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 and fifth 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 only 20-or-so games remaining in the 2020-21 season?
2020-21 NBA Rookie Ladder
5. Jae'Sean Tate, Houston Rockets
Stats: 10.8 PTS, 5.4 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.1 STL, 52.1% 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: If you aren't familiar with Tate's game, get to know him. Despite going undrafted in 2018, this 25-year-old rookie will make a long living in the NBA as a versatile and pesky defender after polishing his game overseas for the past two seasons.
In a season that has been anything but consistent for the Rockets, Tate has been a steadying presence. Since the All-Star break, he has solidified a role as Houston's starting wing, averaging 12.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. Defensive possessions like the one below on superstar Luka Doncic serve as a prime example of what Tate is capable of for years to come in the league.
Yeah, lost in the Rockets season has been Jae'Sean Tate's defense. Luka beats Wall before the screen, Tate switches on to him, stays in front on the spin and strips the ball. pic.twitter.com/j4MyvXHQpM- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) April 8, 2021
4. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons
Stats: 10.9 PTS, 4.0 REB, 1.3 AST, 40.3% FG, 37.9% 3PT
Best game: Feb. 12 vs. BOS: 30 points (10-12 FG, 7-7 3PT), 12 rebounds
Something to know: Bey's 113 made 3-pointers doesn't just lead his entire rookie class - it's the most 3-pointers made by a rookie in Pistons history.
Show some ❤️ to @_Beyyy15 for making the most 3FG as a rookie in #Pistons history! #DetroitUp | @MilkMeansMore https://t.co/FCux1S5YNQ pic.twitter.com/LfqfTPoeT1- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) April 7, 2021
Since becoming a full-time starter, the first-year sharpshooter is averaging 12.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists while shooting 40.0 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3.
3. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings
Stats: 13.0 PTS, 5.1 AST, 3.2 REB, 1.3 STL, 48.0% FG, 41.3% 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: Haliburton made 12 consecutive starts for the Kings after Marvin Bagley went down with an injury, averaging 14.5 points, 4.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds during that stint. It appeared that he was receiving an opportunity to become a full-time starter but in the team's most recent contest, head coach Luke Walton elected to pull the standout rookie guard back to the bench in favour of forward Maurice Harkless.
With Rookie of the Year frontrunner (for the majority of the season) LaMelo Ball out with a wrist injury, this is Haliburton's opportunity to try and claim the crown. Will the move back to the bench have an impact in that?
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: Ball suffered a fractured wrist back on March 20 and had to receive surgery, which will keep him out for a big chunk of the second half of the season. It was originally reported that the surgery would end Ball's rookie season, but the Hornets announced on March 23rd that the star guard will be re-evaluated in four weeks (roughly April 20th).
With that timetable, Ball is set to miss a minimum of 15 games and at that point, will only have 15 games remaining in the season if he makes a quick and full recovery. Posting 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 in 21 games as a starter, will that be enough to maintain Rookie of the Year status?
For reference, 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, which would be 56.9 percent of Charlotte's games if he does not take the floor again.
1. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
Stats: 17.8 PTS, 4.4 REB, 2.6 AST, 1.1 STL, 39.7% FG, 31.4% 3PT
Best game: March 19 vs. PHX: 42 points (15-31 FG, 4 3PM), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Something to know: Edwards is rising up the Rookie of the Year charts, making the most of his opportunity with Ball sidelined. He has posted 22.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game since Ball went out with a wrist injury.
Edwards' 17.8 points per game leads all rookies and his career-high 42-point game marked the youngest player in Timberwolves' franchise history to score 40 points, the third-youngest player in NBA history to score 40 points and it is the highest single-game scoring output of this rookie class.
Anthony Edwards dropped a career-high 42 PTS 🔥 pic.twitter.com/4Cm4oIHoUz- NBA TV (@NBATV) March 19, 2021
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft has been terrific since becoming the full-time starting shooting guard in Minnesota, averaging 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
Outside looking in
James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors: It has been an up-and-down season for Wiseman, as injuries and health and safety protocols have played a big role. Since returning from a three-game absence due to health and safety protocols, he has averaged 10.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game with one double-double.
Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls: Even after trading for All-Star centre Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls have kept Williams in the starting lineup. Shot attempts have been harder to come by, but the versatile defender has taken on the nightly responsibility of defending opposing team's premier perimeter scorers.
Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks: Quickley's playing time has dropped off a bit now that the Knicks are back to full strength. In the last 10 games, he has only averaged 18.9 minutes per game, but the microwave scorer has still posted double figures in six of those contests.
Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic: Okeke - who was drafted 16th overall in 2019 but missed his entire first season due to an ACL injury - makes his first appearance on the Rookie Ladder. He has been a huge beneficiary of the Magic clearing house at the trade deadline, averaging 14.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.7 blocks in seven games since earning a spot as a full-time starter.
Theo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder: Maledon also makes his first appearance on the Rookie Ladder, showcasing a promising future in the Thunder backcourt. Since the All-Star break, he has averaged14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, including a career-best 33-point outing against the Phoenix Suns.
2020-21 NBA Rookie Leaderboard
|Points per game leader||Anthony Edwards||Timberwolves||17.8 PPG|
|Rebounds per game leader||Isaiah Stewart||Pistons||6.0 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||Five tied||-||1.0 BPG|
2020-21 NBA Rookie injury report
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets: Ball suffered a fractured wrist back on March 20 and had to receive surgery. The Hornets announced on March 23rd that he will be re-evaluated in four weeks, meaning roughly April 20th.
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