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Ranking The NBA’s Top 25 Players, In Tiers

Moke Hamilton ranks the top 25 NBA players heading into the 2015-16 season.

Moke Hamilton

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The endeavor is as old as the game itself.

“Who’s the best player?”

It’s a question that is as difficult to answer as it is to best Stephen Curry in a three-point shootout. For me, the question of ranking players is most difficult because there is no specific metric or criteria to determine which player is “better” than another. Some would look at advanced statistics to determine how efficient a player is and compare them to others. But me? I think doing that unfairly penalizes a player who simply doesn’t have much around him. While efficiency certainly does play a role in how “good” a particular player is, I more determine a player’s value based on his ability to impact multiple facets of the game.

The difficult part about ranking players, generally, is the inability to easily compare players across positions. A center won’t be a dominant assist-maker, just as a point guard won’t usually provide superb rim protection.

Is Stephen Curry “better” than Chris Paul because of what Curry accomplished last season? Or is Paul better because he has been arguably the top point guard in the league for a sustained period? Are we sure that Anthony Davis is “better” than DeMarcus Cousins? Or should Davis have to continue his dominance for at least another year or two before he is anointed?

And finally, we must ask ourselves the age old question: What have you done for me lately? Or, more appropriately, perhaps, “What have you done for me lately, and does it matter?” In short, for our purposes, it does not. Our top 25 is based on what we expect from the ranked players this upcoming season, paying very little attention to what they have contributed in years past. Tim Duncan, based on this, deserves somewhat of a benefit of the doubt. As does Paul George… But does Derrick Rose? Probably not.

Tough to say…

But not as tough as ranking the NBA’s top 25 players for the 2015-16 season was.

Just Missed The Cut…

KobeBryantInsideImage1Paul Millsap (PF, Atlanta Hawks)
Kobe Bryant (SG, Los Angeles Lakers)
Dirk Nowitzki (PF, Dallas Mavericks)
Derrick Rose (PG, Chicago Bulls)
Draymond Green (SF, Golden State Warriors)

There are some that would consider Draymond Green to be a top 15 player in the NBA, so omitting him from our top 25 may seem asinine to some. While there is no denying that he was an integral cog in the Golden State Warriors becoming the 2015 NBA champions, we still can’t quite figure out whether he is a bonafide superstar in hiding like James Harden proved himself to be, or whether he is simply a player who has found the perfect situation for himself and his talents, perhaps the way Kawhi Leonard has in San Antonio or even the way Lamar Odom did while playing for Phil Jackson.

Derrick Rose, we hope, will eventually return to form and revert to the player that we saw become the league’s youngest Most Valuable Player in history back in 2011, but the simple truth is that it has been nearly five years since we saw the dominance of which we know he is capable.

Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant are among the greatest players in history, but each has been on a slow descent over the past few years. And although we were thoroughly impressed with Paul Millsap’s production and poise over his years with the Atlanta Hawks, we’re not sure he’s even the best player on his own team.

Tier Six: Still Something to Prove

melo225. Al Horford (C, Atlanta Hawks)
24. Carmelo Anthony (SF, New York Knicks)
23. Kevin Love (PF, Cleveland Cavaliers)

In some ways, it may be unfair to declare that Al Horford still has something to prove after helping to lead the Atlanta Hawks to the East’s top seed last season, but we expected more than 14.4 points per game over the course of their playoff run. Can he truly be the number one option on a contender? We don’t know, just like we don’t know that for Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love.

Unfortunately for Love, after recommitting to the Cleveland Cavaliers, we may never find out. Anthony, on the other hand, will have no such issue. One of the league’s most polarizing players, he can easily return to or near the top 10 if he manages to lead his New York Knicks back to the playoffs this season.

Tier Five: Legitimate Championship Pieces

KawhiInside122. Tim Duncan (PF, San Antonio Spurs)
21. Kawhi Leonard (SF, San Antonio Spurs)
20. Klay Thompson (SG, Golden State Warriors)
19. Dwight Howard (C, Houston Rockets)
18. Chris Bosh (PF, Miami HEAT)

Combined, there is a whopping 14 NBA Finals appearances among this group and nine championship rings. It then becomes rather obvious to anoint the group as “legitimate championship pieces,” but the title becomes more appropriate when we let it be known that we emphasize that they are pieces. Clearly, Tim Duncan is capable of carrying a team, even on his 39-year-old knees. But at this point, is he more than a supplementary piece? Will the other four ever be more than complementary pieces? We’re simply not sure, and that certainly makes a difference.

