NBA

2020-21 NBA Rookie Ladder: With LaMelo Ball's return on the horizon, can he catch Anthony Edwards?

Welcome back to our 2020-21 NBA Rookie Ladder!

As a follow-up to my 2020 NBA Draft coverage, I will be providing an in-depth look at how this year's rookie class has performed to start their NBA career by ranking the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year every other Friday.

If you'd like to compare this week's 2020-21 NBA Rookie Ladder to previous ones, here you can find the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth editions. I also took a bi-weekly break from the Rookie Ladder over the All-Star break to instead dive into pre-draft predictions and decipher where I went right and wrong on this rookie class. You can find that article here.

Below you'll find the top five rankings to this point of the season, a group of rookies who are on the outside looking in, a rookie leaderboard to see which first-year players are leading the major statistical categories and an injury report to keep you updated on the latest ailments of the rookie class.

So without further ado ... who has been the best rookie with less than 15 games remaining in the 2020-21 season?

2020-21 NBA Rookie Ladder

5. Jae'Sean Tate, Houston Rockets

Stats: 11.0 PTS, 5.4 REB, 2.2 AST, 1.2 STL, 51.6% FG

Best game: March 22 vs. TOR - 22 points (8-9 FG, 3-4 3PT), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers

Something to know: Tate holds down the No. 5 spot for the second-consecutive Rookie Ladder, as the 25-year-old has maintained his All-Rookie calibre season.

While his per game stats may not jump off the page, Tate has been one of the most impactful rookies in this class when you look at the totals. He ranks first in steals, second in rebounds, fifth in points, sixth in blocks and seventh in assists.

Tate has been a swiss army knife for the Rockets and has proved to be one of the best young versatile defenders in the NBA.

4. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons

Stats: 11.4 PTS, 4.1 REB, 1.2 AST, 41.1% FG, 38.0% 3PT

Best game: Feb. 12 vs. BOS - 30 points (10-12 FG, 7-7 3PT), 12 rebounds

Something to know: Bey and Anthony Edwards are flip-flopping every game for the leader in 3-pointers made for this year's rookie class, but Bey re-wrote the history books for rookie 3-point shooting once again this week.

Two weeks ago, he set the Pistons' all-time single-season record for 3-pointers made by a rookie. Knocking down six 3-pointers against the Cleveland Cavaliers this past week, Bey became the first rookie in NBA history to have five games of six or more 3-pointers made in a single season.

Since taking over as a full-time starter for the Pistons, the No. 19 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft is averaging 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steals while shooting 41.2 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from 3.

3. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

Stats: 12.6 PTS, 5.1 AST, 3.0 REB, 1.3 STL, 47.2% FG, 41.5% 3PT

Best game: Feb. 6 vs. DEN - 23 points (8-12 FG, 4-7 3PT), 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block

Something to know: Following a 12-game stretch as a starter for the Kings, Haliburton has reverted to a role off the bench. In the time that previous Rookie of the Year front-runner LaMelo Ball has been out, Haliburton hasn't done much to cover some ground in the race for this award.

Over his last five games, he is averaging just 9.2 points, 4.8 assists, 1.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals while shooting 39.0 percent from the field. His 3-point percentage, however, has remained at a strong 47.6 percent over that stretch.

Haliburton did come up clutch in a win over Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves in his last outing, though, which could give the first-year guard some momentum going into the home stretch of what has been a quality and promising rookie season as a whole.

2. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Stats: 15.9 PTS, 6.1 AST, 5.9 REB, 1.6 STL, 45.1% FG, 37.5% 3PT

Best game: Jan. 30 vs. MIL - 27 points (8-10 FG, 2-3 3PT, 9-9 FT), 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 turnover

Something to know: The latest update from April 19 is that Ball (fractured wrist) has been cleared to resume basketball activities and could return in "7-to-10 days," meaning at the latest, he could be back for Charlotte's matchup with Detroit on May 1. If Ball is able to return prior to that matchup, he will have roughly 10 games remaining in the season to try and help the Hornets make a push to the NBA Playoffs or Play-In Tournament.

Averaging 19.5 points, 6.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from 3-point range to this point in his 21 games as a starter, will that be enough to maintain Rookie of the Year status?

The lowest percentage of games played by a Rookie of the Year winner was Patrick Ewing in 1985-86, only appearing in 61.0 percent of the New York Knicks' games. Ball has played in 41 games so far this season and if he can get that number to at least 50 games, that would be 69.4 percent of his team's season.

Ball has his work cut out for him if he's going to catch Edwards, but he gave himself a solid baseline of work to build upon prior to the injury.

1. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Stats: 18.3 PTS, 4.3 REB, 2.7 AST, 1.1 STL, 40.0% FG, 32.2% 3PT

Best game: March 19 vs. PHX - 42 points (15-31 FG, 4-13 3PT), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals

Something to know: Edwards did everything he could to elevate his play and gain some ground on the Rookie of the Year race with Ball out with a fractured wrist.

In the 18 games he's played since Ball's injury, Edwards averaged 21.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from 3.

His 18.3 points per game on the season is the highest scoring average of the rookie class, as is his 136 3-pointers made. He already set the Timberwolves' franchise record as the youngest player to score 40 points in a game, and this past week, he carved out another impressive feat in the team's record book.

Edwards is up to 13 25-point games in his rookie season. According to StatMuse, that is not only the most by a teenager in franchise history, it's more 25-point games than every other teenager in Timberwolves history combined.

With Ball's return on the horizon, Edwards will have to cross the finish line in full sprint if he's going to take home Rookie of the Year.

Outside looking in

Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks: Quickley isn't receiving the playing time he was during the middle of this season with the Knicks back to full strength, but he is still making an impact with the playing time he has. In New York's past two wins, the rookie guard has seen an uptick in minutes, posting 18.5 points while shooting 60.0 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from 3.

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls: Williams has had as consistent of a rookie season as anyone on this list, only missing one game while starting in all 57 appearances for the Bulls. He continues to be a versatile defender on the wing for Chicago and he's making the most of his limited scoring opportunities, averaging 8.4 points on 60.7 percent shooting from the field and 57.1 percent shooting from 3 over the past five games.

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic: Since returning from a brutal rib injury, Anthony has stepped into a key role for the Magic. In three games as a starter, the No. 15 overall pick has shown some real promising signs, averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals.

Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons: Stewart has been a late bloomer in this rookie class, and that's mostly because of opportunity. The 19-year-old has been a monster since receiving a boost in playing time, posting 14.2 points and 12.6 rebounds over his last five games. He had three double-doubles over that span, one of which came in a dominating 15-point, 21-rebound performance in a win over the Thunder.

James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors: Wiseman's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end after the No. 3 overall pick suffered a torn right meniscus. He finished with averages of 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the field.

2020-21 NBA Rookie Leaderboard

Category Player Team Stats
Points per game leader Anthony Edwards Timberwolves 18.3 PPG
Rebounds per game leader Isaiah Stewart Pistons 6.5 RPG
Assists per game leader LaMelo Ball Hornets 6.1 APG
Steals per game leader LaMelo Ball Hornets 1.6 SPG
Blocks per game leader Two tied - 1.1 BPG

2020-21 NBA Rookie injury report

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets: Ball suffered a fractured wrist back on March 20 that required surgery. The latest report on April 19 stated that Ball was cleared to resume basketball activities and could return to the court in "7-to-10 days."

James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors: Wiseman has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2020-21 season after receiving surgery on a torn right meniscus.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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