Top 10 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates: Tyrese Haliburton making noise

By Vincent Frank

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)

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

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)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Payton Pritchard, Celtics
Dec 30, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Payton Pritchard (11) passes the ball during the second quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Wizards, check out #RepTheDistrict rumors, rankings, and news here.

8. Precious Achiuwa, forward, Miami Heat (LW: 8)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Precious Achiuwa
Dec 25, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Precious Achiuwa (5) controls the ball around New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams (12) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Saddiq Bey, Pistons
Dec 28, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Saddiq Bey (41) shoots against Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter (12) during the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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)

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

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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Related: If you’re a fan of the Pistons, check out #DetroitBasketball rumors, rankings, and news here.

5. Anthony Edwards, guard, Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 3)

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

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)

NBA Rookie of the Year: Tyrese Maxey, 76ers
Jan 9, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) drives for a score against the Denver Nuggets during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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

3. 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

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)

NBA Rookie of the Year: James Wiseman, Warriors
Jan 6, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman (33) has the ball knocked out of his hands by Los Angeles Clippers forward Serge Ibaka (9) in the third quarter at the Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Warriors, check out #DubNation rumors, rankings, and news here.

1. LaMelo Ball, guard, Charlotte Hornets (LW: 1)

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

Related: If you’re a fan of the Hornets, check out #AllFly rumors, rankings, and news here.

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.