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NBA Rookie of the Year Watch – Feb. 5

Tristan Tucker provides an update to Basketball Insiders’ Rookie of the Year Watch. Two surprises enter the top six while the No. 1 pick begins to pick up steam.

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With the Eastern and Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards dished out, Basketball Insiders is updating its rookie ladder, with several surprises leaping into the top six. With COVID-19 and plenty of injuries across the league, many teams are having to rely on their rookie players to step up.

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

The Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Month for December and January, Ball has continued to be remarkable for the Charlotte Hornets, earning a starting spot while Terry Rozier has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Over his last four games, Ball is averaging 19.8 points, 6.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent from deep.

It’s been especially admirable to see Ball put up great numbers against very good teams in the East, including the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. Against the Bucks, Ball flashed with 27 points and 9 assists in a 12-point win.

Ball has continued to improve his efficiency as well, his biggest weakness as a pro thus far. He’ll also need to improve his defense to remain atop this list, as the team is much better as a unit with him off the court, but this is Ball’s spot to lose for now.

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

Haliburton, the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the NBA’s opening month, is on a tear as well and is seriously making a push for the top spot on this ladder. Haliburton plays like a 10-year veteran at just 20-years-old, showcased by his play down the stretch in the Sacramento Kings’ 116-111 victory over the Boston Celtics.

In the six games since our last rookie ladder, Haliburton is averaging 11.5 points and six assists. His shooting has been on the decline, but ultimately Haliburton is playing extremely well in his role off the bench for the Kings.

3. James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors (Previous: 3)

Wiseman has recently missed time with a sprained wrist suffered against the Detroit Pistons, an unfortunate circumstance for a player that was just starting to put it all together. Wiseman is averaging 12.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game this season for the Warriors.

In five games from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27, Wiseman averaged 17.6 points on 61.1 percent shooting from the floor and the Warriors went 3-2. Now, as he sits with the wrist injury, the Warriors will certainly miss the impact rookie and his presence in the paint, already lacking size having lost Marquese Chriss for the year.

4. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks (Previous: Not Ranked)

The New York Knicks’ rookie sensation is quickly climbing up rookie ladders across the league. Quickley is an exciting rookie that the Knicks just haven’t had in some time, exceeding expectations for both the team and their fans.

In seven games since the last rookie ladder, Quickley is averaging 17.1 points and 3 assists per game on 42.9 percent shooting from the field and 40.5 percent from deep

What’s more important than his individual stats, however, is the play of the Knicks this season and just how much Quickley has been able to contribute to their success. New York has looked like a different team when the rookie is on the floor as opposed to starting point guard Elfrid Payton. In fact, when Quickley is on the court, the Knicks score about 6 points per 100 possessions better than when he isn’t, per Basketball-Reference.

5. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous: 6)

The biggest knock thus far for Edwards’s rookie season hasn’t been his scoring as he’s always been great at that, leading all rookies with 13.6 points per game. What’s been keeping Edwards from closer to the top, however, is his efficiency from the floor, as he’s shot just 37.6 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three.

That said, Edwards has been much improved in that area since he was moved into the starting lineup, as he’s shot 46.3 percent and 45.5 percent from those same marks in his four games with the first unit. In those same games, Edwards is averaging 16.3 points per game and has upped the energy, despite the Minnesota Timberwolves’ continued struggles.

If Edwards can keep up this intensity, there’s no questioning whether or not he’ll rise up these ranks. It’s been a difficult task for the Wolves to monitor and measure what kind of player Edwards is with franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns out but Edwards is starting to play like a No. 1 overall pick is expected to.

6. Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (Previous: NR)

Bane earns the sixth slot on the ladder this week for helping the Memphis Grizzlies to a 7-3 record across their last 10 games, good for the fifth spot in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies were expected to sink after long-term injuries to stars Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. but the play of Bane and fellow rookie Xavier Tillman has helped the team stay afloat.

Bane is averaging 9.6 points per game this season and has scored at least 10 points in every game since Jan. 16. The rookie is extremely efficient from deep, as was expected from given his elite collegiate portfolio, boasting a 48.7 percent mark from the field and a 50.8 percent from three.

Honorable Mention: Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets

Isaac Okoro and Cole Anthony are playing fantastic ball this season, but this week’s honorable mention slot goes to Tate, who is helping the Houston Rockets become one of the most exciting teams to watch this season alongside Victor Oladipo, John Wall and Christian Wood. Tate is averaging 8.3 points per game and is the ultimate hustle player, being a glue guy that has played the sixth-most minutes among all rookies.

As more rookies find their footing, be sure to keep up with Basketball Insiders for the next entry of our Rookie of the Year Watch!

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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