Tier Four: Still Plenty Left in the Tank

WadeInside117. Dwyane Wade (SG, Miami HEAT)
16. Marc Gasol (C, Memphis Grizzlies)
15. LaMarcus Aldridge (PF, San Antonio Spurs)

This past season, Marc Gasol joined rare company in putting together his most statistically productive season after turning 30 years old. Especially as it relates to centers, this is not often indicative of a wise financial commitment on the part of the signing team. In Gasol’s case, however, we tend to think that he will continue to be an exception, due mainly to the fact that he did not begin his NBA career until he was 24 years old. Aside from that, his usage and effectiveness have steadily increased over the course of his seven-year career.

Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, is seemingly on the downside of his career, but last season, he proved that he still has plenty left in the tank. Despite his Miami HEAT missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Wade scored 40 points multiple times last season after failing to do so a single time during the four years when he called LeBron James a teammate. As the HEAT’s odds of qualifying for the playoffs diminished, Wade’s effort increased. It was both admirable and eye-opening.

As for LaMarcus Aldridge, whether this is a fair standard or not, he was not able to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to being anything more than a team that made a cameo in the playoffs. At 30 years old, Aldridge opted to take his talents to San Antonio to attempt to re-open the championship window that seemed to close this past spring.

Tier Three: Sky Is The Limit

InsideJimmyButler14. Jimmy Butler (SG, Chicago Bulls)
13. Paul George (SF, Indiana Pacers)
12. Damian Lillard (PG, Portland Trail Blazers)
11. John Wall (PG, Washington Wizards)
10. Kyrie Irving (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers)
9. DeMarcus Cousins (C, Sacramento Kings)

Jimmy Butler became a household name over the course of last season after proving himself to be a plus-contributor capable of impacting both ends of the floor on a day-to-day basis. John Wall, to his credit, has made the questions about his work ethic and his desire to be great a distant memory. Wall can legitimately claim to be the second best facilitator in the league behind Chris Paul, especially now that he has mastered playing the game at multiple speeds and operating either at a breakneck pace or from a half court set.

Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, quite simply, have shown so much, so quickly that both have been deemed “untouchable” by their respective franchises. Especially as it relates to Irving, when he is at full strength, he is capable of the dominance that was on full display during Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals.

For Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins, though, the injuries are slightly different.

George is just one year removed from being anointed as the next great player, but after missing the balance of the 2014-15 season with a horrific leg injury, the hope for him is that his reversion occurs at a faster clip than Derrick Rose’s. The primary reason for the discrepancy in their rankings is that, almost five years later, we are still waiting for Rose. George, on the other hand, still gets the benefit of the doubt, especially since he would likely be a top six player if he were 100 percent healthy.

Cousins, on the other hand, is probably a top five talent. As far as his game goes, he has no discernible weakness and is one of the few centers capable of a points, rebounds, assists triple-double. The mental aspect of his game, however, leaves something to be desired.

Regardless, with the third tier, the potential—even for those that have a little more wear on their tires—is too great to look past. That is true both for their teams and for the purposes of our rankings.

Tier Two: The Untouchables

JamesHarden_Inside18. Chris Paul (PG, Los Angeles Clippers)
7. James Harden (SG, Houston Rockets)
6. Blake Griffin (PF, Los Angeles Clippers)
5. Russell Westbrook (PG, Oklahoma City Thunder)
4. Stephen Curry (PG, Golden State Warriors)

Without question, this past season we saw tremendous growth on the part of everyone in this tier not named Chris Paul. What James Harden helped the Houston Rockets do, despite missing Dwight Howard for 41 games was tremendous. He has easily become one of those players whose flaws are well known and well documented but almost ignored because he makes up for it. Think Allen Iverson and, at a time, Dirk Nowitzki.

