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NBA Rookie Power Rankings: LaMelo Ball in a class of his own; Patrick Williams thriving with Bulls

Everyone knew going into the 2020 NBA Draft that teams were going to be at a disadvantage given how the COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered how they were able to scout prospects. There wasn’t a consensus No. 1 pick going into draft night, and there were even more questions further down the draft board. Well, we’re almost reaching the halfway point of the season, and it’s clear that the draft order would probably look a lot different if teams could go back and change their picks.

Guys who were taken near the end of the first round — Desmond Bane, Immanuel Quickley — would certainly be taken far higher now, while someone like Jae’Sean Tate probably wouldn’t go undrafted. The top of the draft board would also look different, too, but more on that later.

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.

Yes, it’s still early, but it’s still safe to say that Ball should’ve been drafted No. 1 overall, and it shouldn’t have been particularly close. That’s not a knock on Anthony Edwards or James Wiseman who are having solid rookie campaigns, but what Ball has been doing this season is ridiculous. What’s even more ridiculous is he’s been doing most of his damage off the bench, as it wasn’t until the past two weeks that he got pushed into the starting lineup due to injuries. In the six games he’s started, he’s averaging over 21 points a game, six assists and five boards. 

Not only should he have been the No. 1 draft pick, but he should also probably be starting full time now for the Hornets. He was making tough finishes around the basket left and right and the best part is, he was locked in on defense and committed just one turnover. He did follow that up though by turning the ball over six times against the Sixers, but that’s just the journey of a rookie guard. Charlotte’s offense is slightly better with him on the floor (109.7) than when he’s not (107.3), so let’s see what he can do with even more responsibility.

If Ball should’ve gone No. 1, Haliburton certainly should’ve been No. 2 off the board. What he’s doing on both ends of the floor for the Kings off the bench is absolutely crucial to what this team does and their success. He posted career-highs in back-to-back games this week, and is becoming a menace on the other end of the floor. Sacramento typically isn’t very good at talent evaluation, but they lucked into this one so the Kings are reaping the rewards of every other team’s mistake.

Edwards is getting his numbers, but he’s doing it rather inefficiently. He had two inefficient games where he shot a combined 30.4 percent from the field and 16 percent from deep. But then he also had a 20-point outing against the Thunder where he finished the game a plus-2, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep. The Timberwolves need more of that performance from him, where he’s letting the game come to him instead of taking ill-advised shots. He’s young, so inconsistency is expected but it’s a positive to see he’s capable of being efficient.

As the season progresses, Williams has visibly become more comfortable in being aggressive with the ball, as evidenced from him taking 13 shot attempts — the most he’s had all season — in a win over the Magic. What sets Williams apart from other rookies is his efficiency and the fact that he rarely ever takes bad shots. He finished that game with a plus-22, to go along 16 points and 10 boards. His game is so smooth and effortless, and he never tries to do too much. He’s great at crashing the offensive glass, and his 1.526 points per possession in transition ranks in the 94th percentile in the league. His development this season has been moving more quickly than probably anyone anticipated, which is great news for a Bulls team desperate to get back to the playoffs.

Look at this statistic about Bane:

It’s a pretty specific statistic, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less absurd. What’s even more wild is he’s hitting them from all over the place: corner, above the break on the wing, everywhere. Bane’s a terrific 3-point shooter, made even better by the amount of space he’s given to knock down shots. over 32 percent of his 3s have come with no one within six feet of him, and he’s sinking those at a 54 percent clip. That’s a tip of the cap to not only Bane, who is constantly moving without the ball to get open. 

Anthony has really been thriving since he was pushed into the starting lineup with Markelle Fultz out for the season. He looks more comfortable and is building confidence which is translating into him having more efficient games. He was shooting 19 percent from deep when he was coming off the bench, and in the 17 games he’s started, that’s skyrocketed to 37.1 percent. His averages across the board have improved, and while Magic have cooled off since starting the season 6-2, seeing that Anthony is developing well should be a huge plus for an Orlando team that has been desperate to find a long-term solution at the point guard spot.

The Pistons are weird because they only seem to win games against juggernaut teams, and Bey certainly kept that reputation in tact when he scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter to lift Detroit to a win over the Nets. Bey is another player who probably should’ve gone higher than where he was drafted, but luckily for the Pistons they ended up with him. He’s shooting 37.5 percent from deep, and while he’s primarily been used as a spot-up shooter, he’s also a skilled ball handler for his size, as well as a tenacious rebounder.

Tate had a career night in a win over the Grizzlies, which also happened to be the best game of the season for him as well. He put up 19 points, seven boards, two assists and one steal on 77.8 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from deep. His complete performance earned him a plus-30 for the night, as he was doing a little bit of everything on both ends. Harden being traded was perhaps the best thing that could’ve happened for Tate, as he’s been shining in the starting lineup for Houston since then.

Lewis hasn’t consistently been in the rotation for New Orleans, but when he is out there on the floor he makes the most of his opportunity. Against the Bulls, he finished with a career-high 14 points on an incredibly efficient night in the most minutes he’s played all season (23). That performance, coupled with his previous one where he put up 10 points and a plus-12 on the night, might be reason enough to make coach Stan Van Gundy find more time in the rotation for him. It’s a packed backcourt for the Pelicans, but Lewis’ shooting should be reason enough to get him some more run.

Quickley had a quieter week than what we’ve come to expect from him this season, but he still made an impact in other ways than just scoring. That’s what makes him such a special player, because he impacts the game beyond just the stat sheet. If he’s not putting points on the board, he’s trying to put his teammates in the best position to score or he’s showing tremendous effort on defense, where he’s been pretty good this season for a rookie. 




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