With the trade deadline just a week away and the end of the season fast approaching, fans are getting closer to seeing which rookies will cement themselves on the All-Rookie teams. Players like LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton and Anthony Edwards are surefire contenders, but who else is in contention for the Rookie of the Year award? With teams gearing up for the playoffs, let’s take a look at how the rookie race is shaking out following the All-Star break.
1. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets (Previous: 1)
Another week means another slew of dominant performances by Ball. Ball is so much fun to watch for several reasons, but mostly because he plays with a flash and poise of a 10-year NBA veteran. The Hornets are on a four-game winning streak, with Ball leading the way. Since joining the starting lineup, Ball has only scored in single figures once.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) March 14, 2021
As a 19-year-old, Ball is already averaging 15.8 points, 6.3 assists and 6 boards per game while slashing a 44.9/38.1/80.4 shooting line. It’s scary to think about how much better he can get and, when looking at the improvements that his brother Lonzo has made this season, it would seem as if the sky’s the limit for the youngest Ball brother.
2. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous: 5)
Edwards is on a complete tear recently — and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down anytime soon. Since Feb. 24, Edwards is averaging an astonishing 24.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game. After a pitiful shooting performance right before the All-Star break, Edwards is really turning it around. Since that performance, he’s connecting from deep at a 42.4 percent mark on over eight attempts per contest.
ANTHONY EDWARDS IS SPECIAL. pic.twitter.com/P8JWp24K6V
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 15, 2021
If not for an inconsistent start to his season, Edwards would be the unquestioned top rookie. His shooting was his biggest downfall, something that rookies can often struggle with, but if Edwards’ recent outings are anything to buy stock in, that worry could already be out the window.
As Edwards said to his doubters about being taken before Ball, “Whoever is still talking about that, they can just kick rocks.”
3. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings (Previous: 2)
Haliburton loses stock for the first time in a long time on this ladder, but it’s mostly a result of an injury that left him sidelined for four games. Then, in the three games immediately following his return to the lineup, Haliburton took some time to shake off the rust and saw more limited minutes.
However, the guard out of Iowa State joined the starting lineup for just the third time this season in a win over the Washington Wizards and posted 17 points and 4 assists. With the injury to Marvin Bagley III, it seems as if Haliburton’s insertion into the starting lineup could be a more permanent fixture. Bagley’s future in Sacramento may be unsure, but the Kings have a potentially star-studded young backcourt in Haliburton and De’Aaron Fox.
4. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks (Previous: 3)
Quickley is a stud, continuing his hot-shooting antics through a recent tumultuous stretch for the Knicks. Quickley, like Haliburton, recently earned a starting spot, putting up 34 combined points in a back-to-back. On the year, Quickley is knocking down 37.2 percent of his shots from three-point land and is averaging 12.8 points per game.
Approaching the deadline, it will be interesting to see how Quickley’s role evolves as the Knicks shoot to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13. It’s quite possible that New York’s guard rotation is thinned after the deadline, priming Quickley for a fixed spot in the rotation.
5. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (Previous: 4)
Since becoming a starter, Bey is averaging 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and is shooting 38.1 percent from three on over seven attempts per game. Alongside the rest of Detroit’s young corps, which were recently bolstered by the addition of Hamidou Diallo, Bey is making the Pistons an exciting young team that has two recent wins over the Toronto Raptors.
It seems that with the trade deadline coming next week, there’s a chance for the Detroit rotation to thin out even more. That should provide Bey and other young cogs like Saben Lee and Isaiah Stewart even more time to shine.
6. Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets (Previous: 6)
Since returning from the All-Star break, Tate’s play has been very up-and-down. He posted a strong performance against the Atlanta Hawks, putting up 25 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, but followed that up with a 2-point dud. All season, Tate has provided the energy the Rockets lack from other spots on the roster with its huge amount of turnover.
With the trade of P.J. Tucker, the starting power forward spot should be Tate’s to lose. Tate is just one of five rookies to have played 1,000 minutes or more this season and is also the only undrafted player to put up more than 600 minutes this season.
Honorable Mention: Kenyon Martin Jr., Houston Rockets (Previous: Not Ranked)
After an onslaught of injuries and trades, Martin emphatically inserted himself into Houston’s rotation. This placement is based on a small sample size, but it’s important to note the contributions that Martin is making right away.
Since being called up from the G League alongside Kevin Porter Jr., Martin is averaging 13.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.4 blocks while connecting at a 55.3 percent clip from the floor.
KENYON MARTIN JR. DUNKED ALL OVER JOHN COLLINS 🤯 pic.twitter.com/bN40cXA78R
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 17, 2021
Other rookies like James Wiseman, Isaac Okoro and Patrick Williams are also worth watching here. Okoro and Williams show flashes of two-way greatness on a nightly basis, with Williams absolutely dominating the Raptors in a recent matchup. Okoro is a strong defensive cog for the Cleveland Cavaliers but needs to work on his shot. Meanwhile, Wiseman puts up strong numbers but is once again sidelined for the Golden State Warriors.
As teams prepare for playoff runs, more rookies will insert themselves into rotations and establish themselves as feature NBA players. Be sure to follow along with Basketball Insiders for all the latest updates and rumors circulating during the trade deadline!
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