In helping to oust the San Antonio Spurs this past spring, Blake Griffin became the dominant low-post player and assertive superstar that everyone around him has known he could be. If that was a sign of what lies in store for the 26-year-old, with their added firepower, the Los Angeles Clippers may surprise the entire Western Conference this coming season. That is, of course, so long as Chris Paul continues to hang on. For my money, Paul is still the best floor general in the NBA, and despite his mistakes and shortcomings, Doc Rivers is fully married and committed to him, and for good reason.

We originally ranked Russell Westbrook ahead of Stephen Curry. Westbrook turned in 11 triple doubles during the 2014-15 season and had another five games where he missed a triple-double by one assist and/or rebound. That type of dominance is seldom seen in today’s NBA, but more importantly, it is indicative of Westbrook understanding how to control a game and use his gifts to benefit his teammates. Still, it was too difficult to overlook the fact that Curry capably led his Warriors to the championship and rightfully proved himself to be the greatest shooter in NBA history. Flip a coin if you must, but there’s no question that these two round out the top five.

Tier One: The Trans-Generationals 

InsideLeBronJames3. Anthony Davis (PF, New Orleans Pelicans)
2. Kevin Durant (SF, Oklahoma City Thunder)
1. LeBron James (SF, Cleveland Cavaliers)

There are All-Stars, there are perennial All-Stars and there are All-NBA players. Every so often, though, we are blessed with the good fortune to witness the players that future generations will talk about the same way that this generation discusses the previous feats accomplished by the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

While it does seem a bit premature to put Davis in such a category, we would again remind the masses that there is a certain amount of projecting that goes into these rankings. Davis’ ascent to superstardom is especially scary considering that he is only 22 years old and managed to score 24.4 points per game last season on 53 percent shooting from the field. Without even mentioning his 10.2 rebounds per game, 2.9 blocks per game or his ability to create plays of the dribble the way Kevin Garnett once did, we’ll simply ask you if you knew that he added 12 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason and improved his three-point shot. Scary.

Davis’ bulking up, while scary, is not as scary as Kevin Durant’s right foot woes. While there is a certain amount of uncertainty revolving around his long-term health, we will give him the benefit of the doubt and look forward to him joining Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as the only players in NBA history to average 35 points per game over the course of an entire season. And here’s the thing: you know he can do it if his health permits. That is a major part of why he still has all of his upside and luster.

As for LeBron James, at this point, what more do you want? A few more championship rings would be nice, sure. Still, even without them, James has already solidified a place as being one of the, at worst, top 15 players in NBA history.

* * * * *

Is LeBron James still number one?

Is Kobe Bryant still a top 25 player?

Will Derrick Rose bounce back?

Can Paul George and his Indiana Pacers return to the playoffs?

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NBA Daily: Washington’s Positionless Rebuild

Drew Maresca explains why the Washington Wizards’ are closer to legitimacy than you might think

Drew Maresca

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Upon first glance, the Washington Wizards look like an absolute train wreck. They traded away a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick to swap out John Wall for Russell Westbrook – whose contract will haunt them through the end of 2022-23 – and they are on the verge of chasing away their 27-year-old, thirty-point per game scoring guard, Bradley Beal. So insert your “Washington can’t get their stuff together” comment here while you can, because the opportunity won’t be here for long.

Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, it’s worth acknowledging that the Wizards have, in fact, botched the opportunity to build a winner around Beal thus far. But, when John Wall opted to have heal surgery and subsequently ruptured his Achilles, the door shut on that option, anyway.

There is an obvious silver lining – Beal is signed through the end of next season with a player option for 2022-23. Given what the Milwaukee Bucks gave up for Jrue Holiday last offseason, one could assume that the Wizards would get more than enough to jump-start a rebuild in exchange for Beal.

But a look closer at Washington’s roster would reveal they’ve quietly laid a foundation for the future. Specifically, the Wizards’ last two lottery picks, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija, embody position-less basketball, as versatile, highly skilled players who can be plugged into almost any lineup. Both were recently named to the Rising Star challenge — although it won’t be played due to inherent limitations in the arrangement of the 2021 All-Star Weekend, NBA coaches clearly agree. Sure, there’s international appeal given Hachimura’s Japanese background and Avdija’s Israeli heritage, which one could surmise was a major motivator in naming one or both to the team, but coaches aren’t known for playing politics.

