NBA’s Top 5 Rookie of the Year Candidatesby John Devereaux April 20, 2021 0 comments
The NBA draft is one of the most hyped-up offseason events. It creates lives for young players and builds futures for organizations. After the draft, some players end up playing at a high level right away. The league awards the Rookie of the Year Award to the first-year player via a point-based system voted on by sportswriters and broadcasters.
Every year, a player from the draft has received this award. In recent years, most of the winners would be on the trajectory to stardom. Past winners such as Ben Simmons, Ja Morant, and Luka Doncic have already been dominating the league after winning the award. This year could be a bit different from previous years, as the draft class has seen some high talent go down due to injury.
Unlike some other awards where team play can dictate who wins the hardware, the Rookie of the Year Award can go to a player on an abysmal team. A team’s performance does not have a large impact on this award. However, if a club showed great improvement from the previous year since adding the rookie, then it would definitely help the player’s case to win.
The 2020 draft class was filled with some uncertainties. Many analysts believed that the class would be mediocre at best. Writers and executives before the draft were unsure if there were any players that would be a sure thing in the NBA. With that said, there have been a few players who have exceeded expectations and are proving the NBA world wrong.
There are two honorable mentions that would have been in the top-five. However, both players would be sidelined for half the year due to season-ending injuries. LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets was the third pick of the draft. Ball came into the league as one of the most hyped but questionable prospects. The point guard had many uncertainties surrounding him, but would silence the crowd every time he played.
The rookie played very well and would have been the winner of this award by a landslide if he did not have to undergo wrist surgery. This injury would sideline Ball for the remainder of the season. Before the injury, he was averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists on league average shooting splits.
The other honorable mention is second-overall pick James Wiseman of the Golden State Warriors. Wiseman was having a very underrated season with Golden State. A team in disarray due to injuries, Wiseman found himself in and out of the starting lineup. Offensively, Wiseman looked like a future stud. Able to run up and down the floor fluently, being able to stick screens and catch lobs. Wiseman is also a good rebounder for his stature. Wiseman did struggle defensively but showed great improvement throughout the season. The second overall pick unfortunately tore the meniscus in his right knee, ending his season early.
The Top Choices
#5 Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks
Quickley was the 25th pick in the 2020 draft, selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder but later traded to the Knicks. The guard started the season on the bottom of the bench, getting most of his minutes when RJ Barrett was resting. The rookie would quickly give Tom Thibodeau a reason to play him more often. Quickley would have games in which his shooting would take over games. He had multiple stretches of games where the rookie would drop 15 or more points.
The Kentucky product is averaging 11.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists this season. Quickley would be higher on the list if his shooting splits were more efficient, although the guard can have games where he seemingly does not miss. There are also counter games in which he cannot make a shot. Shooting 38 percent from the field is nothing special and not the percentage to win the award.
#4 Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons
Stewart went 16th-overall in the 2020 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. He would find himself on the Houston Rockets, as the Trail Blazers would send he and Trevor Ariza to Houston for Robert Covington. Two days later, Stewart was traded again in a sign-and-trade that involved Christian Wood and the Pistons. The Pistons gave the 16th pick a home, and Stewart has been playing well since. Although the season started off slow for the team, the team was rebuilding. Stewart showed his defensive and rebounding potential early.
The center was not given a lot of minutes in the first half of the season due to Blake Griffin and other younger talents. But as the season went on, Stewart started to receive more and more playing time. In return, Stewart became more dominant on the boards, and on defense. Recently the center has been on a scoring tear having multiple streaks of games where he is outputting double-doubles. The center is averaging 7.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks.
#3 Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons
Drafted 19th-overall in by the Brooklyn Nets, Bey would later be traded to the Pistons, and would make an immediate impact on the rebuilding franchise. The forward came into the season hot, as he scored ten or more points in three of his first five games. Outside of Ball, the rookie forward is one of the most consistent scorers in the draft. Bey is currently third in scoring for rookies, just behind the two players next on this list.
Bey is averaging 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists on the season. The forward is shooting 37% from three, and 41% from the field. He will be an elite scorer down the line for Detroit and could turn into the best shooter in franchise history.
#2 Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
The first-overall pick of the draft class has been explosive since coming into the league. Edwards is the highest scorer in the NBA for rookies and has been showing out in every game. The guard has highlights in almost every game, including a monstrous dunk on Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe. He also holds this year’s rookie record of 42 points in a game. Edwards is a viable scorer and will have a future in the NBA and for Minnesota for a long time.
Although he is averaging 18.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on the season, the rookie is very inconsistent and is seemingly a “chucker’ for this day in age of the NBA. In his rookie season, Edwards has already attempted 20 shots or more in 19 games. The Georgia alum has only four games in which he has attempted less than ten shots. Normally, this stat would mean nothing, but in half of the games, he has played he shot under 40%. Currently, Edwards has shooting splits of 39-32-78. These numbers have gone up as the season progresses, though there are still games where he will shoot under 25% from the field.
#1 Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings
Haliburton was the 12th pick in the 2020 draft by Sacramento. The point guard slipped in the draft due to a lack of need in the top ten. Thought of as a player that could back up franchise guard De’Aaron Fox, Haliburton would find himself early in the season being able to play alongside the star point guard. The rookie is a do-it-all guard who can create shots for himself and his teammates. He is able to score at every level, rebound, and pass. Haliburton has flirted with multiple triple-doubles this season, which showcases his diverse talents.
The rookie guard is now considered Fox’s right-hand man. Overtaking Buddy Hield, the rookie is now relied on during late-game scenarios and has been spectacular doing so. Haliburton is averaging 12.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. He is the most effective shooter so far in this draft, as well, shooting 47-41-83. If Haliburton was drafted to another team looking for a full-time starting point guard, he arguably could be averaging double his stats with the Kings.