Rookie of the Year Race: Our final rankings of the 2020-21 season

Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton

Rookie of the Year Race: Our final rankings of the 2020-21 season

DunkWire

Rookie of the Year Race: Our final rankings of the 2020-21 season

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After an incredibly strange draft cycle, the new class of rookies has now completed their first regular season in the NBA.

Despite the unusual offseason and then compacted schedule of their debut campaigns, there are several young players and fresh faces who have made their presence known all season long.

To celebrate that, every month, we released our updated rankings for the Rookie of the Year race. To see the changes from April, you can read the previous version here.

Like our weekly MVP rankings, every member of our team voted on their personal Top 10 rankings for Rookie of the Year. We averaged out the results to get a cumulative ranking from the HoopsHype staff.

All relevant statistics are pulled from Basketball-Reference, RealGM or NBA.com unless noted otherwise.

1
LaMelo Ball (Charlotte)

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

PREVIOUS RANK: 1

STATS: 15.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.6 spg, 35.2 3P%

When the Charlotte Hornets were on the clock with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, few expected that less than a year later, they would have a presence in the Eastern Conference postseason.

But with the stellar play of rookie sensation LaMelo Ball, the organization took a huge step forward and made remarkable year-over-year progress. Ball helped turn the franchise around and in the process, he established himself as one of the best young players in the league.

Ball joined the elite company of Magic Johnson, Penny HardawaySteve FrancisChris Paul and Ben Simmons as the only rookies to ever average thresholds of 15 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal per game while also shooting at least 43.0 percent from the field.

While he missed a good chunk of the second half due to injury, Ball made his team must-watch viewing whenever the Hornets were on television. He is the overwhelming favorite for Rookie of the Year for good reason.

2
Anthony Edwards (Minnesota)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Detroit.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

PREVIOUS RANK: 3

STATS: 19.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 32.9 3P%

While the Minnesota Timberwolves had a season with significant change, including a new head coach and a new owner, they enter this new chapter with a potential franchise centerpiece.

Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, was an absolutely electrifying player down the stretch during the second half of the season. While the first-year wing averaged just 14.9 points per game before the All-Star break, after the return, he scored 23.8 ppg.

There were some performances in which he played like one of the promising young scorers in the league, twice eclipsing 40 points in a single game.

While he remained an inconsistent shooter, with some hot performances (e.g. 8-for-9 from beyond the arc against the Grizzlies on May 5) as well as others that were concerningly cold (1-for-10 vs. the Jazz on April 26), Edwards was able to prove that he could be counted on in many other ways.

He was one of just eleven players to play the full schedule of games in 2020-21, the only rookie to accomplish such a feat this season.

Overall, considering all of the ways he got better during his first professional campaign, there are many reasons to believe in his long-term success in this league.

3
Tyrese Haliburton (Sacramento)

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 03: Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Sacramento Kings reacts to a call that went in favor of the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on April 03, 2021 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

PREVIOUS RANK: 2

STATS: 13.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 40.9 3P%

The Sacramento Kings got the steal of the draft in former Iowa State star Tyrese Haliburton, who maintained a veteran presence during his first year in the league.

Even though Haliburton was sidelined for the final stretch of the season due to injury, it was easy to consider his accomplishments in 2020-21 as a great success.

As the ball handler in transition, he averaged 1.44 points per possession. That ranked in the 99th percentile among all NBA players, per Synergy, and it was the best among players with at least 40 opportunities.

He finished the season with the most offensive win shares among first-year players, a testament to the spark he provided whenever he was on the floor.

Haliburton joined Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry as the only NBA players in a single season to ever record a three-point percentage above 40.0 percent with an assist percentage above 24.0 percent and a steal percentage above 2.0 percent before turning 22 years old.

It is hard to imagine getting a better immediate return for someone who was not selected with one of the first ten picks in the draft. Haliburton projects as a staple in the rotation for Sacramento.

4
Jae'Sean Tate (Houston)

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIOUS RANK: 5

STATS: 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 30.8 3P%

While his path to the NBA was far from traditional, with stops in Belgium and Australia before earning a spot on the Houston Rockets, Jae’Sean Tate is here to stay.

When it was all said and done, Tate checked every box as a player who was able to contribute across the board. He led rookies in total steals (85) and he finished near the top of the rookie leaderboard in several other key statistical categories as well.

Tate is the definition of a hustle player, leading the class in total loose balls recovered (73) as well as charges drawn (14) and contested three-point shots.

Among first-year players, he trailed just Edwards for total field goals made. Even though he stands at just 6-foot-4, he ranked behind only big man Isaiah Stewart for total rebounds and he finished in the top five for total blocks.

Overall, he is someone who will carve out a role on his team no matter what opportunity he is presented.

5
Immanuel Quickley (New York)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

PREVIOUS RANK: 4

STATS: 11.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 38.9 3P%

The New York Knicks were arguably the most surprising team in the NBA, earning the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference during the first season with their new head coach Tom Thibodeau.

