We are four weeks into the 2020-21 NBA season. The rookie class, for the most part, has been very impressive. Not tipped to be a draft filled with incredible talent, the young men selected last November have so far shown good worth. Some seem to have fit seamlessly into the system of their team. Others have shown they can cope with the pressures of NBA basketball, particularly in late-game scenarios. Now, after 15-ish games played for each team, here are some of the rooks that have been most impressive.
LaMelo Ball – 11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.1 apg and 1.5 stls
LaMelo divided opinion more than any other player in the 2020 draft, with some evaluators having him as the clear number one and others doubting his talent would translate to the NBA. Whilst his introduction to the big league has been understandably inconsistent, it’s clear that he belongs at the top level.
The Hornets have featured Ball in a role off the bench, but with more freedom to run the offense when he’s on the floor. His passing has been as good, perhaps better than advertised and he’s regularly in highlight reels with his flashy assists.
LaMelo’s shooting consistency was the question mark entering the league, but he’s been passable so far, making 33.3% of his threes off 4.7 attempts per game. His career highlight to date was becoming the youngest player to achieve a triple-double, scoring 22 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds against Atlanta in his 10th game.
If LaMelo continues his current form and development, it won’t be long before he’s named the starting point guard. With more minutes and the chance play alongside the other starters, Ball’s production can only increase from here.
Anthony Edwards – 12.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
The ‘Ant-man’ has been a pleasant surprise for me, as a Minnesota fan. I wasn’t expecting him to play at the level he has. He hasn’t been great, don’t get me wrong, but he’s shown promise that he can fulfil the role as the Wolves’ third-man already.
His 12 ppg is the highest amongst all rookies and he has shown he can score at the NBA level. As expected, he’s at his best in the open court and attacking the basket, but his catch and shoot game hasn’t been too shabby either early on.
At the moment, other than his scoring, there isn’t much to shout about with Edwards. That has tailed off in the last few games. But, hopefully, he’ll be able to relax and contribute in other areas too – ideally on the defensive end.
Tyrese Haliburton – 11.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.1 apg and 49.2 3FG%
Steal of the draft… too early? Maybe, but he is one the favourites for ROTY.
Halibuton has played in 13 of Sacramento’s games so far. He missed two fixtures after the new year with a hand injury but has shown to be one of the top rookies so far.
Critics argued that Haliburton’s impressive shooting ability wouldn’t carry over to the pro-level, but having made nearly half of all his attempts so far this season, it’s easy to say that that prediction was wrong. He knocked down the big boy triple against Chicago in the fourth quarter to seal the win for Sacramento. He also scored 17 points in that win – 15 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Haliburton’s also proving to be a top playmaker in the NBA. His assist-to-turnover ratio was one of the best in the NBA – not just rookies, the whole association. It currently sits at 3.7, which isn’t too shabby. It was, at one point this season, approaching 7.0 and 8.0.
Offensively, he’s great. Defensively (1.2 stls and .5 blks) he’s solid. Kings fans can be happy with their new man.
Payton Pritchard – 8.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.8 apg and 90.0 FT%
Fast PP, P-Rabbit, 8 Mile – whatever you want to call him, Payton Pritchard has quickly become a Celtics fan favourite. His selection at number 26 raised eyebrows, but Pritchard has shown early on that he may be one of the sleepers of the draft.
Payton Pritchard has quickly been given opportunities to run the point under a coach who isn’t typically generous or forgiving with rookie minutes. After four years at Oregon, Fast PP has shown confidence and composure beyond most of the rookies in his class, pushing his reputation beyond the ‘shooter’ that many evaluators limited him to. Although, hitting 43% from three-point range certainly won’t harm his stock.
In his biggest game to date, Pritchard scored 23 points and 8 assists in 32 minutes against the Raptors and secured the win in the following game against the Miami Heat with a last second tip-in. He’s taken his opportunities and could have earned himself a larger role than anyone predicted back on draft night.
*All stats accurate as of time of writing