LaMelo Ball
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Experts Analysis

Rookie Report, Volume Twelve

Updated On: March 12, 2021, 1:00 am ET

With the All-Star break dominating the days since the last edition of the Rookie Report, this is a good time to take a look at the Rookie of the Year race at this point in the season. By no means is the battle for the honor done, but a clear frontrunner has emerged. Below is my breakdown, beginning with the favorite.

The Favorite: LaMelo Ball (Charlotte)

Ball began the season coming off the bench, but even then it was clear that Charlotte had itself a star in the making. The knee injury suffered by Devonte’ Graham provided the opening that the rookie point guard needed to join the starting lineup, and to his credit Ball has flourished. As a starter he’s averaging 20.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.9 3-pointers per game, while shooting 46.4% from the field and 84.6% from the foul line. And while this isn’t a scoring stat in fantasy basketball, Ball is also shooting nearly 45% from three as a starter. A top-50 player in both 8- and 9-cat formats, he has also emerged as the clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors.

Next in line: Tyrese Haliburton (Sacramento)

The feeling on draft night was that the Kings lucked out when Haliburton was available at pick No. 12. And that’s how things have played out, as an argument could have been made pre-injury that he was the most consistent player in the class. Before being sidelined with a left calf injury, Haliburton averaged 13.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers per game while shooting 49.4% from the field and 83.3% from the foul line.

Like Ball, Haliburton currently ranks within the top-50 in both 8- and 9-cat formats. Providing excellent fantasy value coming off the bench, it will be interesting to see how (or if) that would change if Haliburton were to start alongside De’Aaron Fox.

Contenders:

Anthony Edwards (Minnesota): The top overall pick in the draft, Edwards has managed to put up decent averages in Minnesota. The rookie guard is accounting for 14.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.9 3-pointers per this season, and he’s started 19 of the 36 games in which he’s appeared. The issue for Edwards has been his efficiency, or lack thereof.

He’s shooting just 37.1% from the field and 30.2% from three, with the former percentage being one of the reasons why Edwards sits outside of the top-200 in 9-cat. That being said, it’s important to note that he’s had to deal with a head coaching change and both of Minnesota’s key building blocks (Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell) missing significant stretches due to injury. The instability wouldn’t do any favors to any rookie, no matter how talented they are.

Immanuel Quickley (New York): Viewed exclusively as an off-guard during the pre-draft process, Quickley has proven to be an effective lead guard coming off the bench for the Knicks. In 18.8 minutes per game, he’s averaging 12.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.5 steals and 1.8 3-pointers per. Quickley’s overall field goal percentage (38.9%) leaves a bit to be desired, but he’s making 94.2% of his free throws while also shooting better than 38% from beyond the arc. The addition of Derrick Rose to the roster, which was originally thought to be a negative development, has helped Quickley and fellow rookie Obi Toppin. Quickley’s unlikely to catch Ball and Haliburton in the Rookie of the Year race, but a spot on the league’s All-Rookie Team is definitely a possibility.

James Wiseman (Golden State): Like Haliburton, Wiseman was sidelined for a lengthy stretch due to injury. A left wrist issue kept the 7-footer on the bench for 11 games, returning on February 23 and playing the Warriors’ final six contests before the All-Star break. For the season Wiseman is averaging 11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per game, while shooting 51.0% from the field and 62.9% from the foul line. Moved to the bench due to Golden State’s need for a better defensive presence in the middle (Kevon Looney), Wiseman will eventually rejoin the starters. How long it takes for him to make the move will depend upon his progress as a defender.

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Not out of it yet:

Patrick Williams (Chicago): Williams has been a starter for the Bulls all season long, and his value to the rotation outweighs his fantasy value. In 33 games the forward is averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers, while shooting 47.4% from the field and 78.8% from the foul line. Williams hasn’t made a habit of hoisting 3-pointers, as he’s averaging just over two attempts per game, but he’s converting those looks at a 39% clip.

Williams’ prospects as both a fantasy option and a Rookie of the Year candidate will depend upon how the returns of Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter affect his touches, with the former dropping him down another rung in the pecking order. Williams isn’t a great fantasy option for this season, but he definitely has value in dynasty leagues.

Saddiq Bey (Detroit): While Bey had his moments earlier this season, the rookie forward out of Villanova didn’t truly get going until after the Pistons decided to move on from Blake Griffin. During a 13-game stretch that began with Detroit’s February 5 loss to Phoenix, Bey hit double figures 12 times and averaged 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.0 3-pointers per while shooting 48.0% from the field, 44.3% from three and 88.0% from the foul line.

Sitting well outside of the top-100 for the season, Bey has been a top-75 player in 9-cat over the last month. It may be too late for him to make a run at Rookie of the Year, but if you’re looking for a dark horse Bey may be the guy. Not to be overlooked is teammate Isaiah Stewart, but with Mason Plumlee playing the best basketball of his career it will be tougher for the big man to get starter’s minutes.

Jae’Sean Tate (Houston): Tate, who played last season in Australia, really wasn’t on anyone’s radar when the season began. Not only did he earn rotation minutes, but he’s managed to stick. The Rockets having struggled as a team, ending the first half on a 13-game losing streak, may set the stage for younger players such as Tate to get more minutes down the stretch. In 34 games (22 starts), Tate is averaging 9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks and 0.6 3-pointers per while shooting 53.6% from the field and 75.4% from the foul line. What his multi-season fantasy value would be is up for debate. But for the remainder of this season, managers could do a lot worse than Tate when looking to fill out their rosters.

Desmond Bane (Memphis): Considered to be one of the top shooters in this class, Bane has lived up to the label in Memphis. Shooting 48.2% from the field, 45.6% from three and 88.0% from the foul line, Bane is averaging 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.8 3-pointers in 23.1 minutes per game. An issue for Bane, as far as fantasy basketball is concerned, is the logjam on the wings with multiple Grizzlies playing between 20 and 29 minutes per. But he should still play enough to merit inclusion on one of the league’s all-rookie teams when the season ends.

Honorable Mentions: Payton Pritchard (Boston), Theo Maledon (Oklahoma City), Isaac Okoro (Cleveland), Xavier Tillman (Memphis), Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia).

Past Columns

Volume OneWiseman’s debut a solid first step

Volume TwoAll aboard the Haliburton bandwagon

Volume Three: Fultz injury thrusts Anthony into the spotlight

Volume Four: Opportunity knocks for Maxey

Volume Five: Grizzlies rookies limited due to postponements

Volume Six: Wiseman moved to the bench

Volume Seven: Rozier injury pushes Ball into starting lineup

Volume Eight: Bulls' Williams making strides

Volume Nine: Pistons' Bey takes advantage of opportunity

Volume TenA role change for Haliburton?

Volume Eleven: Ball, Haliburton headline rookies in Rising Stars Challenge


Source URL: https://www.nbcsports.com/edge/article/experts-analysis/rookie-report-volume-twelve