NBA Awards Rankings: Rookie of the Year

NBA Awards Rankings: Rookie of the Year

by June 16, 2020 1 comment

Although the NBA is still planning for each remaining team to have eight regular seasons games, it’s difficult to see candidates for any award moving up or down in such little time.

Therefore, it’s time to dive into the power rankings for each award, starting with Rookie of the Year. The 2019 NBA Draft class features several big names, most notably Zion Williamson, who made significant impacts for their respective teams. This rookie class appears to be one of the stronger classes in recent years. There’s a lot of potential with each of these cookies, so it’ll be exciting to see how they progress when the season comes back, along with how they perform in their second years.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Paschall, Coby White, Rui Hachimura

No. 5 | Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Herro is the first of two Miami Heat players to crack the top five in Rookie of the Year power rankings. Herro has been a key rotational piece for the Miami Heat throughout the season. In his rookie campaign, Herro is averaging 12.9 points and four rebounds. Herro has proven to be a reliable shooter, as he is firing at 39.1 percent from three-point range and 83.5 percent from the free-throw line.

In addition, Herro showed that he feels comfortable taking and making big shots in clutch moments, which was on display after he hit a go-ahead three-pointer earlier in the season against the Philadelphia 76ers late in the game. Herro has carved out an important role and will look to be a vital member of the Heat’s potential playoff run. The two areas that prevent Herro from being able to move up on this list are missing too many games with injuries, and a low field-goal percentage of 41.4 percent.

No. 4 | RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Expectations are always high in New York, but it seems like Barrett was able to impress Knicks fans enough to prove he was worthy of being the third-overall pick in the draft. Barrett averaged 14.3 points, five rebounds, and one steal per game in his rookie season.

While Barrett has areas he needs to work on such as improving his field goal and free-throw percentages, he was able to display his promise and potential on numerous occasions. Barrett’s production increased as the season progressed. This includes scoring in double figures in the last eight games of the season before the work stoppage, which was capped off by scoring 26 points against the Atlanta Hawks on the same night the season was suspended. Barrett seems poised to continue his development and growth heading into his second season.

No. 3 |Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

This was a tough call for the third spot between Nunn, who is the second member of the Miami Heat on this list, and Barrett. Although Barrett finished the season strong, his 40.2 field goal percentage hurt him in his chances of cracking the top three. As for Nunn, he made a significant impact as the starting shooting guard on the fourth-seeded Miami Heat.

In 62 games this season, Nunn averaged 15.6 points and 3.4 assists. Nunn’s shooting splits are impressive, as he shot 44.8 percent from the field, 36.2 percent from three-point range, and 83.7 percent from the free-throw line. Overall, Nunn proved to be a pleasant surprise, and he earned his way into becoming a reliable starting guard for the playoff-bound Heat.

No. 2 | Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

It’s kind of crazy to think that a rookie who only played 19 games before the season was suspended can be second on this list, but that’s how good Williamson was in those 19 games. Playing eight more games in Disney World will also help Williamson’s case, as his games played will be upwards of 25. If Williamson was healthy this season or at least played closer to 35-40 games, then there’s a good chance this Rookie of the Year Award would be his. Unfortunately, injuries did prevent him from playing a full rookie season.

Williamson made an immediate impact for the Pelicans, averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while managing to shoot an efficient 58.9 percent from the field. Along with his stats, the Pelicans went 10-9 with Williamson in the lineup while they were 18-27 without him playing. Slated as the 10th seed in the West, the Pelicans have a real shot to eventually become the eighth seed.

The Pelicans securing a playoff spot could even lead to some people viewing Williamson as the leader in the Rookie of the Year race. Ultimately, injuries and the coronavirus halted Williamson’s chances of winning this award, but the future is bright for Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

No. 1 | Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Although some people view this award as being a two-horse race between Morant and Williamson, the reality is that this award is Morant’s to lose. It is difficult to find any scenario where Morant doesn’t win this award, as he has had an incredible rookie season for the Grizzlies. In the 59 games that Morant has played in, he is averaging 17.6 points and 6.9 assists while shooting 49.1 percent from the field.

The stats only tell part of the story for Morant’s productivity this season. Morant brings relentless energy and toughness to a young, and up-and-coming Grizzlies team, as Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. make up one of the league’s best young duos. Along with Morant’s individual success, Morant is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year because of the position he has helped the Grizzlies get to this season.

Coming into the year, it felt like a rebuilding year for the Grizzlies with their new, young talent, as well as trading away Mike Conley Jr. to the Utah Jazz. The playoffs didn’t seem like an obtainable goal for this young squad. However, led by Morant, the Grizzlies are the eighth seed and will look to lock up a playoff spot once the NBA resumes in Disney World. Clinching a playoff berth would be the icing on the cake for an incredible rookie season, but Morant should have this award locked up even if the Grizzlies fall just short of making the playoffs.

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