We are officially at the midway point of the NBA season, and with that comes some reflection upon what we saw during the first half. We've already given out NBA careers.in the league and did a deep dive on some as well as some . So, it's only right to assess who is out in front for Rookie of the Year now that the league's newcomers have completed the first 41 games of their
Zion Williamson's absence gave the rest of the 2019 rookie class an opportunity to steal the spotlight, and while on a week-to-week basis it's been a constant shuffle between the majority of the draft class, Ja Morant has stolen the show and cemented himself as the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. Since the start of 2020, Morant's averaging 20.3 points and 8.9 assists, and he's positioned the Memphis Grizzlies as a team that could fight for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Not to mention, he's a legitimate option as a reserve in the 2020 All-Star game. Morant's had the most consistent season thus far amongst the rest of the rookie class, and he only seems to be improving as the season progresses. With no sign of slowing down, it looks like the Rookie of the Year honors could already be his.
These rankings will reflect a rookie's performance on a week-to-week basis, not the collective season, so these aren't Rookie of the Year standings. For a look at the previous rookie rankings, click. With that straightened out, here are the latest Rookie Power Rankings for the 2019-20 season.
Last week: No. 2
Highlight of the week: Consider this past week Ja Morant's official welcoming party to the league, and no performance said "I'm here" more than his dominant showing against the Houston Rockets. Morant proved to everyone once and for all that his jump shot isn't a weakness, as he shot 90 percent from the field. Granted, the Rockets aren't exactly known for their defense, but with every 3-point shot and crossover to the rim Morant executed, you could see him gaining more and more confidence over the course of the game. The Rockets' gameplan was to keep him out of the paint and dare him to shoot, and well, it didn't work well at all. James Harden gave Morant about an ocean's worth of space on this 3-pointer, and Morant let him hear it after he drained it.
Last week: No. 9
Highlight of the week: Nunn put together his best shooting performance to date in a win over the San Antonio Spurs where he made 13-of-18 attempts from the field while also converting on 71 percent of his shots from beyond the arc to cap off a 33-point performance. Nunn benefits greatly from the talent that surrounds him in Miami. If defenses are too focused on Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo, chances are Nunn is exploding around a screen to pull up for a mid-range jumper. Against the Spurs, that's exactly what happened, San Antonio locked down Butler and Adebayo all night and forced Nunn to beat them. Unfortunately for the Spurs, Nunn's ability to score in a myriad of ways did just that. He hit floaters, drilled 3-pointers in space and with a hand in his face and he's the sole reason Miami won that close game.
Last week: Unranked
Highlight of the week: Barrett had two efficient 20-point performances this week, one in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and the other in an unlikely win over the Miami Heat. The second of the two is where Barrett really shined. He continues to show flashes of what he can become, and he looked composed and patient in picking his shots against Miami. On a couple of plays when he had Tyler Herro defending him, Barrett recognized that he could outmuscle Herro to get to the rim, and it worked both times. He's shown a level of smoothness when working around the basket, and he rates in the top 95 percent of the league in scoring in post-up plays. While I'm not advocating for the Knicks to post-up Barrett more, recognizing the times he does have a mismatch that he can use to his advantage would be beneficial for this team.
Last week: Unranked
Highlight of the week: Since the Detroit Pistons inserted Doumbouya into the starting lineup, he's been thriving on offense, and that all came to a head when the rookie scored a career-high 24 points in an upset win over the Boston Celtics. He was killing the shorthanded-Celtics from the opening tip, draining 3-pointers, backing down Kemba Walker for easy finishes at the rim, and generally just being in the right place to get open looks at the basket or behind the arc. The Celtics may have underestimated Doumbouya's ability, but after that game, teams will know to gameplan for his talents.
Last week: Unranked
Highlight of the week: Garland notched the first double-double of his career when he finished with 14 points and 10 assists against the Los Angeles Clippers this week. His passing was the true highlight of this game, as Garland's been building a resume as one of the craftiest passers in the league. He has the ability to break a defender down with a crossover, then at the last second sling the ball with one hand to a teammate on the 3-point line for a wide-open look. He's slowly learning when to take it himself or find the open teammate, and his progression will only help make his teammates around him better going forward.
Last week: No. 8
Highlight of the week: Culver showed no fear attacking the rim against the Indiana Pacers with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis in the paint all game. He finished the night with 17 points and five rebounds, and it was his aggressiveness at the rim that shined through. Despite being undersized against the two, Culver muscled his way through both Turner and Sabonis on multiple occasions to finish at the rim. He used his athleticism and speed to get by his defenders and showed that he has the strength to finish through contact, which as a rookie is a great asset to have. Culver's been starting lately for the Timberwolves, and as his role continues to expand, he's been able to take advantage of the opportunities.
Last week: Unranked
Highlight of the week: Hayes went for a career-high 20 points against the Boston Celtics, most of which were dunks. He's been a great roll man for the Pelicans all season, catching lob passes left and right from Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, and against a team like Boston that lacks any serious interior threat he was able to feast. Hayes doesn't offer much else on the offensive side of the ball outside of being a lob threat, so when it works it's a go-to option that New Orleans can always lean on. However, when he's matched up against a bigger guy in the post, he tends to be a liability out there on the floor. Watching his highlights of dunk after dunk are great for a YouTube playlist, but he'll need to seriously expand his game to stay in this league.
Last week: Unranked
He also drained a 3-pointer to give the Warriors the lead with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter. If it weren't for a Nikola Jokic hook shot to tie the game and send it to overtime, Pascall would've won the game for Golden State. Still, though, his play over the course of this season has only built a case for him to become a valuable piece in the Warriors' rotation next season when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return.
Last week: No. 1
Highlight of the week: Porter is looking like the highly-touted draft prospect he was before he got injured in college, and this week is no different. Against the Warriors, he recorded his first-career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds while also tacking on five assists in the win. His scoring and playmaking are becoming a secret weapon for the Nuggets this season, and if he continues to improve he'll be a real threat for Denver in the playoffs.
Last week: No. 5
Highlight of the week: Clarke was one rebound shy of averaging a double-double this week, and honestly that isn't surprising at all. He's been incredibly efficient on offense for the Grizzlies as a rookie, and his rebounding numbers have continued to increase over the season. Between Clarke, Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis has itself a nice little core to build around for the future.