NBA Rookie Grades: First Impressions

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One of my favorite annual articles, NBA rookie grades, is back! These players are ranked by where they were selected, and expectations play a factor. Of course, all of these grades need to be taken with a grain of salt. Each player has only played at most four games this year.  

1. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves 

Grade: A-

I was not very high on Anthony Edwards, but he has been impressive through three games for the Timberwolves. Coming off the bench, Edwards is averaging 16.0 ppg, and has only committed two turnovers. His defense still needs work, but Edwards looks solid. 

2. James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

Grade: A-

With Draymond Green out, James Wiseman is going to get the opportunity to start for the Warriors. He’s shown what he can do offensively and has even stretched his game to the perimeter, going 5/6 from deep so far. However, his defense still needs work as he lacks lateral quickness.  

3. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Grade: D

LaMelo Ball has a ton of hype around him but has struggled through three games for the Hornets. Coming off the bench, Ball is shooting 33.3% from the field while committing 2.7 turnovers per contest. It will be interesting to see if he can turn his rookie season around going forward.  

4. Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls 

Grade: B

Many draft analysts were confused when the Bulls took Patrick Williams with the fourth pick in the draft. However, he’s off to a solid start, putting up 10.3 ppg on 40.9% from the field and 40.0% from three through three games. 

5. Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers

Grade: C

After playing big minutes in their first two games, Isaac Okoro suffered a minor foot injury, and it’s unclear how much time he will miss. Okoro failed to make much of an impact, scoring 11 points in 75 minutes of action.  

6. Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks

Grade: N/A

Onyeka Okongwu has yet to play, as he is still rehabbing from a toe injury. 

7. Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons

Grade: D

On a flawed Pistons roster, Killian Hayes has struggled to start his rookie year. In 23.3 minutes of action, Hayes is scoring 6.7 ppg on 32.0% from the field and 27.3% from the deep. Turnovers have been an issue as well, as they often are for rookie point guards.  

8. Obi Toppin, New York Knicks

Grade: C-

After struggling in the Knicks’ first game, Obi Toppin suffered a strained calf that will keep him out at least ten more days. Hopefully, Toppin, my preseason pick to win Rookie of the Year, can get on track once he returns from injury. 

9. Deni Avdija, Washington Wizards

Grade: B

The Israeli forward Deni Avdija has gotten off to a solid start to his rookie campaign. He can clearly shoot the three-ball well and score efficiently but needs to bulk up to take that next step in his game.  

10. Jalen Smith, Phoenix Suns

Grade: C+

The Phoenix Suns have been using Jalen Smith in a limited role through their first three games. Now bothered by an ankle injury, Smith likely won’t make a huge impact this season. 

11. Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs

Grade: D+

Coming off the bench for San Antonio, Devin Vassell has struggled, shooting 30.8% from the field. As a 6’7″ guard, Vassell has a ton of upside, but is still a work in progress.  

12. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

Grade: A-

As the sixth man for the Kings, Tyrese Haliburton has gotten off to a great start to his rookie year. Haliburton hasn’t let the moment get too big for him as he hit a pair of clutch shots during Sacramento’s opening night game. With De’Aaron Fox and Haliburton, the Kings appear to have their backcourt for the future all set. 

13. Kira Lewis Jr., New Orleans Pelicans 

Grade: N/A

On a deep team, Kira Lewis Jr. has yet to see game action for the Pelicans. 

14. Aaron Nesmith, Boston Celtics

Grade: C

Aaron Nesmith has only played three minutes this season and hit a corner three. It’s peculiar that Brad Stevens has opted to play Semi Ojeleye while Nesmith remains on the bench.  

15. Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

Grade: A-

Backing up Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony has had a great start to the year for the 3-0 Orlando Magic. While he needs to work on his jumper, he’s a great playmaker and a plus defender as well.  

NBA Rookie Grades 16-30

16. Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons

Grade: C

The Detroit Pistons have a log jam of centers, and Stewart will likely see inconsistent playing time all year. In 14 minutes of play, he’s scored two points and tracked down eight rebounds. 

17. Aleksej Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder

Grade: D- 

Aleksej Pokusevski has potential, but as the youngest player in the NBA at 6’11,” he needs to put on 20-30 pounds of muscle to take his game to the next level. He’s 0/8 from the field and 0/7 from three in 25 minutes this season. 

18. Josh Green, Dallas Mavericks

Grade: C+

Josh Green has seen one shift in each of the Mavericks’ first three games, but likely won’t play a significant role for the team. In 17 minutes of action, he’s scored 6 points.  

19. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons

Grade: D+

The Pistons’ strategy of acquiring several power forwards has affected Saddiq Bey. Bey received a DNP-CD in game one but started and played 30 minutes in Detroit’s third game of the year, where he struggled from the floor.  

20. Precious Achiuwa, Miami Heat

Grade: A

Garnering the highest grade on this list, Precious Achiuwa has filled a need for the Miami Heat. After losing Jae Crowder, Miami needed a reliable backup forward, and Achiuwa has been just that, with 9.5 ppg on 72.7% from the field and 3.0 rpg in 16.5 mpg off the bench.  

21. Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers

Grade: B-

Tyrese Maxey has a ton of explosion and potential but isn’t quite ready to be a reliable contributor for the 76ers.  

22. Zeke Nnaji, Denver Nuggets

Grade: C

Zeke Nnaji likely won’t play much this year as he has only seen four minutes of action in garbage time through three games. 

23. Leandro Bolmaro, Minnesota Timberwolves (Stash)

Grade: N/A

The 23rd pick in the draft, Leandro Bolmaro, will remain overseas for the 2020-21 season. Check back for more NBA rookie grades on the T-Wolves ‘stash’ selection.

24. R.J. Hampton, Denver Nuggets

Grade: C

Like Zeke Nnaji, R.J. Hampton will likely only see playing time in garbage minutes for the Nuggets this year. 

25. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

Immanuel Quickley looked great in the preseason but suffered an ankle injury in the Knicks’ first game of the season. Hopefully, he can get back on the court soon.  

Grade: C+

26. Payton Pritchard, Boston Celtics

Grade: A-

Payton Pritchard has gotten the chance to play 20.3 mpg with Kemba Walker out and has looked great. He’s averaging 7.7 ppg while shooting 64.3% from the field, including knocking down five of seven three-point attempts.  

27. Udoka Azubuike, Utah Jazz

Grade: C

A standout at Kansas, Udoka Azubuike has only seen four minutes of action through Utah’s first three games. 

28. Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves 

Grade: C+

With the Timberwolves getting blown out by the Lakers on Sunday, Jaden McDaniels played eight minutes and scored six points. 

29. Malachi Flynn, Toronto Raptors

Grade: C

Malachi Flynn has seen all of 76 seconds of action through two games, and likely won’t have a big role this year.  

30. Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

Grade: B

The last pick of the first round, Desmond Bane, has looked good, averaging 6.0 ppg on 46.2% from the field in 19.0 minutes per game. With Ja Morant out, Bane may see an increase in minutes going forward.

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