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)
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)
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.
NBA Rookie of the Year: The long shots
8. Immanuel Quickley, guard, New York Knicks (LW: 8)
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.
7. Desmond Bane, guard, Memphis Grizzlies (LW: 7)
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.
6. Cole Anthony, guard, Orlando Magic (LW: 6)
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)
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.
4. Jae’Sean Tate, forward, Houston Rockets (LW: 5)
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)
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.
2. LaMelo Ball, guard, Charlotte Hornets (LW: 2)
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)
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.