While most sporting events have been canceled in Ireland, the National Basketball Association (NBA) in America has been playing since the beginning of the pandemic, when they instituted the “bubble”. This season’s draft was watched by millions to see the fate of recent college basketball graduates in the professional league. The NBA Rookie of the Year Award is given to the top rookie of the regular season, decided by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Last season’s award went to guard Ja Morant from the Memphis Grizzlies despite most odds being in favor of Zion Williamson. Williamson unfortunately was out for an extended period of time due to a knee injury, giving Morant his time to shine. Past winners include Derrick Rose and Lebron James, which serves as a testament to the prestige of this award. Let’s now take a look at the top 10 candidates for rookie of the year in the 2020/2021 season.
10. Cole Anthony
Anthony is playing as a guard for the Orlando Magic this season and no doubt has some stats to boast about. Markelle Fultz tore his ACL and is out for the season, giving Anthony lots of playing time for the Magic. So far in the five games following Fultz’s injury, Anthony has averaged 13.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. However, he is only shooting 33% from the field, a stat that must change if he is to move up this list to be in higher contention for Rookie of the Year.
9. Payton Pritchard
Pritchard is the newly drafted guard for the Boston Celtics who is playing outstandingly this season. He was the last of the first round picks in November and made his preseason debut with the Celtics by scoring 17 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, and later against the Toronto Raptors scored a career high 23 points in a 126-114 win, with 8 assists and 2 rebounds. Pritchard is playing tremendously and is one to be on the lookout for as he is clearly having success with the Celtics.
8. Precious Achiuwa
Playing as a forward for the Miami Heat, the 6 foot 9 Achiuwa is averaging 8.2 points a game and 5.7 rebounds. He also had a resounding 60% shooting through 11 games which is quite frankly, astounding, especially for the 20th pick in the draft. Miami just seems to get it with their picks, with their previous snatch of Tyler Herro in the 2019 NBA draft. Achiuwa is no different and a key player for the Heat.
7. Saddiq Bey
A wing from Villanova drafted to the Detroit Pistons is entering the Rookie of the Year conversation after coming off a career best 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Bucks. The Pistons have been relying heavily on young talent, and Bey has undoubtedly been contributing to their success. With impressive rookie stats like averaging 10.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 37% shooting from distance, it is hard to keep Bey’s name out of the question.
6. Anthony Edwards
Edwards was the number one pick of the NBA 2020 draft and drafted to the Minnesota Timberwolves to play as guard. Unfortunately, he has been struggling this season and his stats are just not on par with the other rookies competing for the title. He has only shot 1-of-14 from the field, not something that the number one pick should be doing regularly. If Edwards wants to try and get back into my top five Rookie of the Year rankings, he has to fix that 38% shooting.
5. Patrick Williams
The confident Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams has really benefited the Bulls play. Although Chicago received some pushback for drafting number 4 pick Williams, it has served them well with Williams, only 19 years of age, starting every game for the Bulls. He is averaging 10.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 49% shooting from the field, stats which in my opinion make him hard not to place in the top 5.
4. Tyrese Maxey
The Covid-19 outbreak in the Philadelphia organisation has given guard Tyrese Maxey a chance to show the 76ers what he is really capable of, and force them to reconsider trading him in a package for James Harden. Since now being offered more playing time, Maxey has most definitely taken advantage of it and is averaging 18.8 points per game, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists with 50% shooting. If the 76ers weren’t rethinking their move to trade, they really should with Maxey’s recent performance. Seems to be only up for him from here.
3. Tyrese Haliburton
At number 3 rookie of the year is the Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton. Number 12 overall in the 2020 NBA draft, the Kings got a steal and Haliburton has proven that correct with his fantastic play at the professional level. Over the course of his most recent 6 outings with the Kings, he is averaging 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.5 steals, all while shooting 52%. Stellar stats and consistently remarkable performance that secures him the third spot.
2. James Wiseman
While I am not a Golden State Warriors fan myself, it is hard not to give the number 2 sport to Wiseman. A whopping 7 feet tall, this center has played unreal during the regular season so far. Although Covid-19 caused him to miss training camp in the preseason, he did not miss a beat in his debut in the regular season and has been nothing but consistent in helping the Warriors in the paint. So far, he has averaged 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks with 48% shooting from the field. Such a high shooting percentage from the field for a center is very impressive and makes him the runner up for the Rookie of the Year. This year may be similar to last in that although most still believe that LaMelo Ball will take home the award, Wiseman has been playing unbelievably in the first couple weeks of the 2020/2021 season and it seems this is only the beginning for him.
1. LaMelo Ball
Playing as guard for the Charlotte Hornets and the number 3 draft pick in the 2020 draft, Ball has most spectators fairly sure he will secure the Rookie of the Year award. He is putting up some per-minute numbers that resemble some of the best league rookie guards over the past few years, including Luke Dončić. He’s arguably an adrenaline shot in the Hornets’ heart and helping to transform them into a pass-first team. Ball leads all rookies in rebounds per game and his teammates are shooting 47.3% of one of his passes, supporting the claim that he is revitalising the Hornets. However, in order to really hold onto his number 1 Rookie of the Year spot and secure himself the award, he needs to improve his shooting average. Right now, Ball is only shooting 45.5% inside the arc and 33.3% beyond it. Despite this though, Ball has been taking the league by storm and making the Hornets a force to be reckoned with.
As of right now, even though it is still early in the season, these rookie standings are fairly stable, although I can envision some movement. For example, if Haliburton were to continue with his phenomenal play, I could see him giving Ball a run for his money for the spot of Rookie of the Year. Similarly, if Maxey is continued to be given the opportunity to play and put up his own impressive stats, he may be able to push into the top 3. There is so much fresh talent coming into the NBA right now and it is the shot in the arm that the league needs.