So let’s take a closer look at the young Wizards hoping to lead Washington into the future.

Avdija is a top-flight, Israeli prospect who played on for EuroLeauge’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv – alongside former pros Amare Stoudemire and Omri Casspi – as a teenager for the past two seasons. He entered the NBA as a highly-touted playmaker, capable of playing and defending multiple positions. Somewhat surprisingly, Avdija fell to the Wizards with the ninth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, as he was rated as the fourth-best prospect by the Wizards’ front office prior to the draft, according to sources.

The comparisons between Avdija and Luka Doncic were inevitable, as both are big, point forward types with a flair for the dramatic. That put obvious pressure on the young forward and, while he’s struggled for much of his rookie season – Avdija is averaging just 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while connecting on 35.6% of his three-point attempts – his ceiling is obviously sky-high. He’s shown flashes of his greatness, like in a game in early March in which he recorded 10 points, 7 rebounds; or an early January game in which he collected 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Further, no one should be discouraged by Avdija’s struggles. First, he shot just 27.7% on three-point attempts last season in the EuroLeague – so his three-point percentage this season should come as a huge relief. Further, Avdija is averaging just 21.4 minutes per game, often deferring to Beal and Westbrook (and, to a lesser degree, Hachimura and Thomas Bryant). So, as much as everyone wanted him to be the next Doncic, the opportunity simply hasn’t been there.

But the potential is.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks explained some of what’s went wrong for Avdija’s thus far: “It’s normal to have some good moments and some tough moments. Every player, every single player in this league. I’m sure Michael [Jordan] had a couple of bad games in his rookie year. Every player. Russell [Westbrook], I coached him his rookie year. He’s had a handful.”

“Deni’s gonna be a good player,” Brooks continued. “For all the rookies in the league, it’s never happened where you had no Summer League, really no training camp and then with the safety protocol, he missed three weeks in the middle of the season. That’s hard to overcome.”

To Brooks’ point, the lack of preparation has definitely made the transition for Avdija even harder. What’s more, it’s not just Avdija who’s struggled; Obi Toppin (New York) and Devin Vassell (San Antonio), two of the more refined prospects, have also struggled to get carve out a consistent role.

Further, Avdija isn’t the first lanky foreigner who needed more than a third of a season to acclimate to the NBA; Dirk Nowitzki averaged just 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes per game as a rookie; Manu Ginobili averaged just 7.6 points in 20.7 minutes per game; Danilo Gallinari averaged just 6.1 points in 14.6 minutes per game. The list goes on.

Once he gets an actual opportunity, Avdija’s bandwagon should fill up quickly.

If Avdija is Washington’s future facilitator, then Hachimura is its finisher. And, while questions plague Avdija’s performance, Hachimura is being praised for his.

To be fair, Hachimura is farther along in his development, with one NBA season already under his belt (and three years at Gonzaga). Hachimura, already 23, is a bit more refined and it shows in his output: 13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists this season.

That said, a closer look at Hachimura’s play shows room for improvement – with a below league-average 12.9 PER and a 29.2% three-point percentage serving as his most glaring weaknesses. But, like with Avdija, the upside is clear as day. We’re talking about a second-year player who scored 15 or more points 11 times so far this season – just 26 games. He’s strong, polished and bouncier than advertised prior to the 2019 draft.

Further, a closer examination of his shooting numbers reveals that while his three-point shooting clearly needs work, his mid-range game is spot on. Hachimura is connecting on 41.2% of his shots from between 16 feet and the three-point arc – better than noted midrange expert Carmelo Anthony (37%) and just hair behind All-Star forward Jayson Tatum (42.9%).

But Hachimura’s offensive abilities have been known for what feels like forever, partially due to the ridiculously long 2019-20 season. What’s surprising, though, is how he’s continued to improve on the defensive end – so much so, in fact, that Brooks specifically called out his defensive development after a recent game.