There are several metrics that suggest rookie guard Immanuel Quickley, an analytical darling, played a crucial role in their success. For example, he led rookies in BBall-Index.com’s Wins Added, a catch-all stat that measures the overall impact a player has on his squad.

Even though he did not get as much playing time as the more prominently featured rookies, per minute, he was one of the best scorers in the class. In fact, per 36, he trailed just Edwards for the most among all first-year players in 2020-21.

New York may have had loftier expectations for their lottery pick in 2020, Obi Toppin, but it was Quickley who far exceeded even the most ambitious goals.

6
Saddiq Bey (Detroit)

May 9, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) puts one finger up during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit:

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIOUS RANK: 7

STATS: 12.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 38.0 3P%

Three-point shooting is at a premium in the modern NBA and Saddiq Bey offered that to the Pistons every single game that he played.

The 6-foot-7 wing led all rookies in three-pointers, connecting on 175 in 2020-21. He averaged 2.5 three-pointers per game, the most ever recorded from a first-year player.

He had some games in which he was lights out from beyond the arc, even going 7-for-7 from long distance during a victory over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 12.

Meanwhile, Bey showed excellent maturity as someone who rarely turned the ball over and rarely committed fouls on defense. He was also an above-average rebounder for his position.

7
Facundo Campazzo (Denver)

Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (7) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Denver.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

PREVIOUS RANK: N/A

STATS: 6.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 35.2 3P%

It was hard not to root for Facundo Campazzo, who filled in as a starter for the Denver Nuggets once star point guard Jamal Murray went down with an injury back in April.

Campazzo came into his own in the new role, recording 19 points and 10 assists during a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on April 28. He is also an incredibly pesky defender who notched five steals in back-to-back games on May 3 and May 5.

As the season concluded, Campazzo finished with the most deflections (176) among rookies while also recording the second-most charges drawn (7) and loose balls recovered on defense (36) in 2020-21.

He graded with the highest mark among rookies for defensive box plus-minus, which is especially impressive for someone who measures under 6-foot.

If the Nuggets are to make noise in the playoffs, he must continue to have an above-average presence whenever he is on the floor. At this point, signs point to that becoming a reality.

8
Isaiah Stewart (Detroit)

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

PREVIOUS RANK: 9

STATS: 7.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.3 bpg, 55.3 FG%

Now that the season is complete, it is a fair assessment to state that Isaiah Stewart had the best rookie season among all players at his position.

He led all rookies in double-doubles (8) and he was the only rookie to have a game in which he pulled down at least 20 rebounds, pulling down 21 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 16.

As a scorer, he averaged 1.35 points per possession when finishing on the pick-and-pop. That ranked in the 93rd percentile among all NBA players, per Synergy.

The former Naismith Prep Player of the Year also led rookies in win shares, a key indicator of his overall value to the Pistons during his first year as a pro.

In fact, Stewart ended the campaign as the only rookie besides Shaquille O’Neal to ever record an offensive rebound percentage above 12.0 percent as well as a block percentage above 5.0 percent while also scoring at least 7.5 points per game.

9
Desmond Bane (Memphis)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane plays during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Detroit.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

PREVIOUS RANK: 8

STATS: 9.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.6 spg, 43.2 3P%

The Memphis Grizzlies got an NBA-ready sharpshooter in Desmond Bane, who had one of the more reliable jumpers in the league.

Bane was not just a good shooter for someone fresh out of college. The wing averaged 1.21 points per possession on his jump shot, per Synergy, which put him in the 93rd percentile among all players in the league.

He showed what he is capable of with 22 points with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals off the bench against the New York Knicks on May 3. He hit 4 three-pointers in that game and then hit another 4 the following game vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The former TCU standout joined Stephen Curry and Jayson Tatum as the only rookies since 2009-10 to shoot at least 43.0 percent from beyond the arc (minimum: 150 attempts) during their debut campaign.

10
Patrick Williams (Chicago)

Chicago Bullsf orward Patrick Williams plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, May 9, 2021, in Detroit.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

PREVIOUS RANK: N/R

STATS: 9.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 39.1 3P%

After coming off the bench for Florida State as a freshman last season, the Chicago Bulls threw Patrick Williams into the pool to see if he could swim as a rookie.

Under head coach Billy Donovan, he was afforded the opportunity to be more aggressive. He started all but one game for the Chicago Bulls, only sitting because of a hip injury on Jan. 18.

Williams, who entered the season as one of the youngest players in the league, showed considerable improvement as the year progressed. He even notched his career-high in scoring, racking up 24 points during his second-to-last game of the season.

While the counting stats are not overwhelming, Williams joined Jayson TatumBradley Beal and Kyrie Irving as the only NBA players to record at least 600 points while also shooting 36.0 percent or better on three-pointers before turning 20 years old.

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