of the best-scoring rookies on this list. He averages 11.6 points and 2.1 assists per game over only 19.5 minutes played per game. Among the other rookies on this list, Quickley has the least amount of minutes played per game, making his stats look even better than they do for a rookie.

Immanuel Quickley can score from anywhere on the court. He can shoot from a distance and the paint with his infamous floater shot. His offense is unlike any other rookie in his class, even if he is not a starter. Furthermore, when Quickley’s stats are measured per 36 minutes, his points per game jump to 21.6. This average is higher than any other rookie’s points per game per 36 minutes.

Along with his offense, Quickley is very valuable to his team. The Knicks hold the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, and Quickley is huge in their success along with players, such as Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.

Quickley adds immediate scoring ability from the Knicks’ bench. He can come off the bench and shoot efficiently and effectively on the court to alleviate pressure off of the Knicks’ starting five.

The only critiques for the rookie are developing a better defense and becoming a better playmaker for his team. Regardless, Immanuel Quickley has been outstanding this season and shows immense promise as a member of the New York Knicks.

#3: Anthony Edwards

Apr 27, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) dunks against Houston Rockets center Christian Wood (35) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Here is where the list gets a bit interesting. Anthony Edwards has been fantastic for the Timberwolves this season. He averages 18.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Anthony Edwards is undoubtedly the best-scoring rookie on this list. He can score from anywhere on the court with his three-point shot and ability to drive into the paint. His defense has not been lacking either, as he averages 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. Although the Timberwolves are eliminated from playoff contention as they hold the 14th seed in the Western Conference, Anthony Edwards has proved himself as a stud in this league.

Also, Edwards is an absolute bucket as his dunk over Yuta Watanabe is the frontrunner for dunk of the year. However, Edwards needs a bit more time to develop in this league fully, but he will inevitably become a future star.

The only critiques of Edwards’s game are his passing ability and basketball IQ. Therefore, he is not ranked higher on this list and only ranks third among the top 5 rookies. However, he will undoubtedly improve these parts of his game and fully develop in the NBA.

#2: Lamelo Ball

May 4, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) handles the ball during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Although this is a hot take, Lamelo Ball only ranks second among all rookies. Ball has elevated the Hornets team as he averages 15.9 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Lamelo Ball has been great for the Hornets as he does it all for his team. He can create shots for himself, along with creating open shots for his teammates. He carries star power on the court, and his defense has been exceptional, averaging 1.6 steals per game. Ball’s injury in late March was a setback, but it will not affect his development as a player.

Furthermore, Ball is a huge reason why the Hornets are still in playoff contention. The Charlotte Hornets stand at the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference as they look forward to the play-in tournament.

Also, Ball will become a star in this league. His high basketball IQ and ability to play for himself will elevate his game in the future. However, the reason why he only ranks second on this list is not because of any problems in his game. The rookie who holds the number one spot among the top 5 rookies has one X-factor that makes his game unique.

#1: Tyrese Haliburton

April 14, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) during the third quarter against the Washington Wizards at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The hot take of the day is that Tyrese Haliburton is the best rookie in the league. He is the future of the Sacramento Kings, along with De’Aaron Fox. He is averaging 13.0 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game.

Tyrese Haliburton is the most efficient rookie on this list. He is shooting 40.9 percent from the three-point range along with a 47.2 total field goal percentage. Tyrese can score the basketball on command from anywhere on the court. Also, his defense has been great for the Kings as he averages 1.3 steals per game.

Furthermore, Tyrese’s stats are not as impressive as they should be. As Tyrese started the season, his minutes were relatively low. Then, his minutes began to increase as he usually came off the bench. However, when Fox left the team for 10-14 days due to health and safety protocols, Tyrese showed that he could carry the Kings team by himself.

He averaged 16.5 points, 8.0 assists, and 2.5 rebounds as the team went 5-3 and are making a late push for play-in contention. During this span, his usage rate went up, and he indeed showed why he should be the rookie of the year.

Also, the X-factor that Tyrese has, that most rookies do not possess, is how comfortable he looks on the court. His basketball IQ is unmatched, as he knows precisely when to take the ball for himself or when to create shots for his teammates. His passing ability is exceptional for this young Kings team.

Although Tyrese is a rookie, he plays basketball like a veteran, and this ability is what puts him first among the top 5 rookies.

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