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NBA Rookie of the Year Watch – April 2

In the wake of LaMelo Ball’s season-ending injury, Tristan Tucker breaks down the shift in the rookie hierarchy as teams prepare for the playoffs.

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In what’s been a devastating month in the NBA for injuries to award frontrunners, LaMelo Ball went down for what looks to be the remainder of the season. Since Basketball Insiders’ last rookie ladder, much has changed in the wake of Ball’s injury. Let’s take a look at how the rookie hierarchy is continuing to evolve.

1. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (Previous: 3)

Since becoming a starter, the Kings are 7-2 and are right back into the thick of the playoff race. During that span of time, Haliburton is averaging 16 points per game while shooting 50.5 percent from the floor and 42.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Among rookies that have played more than 20 games, Haliburton is third in offensive rating. Furthermore, Haliburton boasts a 22.7 percent assists percentage.

Not only does Haliburton possess one of the best basketball IQs in the league for a player his age, but he’s very close to reaching the elusive 50/40/90 club. Currently, Haliburton’s shooting splits sit at 48.6/42.3/87.2.

Haliburton’s season averages of 13.3 points and 5 assists per game are less flashy than the likes of Ball and Anthony Edwards, but he is just as deserving of the top spot on this ladder. What puts Haliburton above Edwards is consistency, from a shooting, performance and winning perspective. 

2. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous: 2)

Edwards is a star. There’s no denying that when taking a look at his single-game performances, such as 42 points in a win over the Phoenix Suns. Edwards leads all rookies in per-game scoring with 17.3 points a night, but his inconsistency from the floor prevents him from claiming the top spot.

Edwards is currently at No. 50 among rookies in true-shooting percentage. On the year, Edwards shoots just 39 percent from the floor, though he’s beginning to become more reliable in that area.

Haliburton and Edwards will be neck-and-neck for the rest of the year, with Edwards being the flashier player. If the Wolves and their impressive young corps continue to band together, there’s a chance Minnesota can string together more wins under new head coach Chris Finch.

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

Since early in the season, the Rockets haven’t had much to be thankful for, especially given Christian Wood’s early-year injury. Now that Wood is back, the Rockets are once again a competitive, albeit not good, team. A huge part of that is the way in which Tate competes on any given night. The rookie is averaging 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while connecting at a 51.8 percent rate from the field.

In the last two weeks, Tate is playing on another level, averaging 12.9 points and upping his shooting percentages to 53.4 percent overall. Tate’s hustle is also well reflected by the fact that he’s averaging 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game during that span.

4. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks (Previous: 4)

Quickley is the definition of a deep threat and he’s torching the league on any given night. Since March 21, Quickley is shooting 37.1 percent from three-point range on 5.8 attempts per game. In that same stretch, Quickley is averaging 10.8 points per game and is a plus-31 despite the Knicks going 3-3 during that time.

Eventually, Quickley will be given the reigns in the starting lineup, something to keep an eye out for. He is only averaging 19.9 minutes per game while putting up his starting-caliber stat line.

5. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (Previous: 5)

Bey is an excellent marksman, hitting at a 38.5 clip from deep on the year. His numbers are so unprecedented that he joins the likes of Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic in the record books.

Excluding a dud against the Portland Trail Blazers, Bey is averaging 15.6 points per game and 41.8 percent shooting from deep since March 17.

Bey is doing a little of everything for the Pistons, something upper management expected when it selected him with the 19th pick in the draft. The 6-foot-7 forward out of Villanova is averaging 10.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and his 87.3 percent clip from the charity stripe indicates that he’s going to have a long career in Detroit.

6. Theo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder (Previous: Not Ranked)

Oklahoma City’s youth movement continues to defy all expectations. Aleksej Pokusevski, Isaiah Roby, Moses Brown, Josh Hall all join the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort as consistent contributors. The most underrated among those young contributors is Maledon, who is averaging 8.7 points per game on the year.

Hitting at a 36.6 percent clip from deep on the season, Maledon is now starting for the Thunder. Since March 21, Maledon is averaging 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.3 steals per game and the Thunder has strung together a few wins. Oklahoma City being this competitive this early into a rebuild is a great sign for the health of the franchise and players like Maledon are to thank.

Honorable Mention: Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons (Previous: NR)

There are so many great rookies to choose from, with guys like Jaden McDaniels on the come-up. Even Stewart and Bey’s teammate Saben Lee is worthy of some consideration. However, this week’s honorable mention goes to Isaiah Stewart, Detroit’s most slept-on rookie.

Stewart is averaging 9.8 points and 5 rebounds per game in the last nine games. Meanwhile, the rookie out of Washington is connecting at 57.1 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from three on the year.

Stewart is still just 19-years-old. Already the rookie is fourth in true shooting percentage among rookies who have played more than 20 games. Furthermore, Stewart averages a double-double per-36 minutes, an impressive feat for such a young player.

Teams are almost done with the buyout process and are beginning to prepare for the postseason. As rotations will be finalized soon, be sure to stay tuned to Basketball Insiders for the next rookie ladder!

My name is Tristan Tucker and I am a basketball writer currently enrolled at North Carolina State University. I am the school paper's assistant sports editor and have written for SB Nation and Fansided. I joined Basketball Insiders in December of 2020.

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