15. Jaden McDaniels
Jaden McDaniels has been the best rookie defender in the entire draft, he is the best rim protecting rookie with a ridiculous BLK% of 4.1% and has shown potential to guard at least four positions at a high level due to his length, quickness, and fantastic instincts. He has been really inconsistent offensively, he had an awesome game against New Orleans the other week as he scored 20 points on 8/9 shooting, he provided glimpses of his ability to shoot when confident and also get his own shot around the rim, but he has only averaged 4.4 PPG since that game and hasn’t been able to shoot or get his own shot to the same level since. We are all aware of the rookie wall, could easily be what the inconsistency is related to, but he needs to be more consistent on that end and that should come as he becomes a more consistent shooter, tightens the handle, and add muscle to his frame to be more consistent and meet his high upside.
14. Devin Vassell
Devin Vassell was widely regarded as the best 3 and D prospect from the 2020 NBA Draft. He struggle in the beginning to get going, but he had some struggles to get going in the beginning of the year but as the year has gone on, he has gotten more comfortable, efficient, and effective on both ends. There was a fear that his jump shot wouldn’t translate due to a leaked workout video of him in which it seemed his release point was going from behind his head. Well now we have seen him on a professional court, his jump shot looks just fine and we have seen the results as he is shooting 40.5% from three this season. His defense hasn’t been bad but he hasn’t been great. He has a -0.2 defensive +/- and although he isn’t an elite defender yet, he has big time potential on defense, especially as a team defender. The Spurs seem to have the very solid 3 and D prospect they expected at the 11th pick.
13. Isaiah Stewart
Isaiah Stewart is a rookie that has benefitted from going on a team t=like the Pistons where he can get an immediate role and develop. In his last five games, he is averaging a very solid 10.6 PPG and 6.4 RPG while shooting 4/7 from three in that stretch. Isaiah Stewart has always had that reputation and a gritty, physical big that is physical around the basket, but the three point shooting element is an exciting formation. With his motor, athletics, effectiveness around the rim, having a reliable jumper could help him not only be a solid piece for the Pistons, but make him eventually a top 10 player from this class.
12. Deni Avdija
If you guys ever took a look at my big boards from the 2020 draft, I had Devi Avdija as high as two on my board and I still believe he has that talent. He is only averaging a modest 6 PPG and 4.5 RPG, he has also struggled to shoot the ball lately as he is only shooting 24.1% from three in his last 10 games. I believe a big part of why he isn’t putting up better volume is because he has a usage of 12.1%, they have used him as a stretch forward when his weakness coming in was his shooting, while he was regarded as a promising secondary playmaker. He also has not been a big enough plus on the defensive end to make a major difference on a Wizards team that needs inspiration on that end. If Deni was used as that secondary playmaker he was drafted to be, he would likely be higher on this list, but there have simply been better rookies so far.
11. Peyton Pritchard
They Peyton Pritchard buzz we saw in the beginning of the season has appeared to gradually die down, but he has been consistent and reliable, regardless. The poise and feel for the game Pritchard already has is among the best in the class, he isn’t afraid of taking big shots, he can find others, and he functions off the ball very frequently. His 41.3% from three has also opened a lot up offensively when he’s on the court. For the most part, he has been their best backup point guard, something to look out for us if Pritchard will continue to take away Jeff Teague’s minutes and assert himself as the true backup point of if it’ll remain at a similar level due to the level of reliability and ethos Jeff Teague has as a veteran and former All-Star.
10. Tyrese Maxey
Tyrese Maxey hasn’t been able to receive a consistent role for the Philadelphia 76ers… it can be difficult for a rookie to contribute for a team with title aspirations, but he has impressed. He may not be the best three shooter in the world he only shoots 28.1% from downtown, but he’s a creative ball handler with really nice natural touch with his floaters and finishing around the basket, he’s also a relatively efficient shooter for midrange. Not to mention, he’s shown the flashes of eventually becoming a verified defender in the league. As Maxey moves up in the Philadelphia rotation, we will see him to leaps, he has a few gears in him before reaching his potential.
9. James Wiseman
James Wiseman has had some bad luck with injuries/illnesses this year. He missed preseason due to health and safety protocols, he missed over a month because of a wrist injury, then he missed another three games for health and safety protocols, once again. During his absence, an extra level of pressure has arrived for him. Lamelo Ball and Anthony Edwards have been balling, playing their best basketball this year, James Wiseman played his best ball really early in the season and even though he’s been pretty solid, his game hasn’t been as exciting as the other two. His ability to hit threes at a near 40% clip is very real, his ability to handle it in transition and be a potential big time lob threat are also real. He desperately needs to improve his pick and roll defensive IQ because he has been eating up in that set and because he’s still a little raw offensively, it makes him unplayable sometimes. The Warriors have a center in Wiseman who absolutely has franchise talent, it’ll be interesting to see the Warriors develop him and if he can reassert himself in the conversation as one of the top rookies in the class.
