Creating a list of the top 5 rookie of the year candidates so far would have been a challenge a few months ago as the race was pretty close up until recently. This 2020 NBA rookie class was a big unknown coming into this season. COVID-19 halted all sports last year, including the NCAA tournament where scouts can evaluate which players can handle pressure moments.
Teams went into the draft with limited tape and little to no in-person meetings with the players during the pre-draft process. So, teams had to choose players off of what they saw and partially what their gut told them.
This rookie class was perceived as very top-heavy, but this year’s rookie class has been very impressive. With that being said, there have been five rookies who have stood out and are in the running for rookie of the year honors. Without further a due, these are the top five rookies of the year candidates:
1.) LaMelo Ball
Lamelo Ball has been nothing short of spectacular this season. The infamous social media account “House of Highlights” has been dubbed “House of LaMelo” because it seemed like every night Ball has been putting up a ridiculous stat line or an out-of-this-world highlight that goes viral in seconds.
Despite Ball missing 21 games straight this season due to a fractured wrist, he has been the runaway rookie of the year candidate. He’s averaging 15.9 ppg, 6.1 APG, and 5.9 RPG showcasing his all-around talent on the floor.
On top of the stats, the Hornets are currently sitting at 8th in the Eastern Conference partially due to Ball’s hot start to the season. Ball’s playmaking abilities give the Hornets an edge when it comes to their transition offense as well as in the pick and roll. His unselfishness makes guys like P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges better, as they don’t have to rely on themselves as much to create shots.
Even with Ball missing games, there has been no doubt this season that he is the consensus Rookie of the Year.
2.) Tyrese Haliburton
Tyrese Haliburton still doesn’t get the national shine that he should. The 6’5 point guard playing for the 916’s own Sacramento Kings has been the most efficient scorer out of this rookie class. He is currently shooting 40.5% from the three-point line while also scoring 12.8 points a night to go along with 5.3 assists.
Haliburton has been the perfect complement to King’s point guard De’Arron Fox this season. His shooting and playmaking have helped the Kings stay alive in the Western Conference. Like Ball, his all-around game has given the Kings flexibility on offense as he can be put in pick and rolls or knock down an open three in the drive and kick game.
One area where he is much better than Ball is on defense where he has shown flashes of being the two-way player the Kings desperately need. Should Ball not get the nod for Rookie of the Year, Haliburton should be the pick.
3.) Anthony Edwards
The highest leading scorer of this class, Anthony Edwards has shown flashes of being the elite scoring wing that Minnesota hoped for when they drafted him with the #1 overall selection in the 2020 draft. Unfortunately, he has been wildly inconsistent and inefficient this year which is understandable as he is still young and it is not uncommon to see rookie wings struggle in their first year.
Despite the inefficiency, Edwards is still averaging 18.3 ppg and is a walking human highlight. His poster slam on Yuta Wantanabe on Feb. 19 is the runaway candidate for dunk of the year. He has also given the media some of the best post-game quotes this year from not knowing who Alex Rodriguez was to his liking of Popeyes Fried Chicken, there isn’t a lot to hate on the guy on.
Edwards has shown some flashes of being a potential scoring champ in this league, but he needs to work on shot selection and his three-point shooting. Rookie of the Year is unlikely, but he has great potential for the long run.
4.) Immanuel Quickley
The biggest surprise of the first half of the season was Immanuel Quickley’s rise in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation. He scored a career-high 31 points against the Portland Trailblazers on Jan. 24 and has been a nice third option behind Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett. He’s currently averaging 11.7 ppg on 39.4% shooting from the field.
Consistency has also plagued Quickley, but it is not as big of an issue as he was mostly a long-term project when he was drafted 25th by the Knicks. He has developed much faster than many would have thought. There were questions on whether Quickley could get a spot in the rotation, but he has progressed so much that he is a dark horse candidate for Rookie of the Year.
The last time the Knicks had a player win Rookie of the Year was 1988, when Mark Jackson held the mantle. If Quickley could win Rookie of the Year and the Knicks can win a playoff series, it would immediately bring the Knicks back to relevance.
5.) Jae’Sean Tate
In every draft class, one player whose story can warm the hearts of fans around the country. Jae’Sean Tate is that player this year. Tate has defied all the odds, from spending four years at Ohio State to his stint in Australia.
He was a new addition to the Rockets signing with the team in November of this year, and he has been one of the team’s best surprises this year. A 6’4 small-ball center, Tate is averaging 11.2 ppg on 52% shooting. He has been compared to former teammate P.J. Tucker and it’s hard not to see a little Tucker in Tate.
He does a little bit of everything for the Rockets. He defends, scores around the rim, and does all the little things that Coach Stephen Silas asks of him. Rookie of the Year candidate was probably not a discussion many around the league thought of with Tate, but it is a big accomplishment for Tate to be in this year’s running.
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