But no one should be that surprised. Hachimura’s combination of speed and strength, along with his high motor, is tailor-made for defensive success. And, again, like Avdija, the 6-foot-8 Hachimura’s versatility is his major selling point. He boasts size, dexterity, touch and handle. And, while his skill set has become far more common in the NBA, plug-and-play guys of Hachimura’s build are still relatively rare. And, most importantly, they allow teams to get creative in roster construction, enabling the addition of players whose deficiencies could be covered up by players like Hachimura.

Ultimately, neither Avdija nor Hachimura is a guarantee. Both possess serious upside and could grow into perennial All-Stars, but neither is a sure thing. Their attitudes and approaches will be a major determining factor in their success, or lack thereof.

The Wizards could look very different as soon as next season. But, as of now, Washington looks ready to tackle its rebuild — and, between these two, they may already have a headstart.

Blink and you might just miss their entire rebuild.

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NBA Daily: Three Teams Failing Expectations

Expectations were extremely high for three teams entering this season. A variety of factors have derailed their trajectory but there may still be time to address their issues and turn their seasons around.

Chad Smith

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Every offseason presents the opportunity for organizations to revamp their rosters in hopes of improving their team for the upcoming season. Between the NBA Draft and the free agency period, executives are busy around the clock. The flurry of phone calls and internal discussions among management is key to molding the future.

But the league found itself in an unfamiliar position this past year with the delayed season, the playoffs in the Orlando “bubble” and a shortened offseason that went by in the blink of an eye. The first preseason game tipped off exactly two months after the final game of the NBA Finals. The turnaround was quick and complicated for everyone involved.

That said, several teams were able to capitalize on the abbreviated turnaround. The Phoenix Suns knocked it out of the park with the Chris Paul trade and signing of Jae Crowder. The Charlotte Hornets nailed the draft and free agency, as Michael Jordan landed both Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball. The New York Knicks found success in the draft with Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin. The Brooklyn Nets added excellent role players in Bruce Brown and Jeff Green while re-signing Joe Harris, who has been worth every penny.

Some teams appeared as though they had hit a home run, only to see the ball being caught at the warning track. The hype and buzz surrounding these teams were well warranted at the time, but things just haven’t panned out for a variety of reasons. With the All-Star break finally here, these three teams would welcome the idea of hitting the “undo” button on their offseason moves.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors find themselves sitting two games under .500 entering the All-Star break. While they are certainly not out of contention, they are a far cry from where most people thought they would be at this point. It began with a rocky start to the season, where they dug themselves a massive hole with a 2-8 record.

The crux of their struggles came with their frontcourt issues. Both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka took the Kawhi Leonard route from Toronto to Los Angeles in the offseason. Losing one of their big men hurt, but losing both of them was crippling. The signings of Aron Baynes and Alex Len looked okay on paper, but the fit could not have been worse. Toronto currently ranks dead last in rebounding as a team.

Toronto ended up waiving Len, while Baynes has seen his role reduced even more. Fortunately, the emergence of Chris Boucher and Norman Powell has helped the Raptors turn their season around. Draft picks Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris haven’t had a major impact, but Pascal Siakam finally snapped out of his bubble fog and Kyle Lowry is healthy once again as well.

One good thing that the Raptors were able to do in the offseason was retain their sensational guard Fred VanVleet. Toronto has seemingly turned things around over the past few weeks and, considering they are playing all of their home games 1,400 miles away from their arena, they are positioned for a much better second half of the season.

Dallas Mavericks

Last season, the Mavericks boasted the best offense in the entire league, led by MVP-candidate Luka Doncic. The goal for them in the offseason was to acquire a defensive presence that could get this team more balanced. It appeared as though they addressed that when they traded Seth Curry to Philadelphia for Josh Richardson. Unfortunately, that has not been the case early on.

Dallas was also looking for an upgrade at the center position, but they missed out. They ended up having to settle for bringing back Willie Cauley-Stein on a two-year deal for $8.2 million. As a team, the Mavericks rank 24th in rebounding. James Johnson has been a solid addition, but he alone was not nearly enough to upgrade their porous defense.

