Top 10 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates: Final rankings for 2020-21 season

Last season saw a breakaway NBA Rookie of the Year in that of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant. He dazzled onlookers while No. 1 pick Zion Williamson missed extended time with a knee injury. It was a surprise given preseason NBA Rookie of the Year odds.

It wasn’t the same during the 2020-21 NBA regular season. LaMelo Ball looked like the obvious frontrunner after initial success and with No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards struggling. Once Bell went down to injury, Edwards made his name known for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Now that the regular season is a thing of the past, let’s give you our final NBA Rookie of the Year rankings for the campaign.

Updated: May 17, 6:01 PM EST

NBA Rookie of the Year: The top 10

10. Isaiah Stewart, center, Detroit Pistons (LW: 10)

Isaiah Stewart, NBA Rookie of the Year
Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) goes up for a shot against New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) during the fourth quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to missing the final two games of the regular season, Stewart was showing out for an otherwise hapless Pistons squad. That included the first-round pick from Washington averaging 12.0 points and 9.2 rebounds on 52% shooting from the field in his final 16 games. Stewart is going to be a centerpiece of the Pistons’ rebuild under general manager Troy Weaver.

9. Patrick Williams, forward, Chicago Bulls (LW: 9)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Patrick Williams
Dec 23, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams (9) reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 4 overall pick from Florida State, Williams was much higher in our NBA Rookie of the Year rankings earlier in the season. Unfortunately, inconsistency has played a major role here. The forward put up five points or less in eight of his final 22 games. All said, Williams averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds during what was a solid rookie campaign.

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NBA Rookie of the Year: The long shots

8. Immanuel Quickley, guard, New York Knicks (LW: 8)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Immnuel Quickley, New York Knicks
Jan 31, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Immanuel Quickley (5) brings the ball up court against the LA Clippers during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Some inconsistent playing time for a surprising Knicks team during the regular season impacts Quickley in our final NBA Rookie of the Year rankings. The former Kentucky star did average 11.4 points on 39% shooting from three point range. However, he was also inactive for three games during the latter part of the regular schedule. The good news? Quickley put up 15 points or more in 21 of his 64 games heading into the playoffs.

Related: If you’re a fan of the New York Knicks, check out #NewYorkForever rumors, rankings, and news here

7. Desmond Bane, guard, Memphis Grizzlies (LW: 7)

NBA rookie of the Year: Desmond Bane
Feb 1, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane (22) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

A late first-round pick last year, Bane has carved out a nice role with the rebuilding Grizzlies. There’s also a chance that the former TCU standout could be the future starter next to Ja Morant in Memphis moving forward. Heading into the play-in tournament, Bane averaged 9.2 points and 3.1 rebounds on 43% shooting from distance during the regular season.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Grizzlies, check out #GrindCity rumors, rankings, and news here

6. Cole Anthony, guard, Orlando Magic (LW: 6)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Cole Anthony
Dec 23, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony (50) shoots between Miami Heat forward Precious Achiuwa (5) and guard Tyler Herro (14) during the third quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s was somewhat unfortunate for Anthony. The first-round pick from North Carolina expected to play a ton with Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier. That did not happened. Fultz suffered a torn ACL early in the season while the latter three were dealt at the NBA trade deadline back on March 25. Even then, Anthony has proven his worth as one of the top NBA Rookie of the Year candidates. He averaged 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a first-year player.

5. Tyrese Haliburton, guard, Sacramento Kings (LW: 4)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Tyrese Haliburton
December 15, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries on top of injuries. Haliburton returned on March 11 after missing four games. He responded by averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 assists on 38% shooting from distance in 28 games. Unfortunately, the former first-round pick from Iowa State missed the final eight regular-season games to a knee injury. This will obviously impact his standing in the NBA Rookie of the Year chase.

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4. Jaeā€™Sean Tate, forward, Houston Rockets (LW: 5)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Jae'Sean Tate
Feb 9, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe (L) dribbles the ball while defended by Houston Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate (8) during the second half at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Despite his Rockets struggling big time this past season, Tate was a major bright spot. The undrafted rookie finished his initial campaign averaging 11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 51% shooting from the field. He also scored north of 16 points in 15 games. One of the few future building blocks for a league-worst Rockets team, it will be interesting to see how Tate looks as a sophomore.

NBA Rookie of the Year: Three obvious favorites

3. Saddiq Bey, forward, Detroit Pistons (LW: 3)

Saddiq Bey, NBA Rookie of the Year.
Feb 9, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) takes a shot during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Detroit Pistons opted to sit Blake Griffin prior to buying him out, Bey finished the season as pretty much one of the top all-around rookies in the NBA. He earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors back in February and continued to play at a high level as the season came to a finish. Bey averaged a resounding 16.3 points and 6.9 rebounds on 38% shooting from three-point range over the final 12 games.

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2. LaMelo Ball, guard, Charlotte Hornets (LW: 2)

NBA Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball
Jan 9, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) passes during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at the Spectrum Center. Hornets win 113-105. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no other way to go about it. Ball was among the best rookies we’ve seen hit the Association in some time. Since taking over the starting role back on Feb. 1, this No. 3 pick was also among the best all-around players in the NBA. That’s not hyperbole. Unfortunately, an injury he suffered back on March 20 cost Ball 21 games. In no way does this mean he shouldn’t earn one of the top spots in our final NBA Rookie of the Year rankings. Ball finished the regular season averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He’s going to be an absolute star moving forward.

1. Anthony Edwards, guard, Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 1)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves
Dec 17, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) in action during the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Now one of the two favorites to win the NBA Rookie of the Year honors, Edwards upped his game big time during the second half of the season. The No. 1 pick from Georgia averaged 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists in his final 36 games. He also shot a surprising 45% from distance during that span. This is enough for the No. 1 pick to earn the NBA Rookie of the Year award in our books.

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