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NBA Rookie Power Rankings: LaMelo Ball continues to shine for Hornets; Saddiq Bey breaks records in Detroit

The NBA officially announced plans for the 2021 All-Star Game, with all the events happening on the same day. One event that we won’t get this season, though, is the Rising Stars Game, which is shame considering how many great players we would’ve gotten to see in it. If the format was still USA vs. World, we could’ve seen Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and LaMelo Ball on the same team. 

That’s must-see television right there. Although people tend to have mixed feelings about the Rising Stars Game because it typically doesn’t draw much interest, this year’s game would’ve have been appointment viewing. Perhaps the league will put one on next season and allow the second-year guys from this year to still participate. 

Now moving on to this week’s rookie rankings. These rankings will reflect a rookie’s performance on a week-to-week basis only, not the collective season, so these aren’t Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top rookies this week.

Ball has managed to stay in the starting lineup despite both Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham being back fully healthy, which just speaks to the type of tear the rookie has been on. Since being put in the starting lineup, Ball has been averaging 20.9 points, 6.9 boards and 6.3 assists, while actually producing a positive boxscore plus-minus of 2.9. Not only has he been efficient (44.6 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from deep) since starting, but the Hornets are 4.9 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor, meaning he’s also impacting winning too.

The Hornets have been running a three-guard lineup with Ball, Rozier and Graham, but at some point one of them will have to go back to coming off the bench to have a more balanced starting lineup, and at this point it doesn’t look like it will or should be Ball. While he’s not a great defender, his size is a plus over Graham, and his playmaking ability trumps what both Graham and Rozier can offer as the primary ball-handler, so as much as James Borrego may want to slow down the hype train around Ball, it’s pretty much a no brainer at this point that he should have a permanent spot in the starting lineup.

In an unlikely win over the Celtics, Bey became the first rookie in league history to make seven 3s in a game without a miss, and his performance throughout the week earned him Player of the Week honors. Entering the league he was lauded for the defense he could provide as he develops, and while that is still a work in process, his offensive game has been superb so far. He ranks in the 85th percentile in the league for spot-up shooters, he’s got a versatile post-up game when the Pistons want to feed him down low, and he’s been tremendous in transition. His play is one of the main reasons Detroit won two games in the same week for just the second time this season.

Consider this an official petition to get Edwards in the dunk contest this season. Throughout the season he’s displayed his ridiculous athleticism, dunking on pretty much anyone who dares to get in his path and this dunk on Doug McDermott is no different. The Timberwolves are going through another lost season as Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell battle with injuries, but it’s been the best thing for Edwards because it has allowed him a bit of freedom to develop at his own pace. 

Quickley’s ascension this season has been one of the best stories this 2020-21 campaign, and he continues to prove everyone — including us — wrong about the assessment of the Knicks taking him in the first round. In reality, Quickley should have gone far higher in this draft, as he’s already developed one of the more lethal floaters in the league, and he can score from all three levels. He’s one of the many reasons the Knicks have looked like a legitimate playoff contender as we approach the halfway mark of the season, and hopefully at some point this season we’ll get to see what he looks like in the starting lineup.

With Christian Wood sidelined, the Rockets have been using Tate as a screener more, which gives them more versatility on offense as he can pop out for a jumper or 3-pointer, as well as use his strength to finish at the rim. It takes away the lob threat that Wood provides, but with bigger defenders guarding Tate, it gives Houston an advantage as he can put the ball on the ground and create for himself, or knock down a jumper. His versatility on both ends of the floor makes it even more mind-boggling that he went undrafted.

Haliburton has been so great this season, from his playmaking, his ridiculous speed, his ability to pull off some tough shots and stop on a dime to change directions, but if there’s one area on offense that he needs to work on, it’s scoring off the dribble. When he’s coming out of a pick-and-roll, about 40 percent of the time he takes a jumper, but he’s not making them at a great rate. He ranks in the 14th percentile in the league in that category, generating just 0.759 points per possession, which wouldn’t be a big deal if he didn’t go to that shot so often. He needs to become a more consistent scorer off the dribble to really unlock the next level of his game.

I’ve been waiting for Campazzo to have a solid week to push himself into these rookie rankings to talk about the oldest rookie of the class as a 29-year-old who previously played professionally in the EuroLeague with Real Madrid, where he even played alongside Luka Doncic. This week, though, Campazzo displayed exactly why the Nuggets signed him, looking like a smaller version of Nikola Jokic with the passes he’s getting off. I mean look at this:

That’s just filthy. Not only does he perfectly get that pass by Kyle Kuzma, but in slow motion it almost looks like he changed his mind at the last second to pass it to Zeke Nnaji instead of RJ Hampton. He’s an artist with the ball, and he’s been getting more playing time in the past week, showing that he’s gaining Mike Malone’s trust. 

After missing a chunk of games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, Maledon got put right back in the starting lineup and showed off his 3-point shooting in two games this week. Although the Thunder aren’t the most competitive team this season, It’s been incredibly beneficial for OKC to watch its young players develop, and Maledon is certainly one of them. Last year Maledon likely wouldn’t have gotten any run time, but after trading away Chris Paul and Steven Adams, the Thunder allowed themselves the ability to see what it has with some of their young players going forward.

Since returning from injury, which cost him his first year in the league as well as 13 of the first 14 games this season, Windler hasn’t looked terribly consistent, and after playing in two games this week he was held out of Cleveland’s latest game due to knee soreness. Still, though, he had an impressive double-double against the Trail Blazers this week, putting up 12 points and 10 boards, but his 3-point shooting struggled. He’s been getting heavy minutes, but hasn’t always been able to make an impact on offense, something he will need to work on to keep his spot in the rotation.

Williams came up big with a 3-pointer in the Bulls‘ comeback win over the Pistons, where he sunk a corner 3-pointer to essentially ice the game for Chicago. He also showed off his strength down in the paint, outmuscling Detroit’s bigs for an offensive board and a ferocious dunk. This kid just continues to impresses with each passing day, and the best part for Chicago is he’s only 19. The fact that he’s this good at such a young age should make the Bulls incredibly happy. Although he isn’t the most exciting player of his draft, he’s certainly one of the guys that has the highest ceiling going forward.




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