Kristaps Porzingis has been quite inconsistent this season, so it is difficult to know what they are going to get from him every night. He is nowhere near the defensive presence that he was during his time in New York. Richardson is the guy that Dallas has been waiting on to provide outstanding perimeter defense, but he too has been unable to piece it together on a nightly basis.

The Mavericks did not find anything in the draft and it seems as though, once again, Doncic is having to do everything for this team in order for them to have success. His 36.2 percent usage rate is the highest in the league and that doesn’t appear to be going down anytime soon. If you are going to give the keys to the entire offense to someone, he is a good choice but Dallas struck out in terms of giving their franchise player more help this season.

Atlanta Hawks

No team had won the offseason quite like the Hawks. The organization was able to surround its franchise player with truckloads of talent in free agency. They added elite shooters like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. They added key defensive guards in Kris Dunn and two-time champion Rajon Rondo. They even scored more talent in the draft, taking Onyeka Okongwu with the sixth overall pick.

Atlanta lost no players of significant value, either, as general manager Travis Schlenk added to his already loaded young nucleus of Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter. The problem here is that there are just too many overlapping pieces.

The veterans that were brought in either haven’t been able to get on the floor or are taking up valuable minutes for the younger players, potentially stunting their growth. The workload has been spread thanks to their depth as they deal with all of the injuries but there is no chemistry on the floor. In a season where practice time is near non-existent, that is a real problem.

The Hawks hit the All-Star break in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a disappointing 16-20 record. The game is being played in their backyard, yet they don’t even have a player to represent them. And, in recent days, it’s gotten even worse; the team officially fired head coach Lloyd Pierce on Monday, with Nate McMillan set to take over as interim coach.

Atlanta has played 36 games this season. Their nine best players have missed a combined 143 games. Not including Dunn, who hasn’t played all season, that number is still well over 100 games missed. This locker room is a mixed bag of players that lack leadership and desperately need guidance. Pierce wasn’t the answer and Vince Carter isn’t walking through those doors anytime soon.

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NBA Rookie of the Year Watch – March 5

Two rookies have pulled away from the rest of the pack in the hunt for the Rookie of the Year award. Tristan Tucker breaks down how the rookie pyramid is shaping up halfway through the season.

Tristan Tucker

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The All-Star break is nearly upon the NBA, and the Rising Stars rosters were just announced with several rookies leading the charge. Two players have pulled away by a significant margin in recent weeks, with several first-year players making impacts on winning teams. Let’s take a look at how the rookie ladder has changed over the last two weeks.

1. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets (Previous: 1)

February was kind to the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, who’s ascended to another level of stardom in the NBA in just his first season. The rookie is averaging 20.1 points, 6.7 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game during that span. Since Basketball Insiders’ last update to the rookie ladder, Ball put up a stretch of five 20-plus point games, including a 30-point showing against the Portland Trail Blazers and a 24-point, 12-assist game in Charlotte’s wild win over the Sacramento Kings.

One of the concerns surrounding Ball when he entered the league was his ability to knock down jump shots at an effective rate. The 6-foot-6 point guard has shattered those concerns with his recent play and knocked down 40.7 percent of his attempts from downtown in just under seven tries per game.

When Charlotte parted ways with Kemba Walker in the summer of 2019, it would’ve been far-fetched to imagine that the Hornets would be stacked at the point guard position in just two years. However, with Ball and Terry Rozier, the Hornets are looking at a legitimate shot at the postseason.

2. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (Previous: 2)

Together with Ball, Haliburton has all but cemented this Rookie of the Year race as a two-party contest. It gets harder to not give Haliburton the top nod with each passing week; the rookie out of Iowa State is completely dominating off the bench for the Kings. Though he’s missed the last three games for Sacramento, Haliburton is averaging 17.4 points, 6 assists and 2.4 steals per game while shooting a very impressive 47.9/39.4/85.7 line in five games over the last two weeks.

Haliburton’s excellence extends beyond his scoring, as the Kings are 1.5 points better when Haliburton is on the floor. Furthermore, the 6-foot-5 guard boasts an assist percentage of 24.6, which ranks in the 97th percentile of all NBA players and a 1.33 assist to usage clip, which ranks in the 100th percentile.

