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2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year tracker: How does Rui Hachimura compare to Ja Morant, other elite rookies?

2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year tracker: How does Rui Hachimura compare to Ja Morant, other elite rookies?

When it became apparent that Zion Williamson's knee injury would keep him sidelined for the first month-and-a-half of the season, the Rookie of the Year race opened up substantially. 

Williamson was the heavy favorite to win before the year tipped off, and now a few surprising young players have earned themselves consideration. The top pick in this year's draft may reclaim the voter's favor once he returns in early December, but don't count these five players out. 

Obviously production will be valued over everything else. You don't want to disregard a player's stats if he's on a bad team, because usually, the best rookies are on bad teams. But this season is a little different, as we have two rookies both producing eye-popping numbers while being key contributors to a sure-fire playoff team. 

5. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards

The Wizards received a fair amount of criticism for taking Hachimura ninth overall in June. His ceiling of a modern-day forward who could guard multiple positions, space the floor and attack mismatches is very enticing. However, questions about his shooting range, lateral quickness and strength inside had plenty of draft experts skeptical. 

So far, Hachimura has looked really good. His three-point stroke hasn't come along yet, but he's shooting 50 percent from the floor and currently ranks seventh among rookies in scoring.

His pull up jumper looks legit, he's far more mobile than he was given credit for, and once Hachimura learns how to finish through contact and figure out his spots on the floor, he's going to be dangerous screening for Bradley Beal. 

Stats as of 11/19: 27.7 mpg / 13.1 ppg / 1.7 apg / 5.5 rpg

4. Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

The Heat currently hold the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, and much of their success can be credited to rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn.

Outside of Jimmy Butler, Miami doesn't have many ball-handlers who can create offense for themselves and their teammates. Herro has played with the ball in his hands a lot more than people expected coming out of Kentucky and hasn't really been phased by it. 

So far, he's displayed sneaky-good playmaking, exceptional shot-making and an impressive level of poise. What he lacks in size and length he makes up for in flat-out skill. 

Stats as of 11/19: 28.9 mpg / 13.3 ppg / 2.1 apg / 4.5 rpg

3. Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors

As a second-round pick out of Villanova, Paschall was brought to Golden State to learn from Draymond Green and hopefully develop into the two-way combo-forward this franchise first unleased on the NBA. 

But then Stephen Curry broke his hand, and with Klay Thompson out for the year as well, the Warriors needed immediate help scoring alongside D'Angelo Russell. 

Paschall, seemingly out of nowhere, took on that responsibility and is now averaging 16.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting. It's hard to expect Paschall to keep this up, but he'll have plenty of shots throughout the season. And if one thing is true about Jay Wright-coached players, is that they simply know how to play good basketball. 

Stats as of 11/19: 31.1 mpg / 16.7 ppg / 1.3 apg / 4.8 rpg

2. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

Nunn has been the NBA's biggest surprise so far this season. He was an undrafted free agent a year ago, spent last season with the Warriors G-League affiliate and was signed by the Heat this past April. He apparently made a good impression on the organization after dropping 40 points on them in the preseason. 

Once Nunn got his shot at NBA minutes, all he's done is score and help the Heat win. He's averaging 17.8 points, shooting 47 percent from the floor, 38 percent from three and is third among all rookies in NET rating who play at least 15 minutes a night. 

The Heat tend to find players like Nunn and they end up playing for a long time. We'll see if Nunn can take it to another level to become the favorite in the Rookie of the Year race. 

Stats as of 11/19: 30.7 mpg / 17.8 ppg / 3.2 apg / 2.5 rpg

1. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

By far the most electric player in his rookie class so far, Morant is playing at a high level and he's still realizing his true powers at the point guard position. 

Williamson may have been the headliner of the 2019 NBA Draft, but the second pick that night is looking like a future All-Star. Morant is scoring 18.4 points, dishing out six assists per game and is shooting 47 percent from the floor and a very impressive 42 percent from three (11-26). 

It'll be difficult for Morant to hold onto the lead once Zion-palooza begins in December, but the Grizzlies must be thrilled with what they've seen out of their rookie guard. 

Stats as of 11/19: 27.2 mpg / 18.4 ppg / 6.0 apg / 3.3 rpg

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN:

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Coby White, Chicago Bulls
PJ Washington, Charlotte Hornets

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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

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USA Today Sports Images

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

The NBA says former Commissioner David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage Thursday and had emergency surgery.

The league says in a statement its thoughts and prayers are with the 77-year-old Stern's family.

Stern served exactly 30 years as the NBA's longest-tenured commissioner before Adam Silver replaced him on Feb. 1, 2014. Stern has remained affiliated with the league with the title of commissioner emeritus and has remained active in his other interests, such as sports technology.

Zach Brook contributed to this report.

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Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

For a game featuring a 7-16 Wizards team and the 8-16 Grizzlies, Saturday's matchup packs plenty of intrigue. 

With Rui Hachimura showing plenty of promise in Washington and Ja Morant nearly running away with the Rookie of the Year Award, we're all in for a classic battle of two of the game's best newcomers. 

Outside of that for the Wizards, Saturday night should absolutely be a win. The Grizzlies are 24th in NET rating (25th offense, 21st defense) and while their young core is as promising as any in the league, they don't quite know how to put together wins yet. 

Here's a breakdown of two players the Wizards should be wary of. 

Ja Morant

As we stated earlier with Morant, he's been far and away the best rookie this season. He's averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds on 46.3 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three. 

Morant had the generational physical tools and exciting upside that got him drafted second overall, the question was whether he'd be able to put it all together at the NBA level, especially playing the hardest position in the league as a lead guard. 

It's safe to say he's answered almost all of those questions just 19 games into his career. 

The Wizards will have to contain his drives to the rim and force him into contested jump shots, which is a lot easier said than done for this defense. 

If they can't keep him in front and he starts breaking down the defense off the dribble, look out. He could mess around and get a triple-double. 

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Before the Grizzlies drafted Morant, Jackson was their crowned jewel prospect. Don't get me wrong, he's still one of the best young players in the league, it's just a testament with how good Morant has been. 

Jackson has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the league one day. When he's playing well, he provides the Grizzlies defense incredible versatility since he can switch onto nearly every position while being able to protect the paint and rebound at a high level. 

Then on the offensive end, Jackson can stretch the floor on pick and pops (37.8 percent 3P) and put the ball on the deck to attack closeouts. He truly is the embodiment of the modern NBA center. 

The Wizards have been used to paint-dominant centers after playing the Sixers and Nuggets over the last few weeks. Jackson just might present a better matchup for their injury-riddled frontcourt. 

Washington would be wise to use Moe Wagner to keep him stretched out of the paint and then take advantage of the Grizzlies suspect perimeter defense to get to the basket. That is, of course, if Wagner can stay on the floor. 

The Wizards and Grizzlies are scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, and you can catch all of our coverage on NBC Sports Washington.