We are inching closer and closer to the end of the regular season, and at this point many rookies have shown their worth to their respective teams. Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and Patrick Williams have proven to be building blocks for the future, while Desmond Bane and Immanuel Quickley have asserted themselves as important role players off the bench. With the focus turning to the playoffs, and with many of these rookies likely not playing in the postseason, these last few weeks will allow them to begin to sharpen some aspects of their game they need to work on and begin preparation for the next season. Although these guys are still rookies, it's now time to focus on how they can improve for next season and beyond.
Now moving on to this week's rookie rankings. These rankings will reflect a rookie's performance on a week-to-week basis only, not the collective season. These aren't Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top rookies this week.
In Edwards' last 10 games, he's reached the 20-point mark seven times, and since the All-Star break he's only had seven games total where he hasn't eclipsed 20 or more points. It's that type of play that makes the Rookie of the Year debate a lot closer than people may think. In a 28-point performance against the Kings this week, he had one of his most efficient performances of the season. He finished that game with a box score plus-minus of plus-4, while going 5 of 12 from deep and 11 of 21 from the field.
Before LaMelo Ball went down with a wrist injury, he was considered the frontrunner for the award, but he's been sidelined for 15 games, which is a considerable amount of time in a condensed season. Edwards has continuously improved over the season, and has played in every game this season. Ball was contributing more toward winning for the Hornets when he was healthy, in comparison, but Edwards' production since the beginning of March should be heavily considered in the Rookie of the Year voting.
The last couple weeks have easily been the most productive games of the season for Cole Anthony, who previously missed 25 straight games due to a rib injury. He made his way back into the starting lineup this week, where he was close to putting up a double-double on two separate occasions.
As consistent as Anthony has been since returning from injury, his 3-point shooting has once again fallen off a cliff. He's shooting 29 percent this past week, and 21.9 percent since returning. It's been his biggest weakness all season, and it appears as though there's still work to do on him becoming a threat from beyond the arc.
Consider this a mea culpa for writing back in October that the Pistons had the grimmest five-year future of any team in the league. However, at the time, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose were still on the team, and Detroit was stuck in limbo where they weren't quite sure where it was headed. But now, with Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes, Saben Lee and Isaiah Stewart, Detroit has itself a fun little core to work with going forward. Stewart has been a pleasant surprise, as he's excelled in his undersized center role on a nightly basis. Standing at just 6-8, he's not afraid to get down in the post and fight for boards, and has good instincts to disrupt plays in the paint. On offense, he's been a solid option in the pick-and-roll, is always ready to scrap for offensive boards for points, oh and he can step out and sink 3s just for fun.
In his first start since early February, Xavier Tillman put up career highs in points (18) and rebounds (14) on an incredibly efficient night against the Nuggets. He's already got the floater in his arsenal, and keeps his hands ready down in the paint, which is a must when you're playing with Ja Morant.
What's most impressive about Tillman is he doesn't play like a rookie. He still makes the typical rookie mistakes, but he has the IQ of a veteran and makes the right play when he has the ball. He doesn't play frazzled, or try to force anything and has been steadily efficient over the course of the season. He's a solid role player, and yet another young guy who the Grizzlies scouted correctly.
Naji Marshall's been getting more playing time in the last couple weeks, and has been making good use of the opportunity. He's shown flashes of being a solid role player on both ends of the floor, and this quick dump off under the basket was just a smart play that even caught his own teammate off guard.
Marshall has earned his minutes in the last few weeks, grabbing rebounds, getting teammates involved and applying pressure on the other end of the floor. He's put up 15-plus points on multiple occasions since seeing consistent playing time, and could remain in the regular rotation for New Orleans for the remainder of the season.
For as good as Jae'Sean Tate has been all season, the one area where he absolutely needs to improve is his 3-point shooting. This past week, he attempted 14 shots from deep and made just one. He is shooting a lowly 28.7 percent from 3-point range on the season. Tate ranks in the 17th percentile in 3-point shooting amongst guards in the league, and while he's been incredibly efficient at the rim -- 80th percentile -- he also needs to develop the 3-point shooting aspect of his game.
Another week, another set of performance from Saddiq Bey, who's lighting the net on fire with his 3-point shooting. In his most recent trick, Bey went 6 of 11 from deep, all of which were made in the first quarter of the game. While he went cold after that first frame of action, Bey has proven himself to be a real threat from long range, and he's showing no signs of slowing down at any point this season.
However, while he's been a human torch from deep, he hasn't had the same level of efficiency from everywhere else on the floor. He's ranks in the 32nd percentile on shots at the rim amongst wing players, and is only slightly better from mid-range, ranking in the 38th percentile. As he gets more comfortable in the league his mid-range shot should develop, but it's something to keep an eye on going forward.
The Knicks have caught fire recently, going on an eight-game winning streak and currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Julius Randle's recent dominant play has been the catalyst for New York's success, but guys like Immanuel Quickly have also been crucial in this current run. Quickley provides a calming presence off the bench for the Knicks, a guy who let's the game come to him and plays with a sense of balance and maturity to lead the second unit alongside veteran Derrick Rose.
Against the Hawks, Quickley's 20 points off the bench came up clutch in a tight contest, and he'll be incredibly important to New York's success when the playoffs roll around.
The best thing to come out of the Magic trading away Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon was allowing Chuma Okeke to spread his wings a bit in a new starting role. He's had flashes of being a really dynamic player who can put the ball on the floor and create, as well as knock down 3s. But he's also had inefficient nights where he can't buy a shot. The ups and downs are customary for a rookie, but prior to the trade deadline Okeke wasn't getting that opportunity to have those highs and lows. He's not always going to post 19 points and seven assists, but through opportunity he can get a better feel for the game and find some consistency.
It can always be difficult for a rookie to play on a championship-contending team where your minutes aren't always guaranteed or consistent, but Tyrese Maxey has taken it all in stride with the Sixers this season. He stays ready to contribute when needed, and while he may go a few games without playing, when he's on the floor he may just drop 14 points off the bench. You couldn't ask more from a rookie on a deep team with championship aspirations.