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.
Could we see something similar during the 2020-21 NBA season? Most figure that Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball will take home the honors. However, Warriors center James Wiseman has been the top dog through the first couple weeks of the 2020-21 NBA season.
In what will be a weekly theme during the 2020-21 season, here’s a look at the top-10 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates.
Updated: April 8, 7:10 PM EST
NBA Rookie of the Year: The top 10
10. Cole Anthony, guard, Orlando Magic (LW: 10)
It’s been somewhat unfortunate for Anthony. The first-round pick from North Carolina expected to play a ton with Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. That has not happened. However, he has taken advantage of the playing time since Fultz went down to a torn ACL. Prior to going down with a rib injury, Anthony was averaging 12.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 17 games (all starts) since Fultz’s unfortunate injury. He returned this past Wednesday to put up 13 points and seven assists in a loss to the Washington Wizards.
9. Jae’Sean Tate, forward, Houston Rockets (LW: 9)
Despite his Rockets struggling big time as of late, Tate has been a major bright spot. The undrafted rookie is averaging 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds on 53% shooting since the start of February. That includes 18 double-digit point outings in 31 games. Tate certainly looks like one of the future building blocks for a bad Rockets squad.
8. Patrick Williams, forward, Chicago Bulls (LW: 8)
Inconsistency has been the name of the game for this stud young forward recently. Despite showing some flashes, he has not provided it on a nightly basis. The Florida State product has been held to seven points or less 12 times in his past 26 games. During that span, Williams is averaging a mere 9.2 points. He needs to pick it up some to ascend our rankings moving forward. It’s that simple.
NBA Rookie of the Year: The long shots
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. Bane is averaging 9.5 points on 47% shooting from the field and a 45% mark from distance. Expect an increased number of minutes moving forward, leading to continued standing in our NBA Rookie of the Year rankings.
6. James Wiseman, center, Golden State Warriors (LW: 5)
It’s been an up-and-down rookie season for this stud center. When on the court, Wiseman has played exceptional basketball at times. At issue here is an 11-game absence due to injury and just recently finding himself in head coach Steve Kerr’s doghouse after missing a COVID-19 test. Inconsistency issues have also plagued him. Despite this, he’s still averaging 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds on 51% shooting from the field.
5. Immanuel Quickley, guard, New York Knicks (LW: 4)
Some thought that the Knicks trading for former NBA MVP Derrick Rose would impact Quickley’s growth after he performed at a high level before that acquisition. While that did happen initially, this Kentucky product has picked it up more recently. Despite consistency issues, he’s been able to average 11.9 points on 37% shooting from distance over the past 20 games games. Unfortunately, a recent two-game span that saw him score a combined eight points in 26 minutes of action has him trending downward in our latest NBA Rookie of the Year rankings.
4. Saddiq Bey, forward, Detroit Pistons (LW: 6)
Since the Detroit Pistons opted to sit Blake Griffin prior to buying him out, Bey has pretty much been one of the top all-around rookies in the Association. He earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors back in February and continues to play at a high level. In fact, the Villanova product is averaging 13.4 points and 4.7 rebounds on 38% shooting from distance over the past 26 games. This has him squarely in the NBA Rookie of the Year conversation.
NBA Rookie of the Year: Three obvious favorites
3. Tyrese Haliburton, guard, Sacramento Kings (LW: 3)
After struggling in his first five games since returning from injury on March 11, Haliburton has picked it up big time recently. The underrated rookie first-round pick is averaging 15.8 points and 4.9 assists on 52% shooting from the field over his past nine outings. If Haliburton is able to keep this up moving forward, he could compete with Anthony Edwards for the NBA Rookie of the Year now that LaMelo Ball is sidelined.
2. Anthony Edwards, guard, Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 2)
Still in the NBA Rookie of the Year conversation, Edwards hasn’t been dealt a great hand this season. He expected to have both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell acting as bigger scoring options. Instead, he’s played just a few games with both of them on the court. It had led to struggles as it relates to efficiency prior to a solid recent run. Said recent run has Edwards ascending our NBA Rookie of the Year rankings. He’s averaging 24.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 44% shooting over the past 16 games.
1. LaMelo Ball, guard, Charlotte Hornets (LW: 1)
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 has been among the best all-around players in the NBA. That’s not hyperbole. He’s averaging 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists 21 games as a starter. Unfortunately, Ball’s rookie season could be over after he suffered a fractured right wrist on March 25. Could this impact his candidacy? Time will tell on that front.