Year in and year out, the NBA draft brings in exciting talents that hope to make an immediate impact on a team in need of a jolt, let’s take a look at some NBA rookies that are making a difference.
In 2019, the biggest name surrounding sports was Zion Williamson. Williamson was undersized for the power forward role in terms of height, but he is a generational athlete. The Pelicans were the unanimous landing spot at number one overall for Williamson back in the NBA draft and on June 20, 2019, the Duke University product cemented his name as a number one pick.
Of course, Zion – one of the few athletes that is most frequently referred to by his first name was not the only player taken on draft day. Experts felt Zion would have durability issues and not have the overall size to guard NBA big men at the four, so the Pelicans opted to have him play the small forward position instead.
Well it turns out the experts did have an idea what they were talking about after all when Zion tore his meniscus prior to his debut.
But, the young phenom has seemingly recovered from this ailment and has bounced back to the tune of posting 21PPG/7.7RPG through his first nine games.
The explosive nature in which he plays the game makes him an immediate candidate to make a first-team all-rookie squad, but his missed time should keep him out of the race for rookie of the year.
Ja Know What I Mean?
Some felt that the Murray State point guard, Ja Morant was the safer pick. The Memphis Grizzlies seem to agree.
Morant has always had to play underdog to Zion but it seems it is a role he embraces. Right now Morant leads NBA rookies with 17.6PPG among qualifying participants. He also is leading the pack by a mile in the assist column with a healthy 7.0APG.
At this point, Morant has to be leading the pack for the rookie of the year race and looks like he will blossom into an elite NBA talent.
But The List Does Not End There
Guys like RJ Barret, Cam Reddish, Michael Porter Jr all were part of the 2019 draft as well. These guys are contributing to their respective teams after a lot of hype in their time at Duke and Mizzou respectively.
But what I am most impressed with are some of the names on the list. The guys that did not get the same media attention before draft day. Some that I think can end up on an all-rookie team.
Undrafted Guard From Oakland University (MI)
Know the name Kendrick Nunn. The Michigan based product is averaging 15.3PPG/3.5APG and nearly a steal per game for the Miami Heat. He is a bit older than many of the other rookies at 24 years old. He looks to be in a slump here in February but the All-Star break comes at a good time. This should give him plenty of rest for the remainder of the season.
Big Men Playing Big
Other rookies making a name for themselves are P.J Washington (11.7PPG/5.5RPG) and Rui Hachimura (13.9PPG/6.0RPG) Hachimura was drafted to Washington Wizards at ninth overall. While Washington out of Kentucky landed at the Charlotte Hornets at 12th.
Morants teammate Brandon Clarke, selected 21st overall has not been too bad either. He is averaging 12.3PPG/5.7RPG.
The Role Players
There are currently 11 players averaging an efficiency rating of 10.0 or higher according to the NBA.com website. Likewise, only 11 players averaging 10PPG or higher.
The list shows that there are 46 qualified rookies in the NBA this season, so for nearly 25% of them to be making the impact that they have is remarkable.
Race For The Top Rookie Spot
The requirement to make the list for rookies is 35% of the team’s game in an 82 game season, according to NBA Advanced Stats and 70% for all other players.
With that being said, it looks like Morant can potentially lose his spot at the top of the leader board by Zion’s doing.
Zion did not make his debut until January 22, 2020 – and he would need to participate in 29/82 games to qualify. This means that of the 28 remaining games for the Pelicans, Zion will need to play at least 19 more games – baring any further injury, it looks like he will.