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: Jan 17, 3:10 PM EST
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NBA Rookie of the Year: The top 10
10. Cole Anthony, guard, Orlando Magic (LW: 9)
With Markelle Fultz out for the season due to a torn ACL, Anthony will continue to get playing time in Orlando. It has worked out pretty well up to this point. In the five games since the Fultz injury, Anthony is averaging 13.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Unfortunately, he’s also shooting just 33% from the field this season. That must change.
9. Payton Pritchard, guard, Boston Celtics (LW: NR)
Selected at the end of the first round back in November, no one really thought that Pritchard would immediately find himself in the Celtics’ rotation. Alas, here we are. The former Oregon star has been tremendous this season. He’s averaging 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 51% from the field and a resounding 44% from distance. That’s just tremendous.
8. Precious Achiuwa, forward, Miami Heat (LW: 8)
Miami just gets it. One year after picking up star guard Tyler Herro in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft, the defending Eastern Conference champions added another immediate producer in that of Achiuwa. The lesser known of the two former Memphis stars to go in the first round, this 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 8.2 points and 5.7 rebounds on a resounding 60% shooting through 11 games. He’s already in Miami’s rotation. That’s insane for the 20th pick in the draft.
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7. Saddiq Bey, forward, Detroit Pistons (LW: 5)
Noticing a theme here? Detroit is relying on a plethora of young talent as the team rebuilds on the fly. For the most part, said young talent has performed well. This wing from Villanova is no different, and has entered the NBA Rookie of the Year conversation. Bey is coming off a career-best 20-points, 10-rebound performance against the Bucks last week. He’s averaging 10.0 points and 4.1rebounds on a 37% shooting from distance. Those are some elite numbers for a rookie.
6. Patrick Williams, forward, Chicago Bulls (LW: 7)
Chicago received some flack for selecting Williams No. 4 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Florida State product has responded by acting the part of one of the top NBA Rookie of the Year candidates thus far. Williams, 19, has started all 12 games for the Bulls. He’s averaging 10.6 points and 3.8 rebounds on 49% shooting from the field. Williams isn’t shy hoisting it up, either. He’s attempting eight shots in 27 minutes of action.
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NBA Rookie of the Year: The top five
5. Anthony Edwards, guard, Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 3)
Ouch. To say that Edwards has struggled shooting the ball recently would be an understatement. Over the course of his past two games, the No. 1 pick has shot 1-of-14 from the field. Thus far this season, he’s shooting a mere 38%. That was always going to be somewhat of an issue stemming back to his days with Georgia. And it has Edwards dropping down in our latest NBA Rookie of the Year rankings.
4. Tyrese Maxey, guard, Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 6)
The outbreak of COVID-19 within Philadelphia’s organization has indirectly given this rookie No. 21 pick an opportunity. It also led to the 76ers pushing back against the idea of trading Maxey in a package for James Harden. For good reason. After seeing limited action earlier in the season, Maxey is averaging 18.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 50% shooting over the past six games. He’s now a member of the 76ers’ rotation and looks to be a building block moving forward.
3. Tyrese Haliburton, guard, Sacramento Kings (LW: 4)
Most draft experts believed that Sacramento got a steal when it selected Haliburton No. 12 overall in last year’s NBA Draft. Those experts have been proven correct. After being inactive two games earlier this season, the dude looks every bit the part of a top NBA Rookie of the Year candidate. Over the course of his past six outings, Haliburton is averaging 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.5 steals. He’s also shooting a resounding 52% shooting from the field this season. That’s just some stellar stuff.
NBA Rookie of the Year: Two obvious favorites
2. James Wiseman, center, Golden State Warriors (LW: 2)
It’s almost as if this 7-foot teenager has not missed a beat after failing to play in a competitive game for over a calendar year. A bout with COVID-19 during training camp forced Wiseman to miss the preseason. Even then, he’s come out like gangbusters. Thus far this season, the No. 2 pick is averaging 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 48% shooting from the field. This past week alone, Wiseman averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 boards and 2.0 blocks per.
1. LaMelo Ball, guard, Charlotte Hornets (LW: 1)
This past week saw the 19-year-old guard struggle shooting the ball. In fact, the rookie No. 3 pick shot just 33% from the field. Even then, Ball continues to ball out (pun intended). As among the top NBA Rookie of the Year candidates primarily due to a stellar all-around game. In 14 appearances, all off the bench, Ball is averaging 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals. That’s pretty darn impressive stuff right there.