The Kings have to feel good about their young core in spite of their record, especially with Haliburton earning Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors and a spot on the Rising Stars roster.

3. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks (Previous: 5)

Before the season, nobody would’ve guessed that the Knicks would be the fifth seed at the halfway point of the season. Head coach Tom Thibodeau and improved veteran play from All-Star Julius Randle and others have sparked the franchise’s turnaround. No player, however, is more synonymous with that spark of energy than Quickley.

Since the last ladder update, Quickley is averaging 13.5 points on a staggering 48.4 percent clip from deep. When the team acquired Derrick Rose, Quickley’s playing time was in the air, but the rookie’s resilience and determination have kept him in the lineup as he continued to exceed expectations.

4. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (Previous: 6)

Bey’s placement here should be representative of the overall fantastic job the Detroit Pistons have done with all of their young pieces. Bey is obviously playing great — more on that later — but other draftees Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee are playing phenomenally as well. Then there’s the case of resurgences in Josh Jackson — averaging a career-high 13.5 points per game — and Dennis Smith Jr., who was just acquired and posted a triple-double in a blowout win.

But, in a year that many thought would be a throwaway for the Pistons, especially with seventh overall pick Killian Hayes sidelined, Bey and the rest of the young corps along with Jerami Grant and company have stepped up and delivered exciting basketball to Detroit.

Over the last two weeks, Bey is averaging 11.7 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 37 percent from deep on just under eight attempts per game. If Hayes pans out, the 2020 NBA Draft is shaping up to be a turning point for the Pistons.

5. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous: 3)

If Edwards could hit shots at even a 45 percent clip, there’s little doubt that he would be running away with the scoring title of all rookies and perhaps the Rookie of the Year award itself. However, it continues to be a hindrance, as Edwards is shooting a horrid 32.8 percent from the field and 25.4 percent from 3 in the last two weeks.

It’s unfortunate that the shooting is so inconsistent, as he’s put together a string of four 19-plus points per game contests and several highlight-reel plays across the span of the last two weeks.

The last two weeks brought a lot of turmoil to light for the Timberwolves, with the team undergoing a head-coaching change, bringing in Chris Finch from the Toronto Raptors to replace Ryan Saunders. But that’s not all, as Ricky Rubio recently voiced displeasure with the team’s performance and D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley continue to be out.

With all the drama surrounding Minnesota, it’s hard to envision any rookie seeing much success there. The fact that Edwards is able to put these high-scoring performances together at all is telling of how special a talent he can be.

6. Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets (Previous: 4)

Tate’s on-court production has dipped slightly in conjunction with the Houston Rockets’ losing streak, but the hyper-athletic forward is still giving it his all on a nightly basis. Look no further than the fact that the team is parting ways with DeMarcus Cousins for proof that Houston believes in Tate as a member of its future.

Houston plays better when Tate is on the floor, per Cleaning the Glass. And with that comes rejuvenated energy from all points on the court. When Tate is on, the team’s offensive rebounding percentage increases by 8.1 percent, which ranks in the 98th percentile of the entire NBA. 

Even though the Rockets are in a slump, Tate is averaging 9.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game on 47.9 percent shooting from the field. Most recently, he enjoyed a double-double in James Harden’s return to Houston.

Honorable Mention: Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers (Not Ranked)

Okoro gets his first rookie ladder nod after the Cleveland Cavaliers saw a fantastic stretch in which the team won four straight games. During that span of time, Okoro averaged 10.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals while seeing season-best shooting figures of 49.1 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from three.

The 6-foot-5 forward out of Auburn has played the second-most minutes of any rookie and has started in every game for the Cavs, a promising start to Okoro’s career. Okoro is also playing strong defense for a Cleveland team that desperately needs good defenders and his stock could rise as the weeks go on.

With a multitude of highlight-reel dunks, passes and plays in just the last two weeks, several rookies are making big impacts on teams in a year where young depth is crucial. While Ball and Haliburton are currently leading the race, don’t sleep on James Wiseman to make a resurgence, as he scored 14, 11 and 16 points, respectively, in his first three games since returning from injury. Be sure to check back with Basketball Insiders for the next rookie ladder to see how tight this competition gets!

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