8. Patrick Williams
Even though Patrick Williams is only at nine on this ranking, he seems to be worthy of the fourth pick as he’s shown the potential to be a legitimate two-way star in the league. He has been one of the better defensive rookies in the class as he’s utilized his physical tools and developing instincts to somewhat contain some of the NBA’s better wings. He has also shown an encouraging offensive package with the ability to create and straight line drive to the rim, his a catch and shoot jumper, or to get his shot on pull-up jumpers from mid range and three. He still needs development on both ends, especially offense, he’s had games such as the one on March 14 where he was fantastic offensively and dropped 23 that night, but he has also had a lot of nights where he had five to seven shots. His aggressiveness and role need to increase for his potential to be met, but I’m confident Billy Donovan will put him in the right places to succeed.
7. Saddiq Bey
Saddiq Bey has become more and more confident as the year has progressed and that has translated to more productivity. As a rookie, he already has an eastern conference player of the week under his belt and he has averaged over 13 points per game in his last 10 games. Bey has a chance to be an elite shooter in this league, he’s shooting just under 39% from three while having big games behind the arch, including hitting six treys against the Bulls recently… he also hit seven against the Celtics, a game he dropped 30 in. One thing he needs to focus on is his general offense of consistency. Especially lately, he is had super impressive games where he dropped 28 against Toronto but then also responds with three points on one for nine shooting against the Bulls, that problem also applies from threes, it seems like he’s either super hot or super cold from deep. Another thing he can work on is his efficiency from inside the three-point line, his efficiency is generally below average when he finishes around the basket or attempts a mid range. If Bey can become more consistent from all three scoring levels while delivering on the defensive end, Bey will be a major steal at 19.
6. Ja’Sean Tate
Even though Houston has easily been the most struggling team in the league, recently snapping their are 20 game losing streak, you can always find light, even in in darkness, and Ja’Sean Tate has been one of the very few bright spots for them and among his competition, he has been as good around the rim as any rookie in the class as he is shooting an astounding 70% within 3 feet. He has played with very good energy, he is a really talented cutter, his corner threes, and the flashes of him being a play maker are also real. To succeed in any rebuild, you need to hit on your later draft picks or even the undrafted free agents, the Rockets may be taking a step forward with Tate.
5. Desmond Bane
When I think of the description “efficient rookie,” the first person I think about is Desmond Bane. There isn’t anything flashy about Bane, he won’t always be the top topic on ESPN or break the internet with humorous interviews… but in terms of effectiveness out of rookies, Bane is certainly one of the most impactful. This season, he averaging 9.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, and 1.3 APG on an absurd 49.2/45.7/86.7 splits. As a rookie, Bane is already an elite knockdown shooter from three… but is also effective at finding his own shot, defending, and simply contributing to winning basketball. Bane maybe doesn’t have the highest ceiling in the world, but his skillset is exactly what teams crave for and that skillset is a big reason why the Grizzlies are in the playoff hunt.
4. Immanuel Quickley
You can say what you want to say regarding how the Knicks have drafted in the lottery in previous years, but they struck gold with Quickley in the first round. Outside of Anthony Edwards and Lamelo Ball, there’s no rookie in this class that’s more entertaining than Quickley when he gets his groove. He isn’t only a catch and shoot guard, he’s exceeded expectations as a shot creator and a playmaker, those added dimensions have boosted his value incredibly. Quickley needs to find his way to the basket to truly unlock his ability as a three level scorer and to not only improve his efficiency, but his consistency.
3. Tyrese Haliburton
From start to finish, Haliburton has maintained the most consistent high level play out of any rookie. His jump shot has translated better than I anticipated as he’s shooting 42% from three, he’s second in rookies in assists, top five in scoring, and has been good defensively. He hasn’t been beating people with flashy step back threes or big time highlight level plays, he has done it because of his elite basketball IQ and vision. De’Aaron fox and Tyrese Haliburton have a chance to be one of the better backwards in the league in the future.
2. Anthony Edwards
Earlier in the season, many people questioned if Edwards was truly worthy of the first overall selection, those questions are beginning to fade away. This month, Edwards is averaging an astounding 24.9 PPG on an improving 42.5% from the field. He isn’t only pulling off jaw dropping dunks with his special athleticism, but he’s also getting his shots with fantastic patience as a ball handler, picking when to attack the rim, but also from step backs and pull-ups from three, he’s shown glimpses of being a big time scorer. His vision is also better than advertised and his defense has had flashes. I do believe the play we are seeing from Edwards is a sign of things to come, not only because of his outstanding talent, but his confidence and motor, he wants the ball in his hands, he wants to attack you, and he’s confident from everywhere on the floor. The Timberwolves got a good one.
1. Lamelo Ball
It’s truly heartbreaking to hear about the possibility of LaMelo ball being out for the season due to a wrist injury. If this injury never happened, the rookie of the year race might already be over. Fun fact, out of all the NBA players that have shot 100 or more attempts from 27+ feet, Ball has shot the most efficiently, over Damian Lillard, over Steph Curry, over Trae Young. The one question about LaMelo‘s ability offensively was his shooting, but it doesn’t look like he won’t be competent at that, he could be great in that aspect. Even that part of his game shadows his ability to score from all three levels, find others, and make Charlotte a fun team to watch. The only rookies in NBA history to average 16+ points, 6+ rebounds, and 6+ assists a game are Luka Doncic and Lamelo Ball. Considering Lamelo‘s size at 6’6”, his creativity, his versatility and impact, he is establishing himself as one of the most talented young players in the game.