After taking a detour to look at five of the most underrated rookies this season, we're back with traditional weekly rookie rankings. However, instead of looking at just this week's games, we'll look at everything since the All-Star break and see how these rookies have been playing after a few days of rest. At the halfway point of the season is when first-year players start to hit that rookie wall, so we may start to see some dip in performances throughout the second half of the season. However, there were some guys who came out of the break with a renewed energy, which could make the Rookie of the Year voting interesting.
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, so these aren't Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top rookies this week.
Since the All-Star break, Edwards has been on quite the tear. It's not just that his scoring output has increased significantly, but his efficiency has also seen a positive spike. He's shooting over 40 percent from deep in his five games since the break, and 47 percent from the field, while also improving his rebounding numbers. Oh, and then in a surprising win against a tough Suns team Thursday night, Edwards put up 42 points. He became the third-youngest player in NBA history to put up 40 points, and even better he did it rather efficiently from the floor (48.4 percent).
He appears to be getting into a rhythm in terms of his shooting, which should be exciting for Minnesota and scary for the rest of the league. As the Timberwolves are essentially fighting for ping pong balls at this point in the season, it gives Edwards a great opportunity to continue his development in every aspect of his game. He's already shown to be pretty dangerous in one-on-one situations, if he develops into a consistent shooter he'll elevate his game to another level.
Quickley finally got inserted into the starting lineup due to several of the Knicks guards being out with injuries or due to the league's health and safety protocols, and in that two-game stint he showed why he should get serious consideration for that starter spot. He averaged 17 points and 2.5 assists, and while he struggled from deep during those two games (29.4 percent), it's not any worse than what Elfrid Payton has been shooting from beyond the arc the entire season as the starting point guard.
You can't seriously look at their stats side-by-side and think that it's some great loss to have Elfrid Payton coming off the bench in favor of starting Quickley. The rookie has been more efficient from deep than Payton, and is going to be part of this team's future going forward. Tom Thibodeau might as well keep him in there for a week and see how he does to see if it could be permanent.
Ahead of his first time playing against LeBron James, Ball was asked if he was excited to play against him for the first time. His response:
"I mean, nah. I grew up a little different. Not really on basketball like that. So, not really."
He then went on to say that it was more about how he tries to approach every game the same way regardless of the opponent. That's not a dig at LeBron by the way, but rather the mentality that Ball has to where he isn't here to idolize any opponent he's matching up against. In the first half of that game, he struggled, putting up just six points on 2-for-8 from the field and missing both 3-pointers he took. It looked like the Lakers -- and LeBron -- were going to make sure he remembered this game after his comments, but in the second half, he completely flipped the script.
Charlotte still lost, but Ball scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half, and finished with seven assists and five boards. He was also far more efficient from the floor after settling into the game. After the game, LeBron gave both LaMelo and Lonzo Ball props, saying "Him and Zo are two very unique players in our league and they showcase that every night." He's not wrong, and LaMelo continues to show just how creative a player he is and can be on a nightly basis.
So the Pistons handed the struggling Raptors their latest loss, and it mainly because of Bey's 28-point, 12 rebound performance where he went 6-for-10 from long range. Toronto was leaving him wide open on most of those 3-point looks, like he wasn't shooting 40 percent from deep this season.
Bad scouting report by the Raptors, because Bey ate them up throughout that game, where he also came away with two steals. Now that Detroit is going full-blown youth movement, it's given young guys like Bey more opportunity to show the extent of what they have to offer, and so far that's been great for the Pistons.
I'm just going to leave this here...
It appears dunking on dudes and stuffing them at the rim is an inherited trait in the Martin family.
Wiseman is expected to be sidelined for a week due to the league's health and safety protocols, causing another break in action for the young center after missing 11 games with a sprained wrist. In his three games after the break, he had two solid performances where he was incredibly efficient from the floor, and then against the Lakers, he essentially disappeared when he was on the floor. It doesn't help though that his playing time really hasn't been consistent all season. Against the Clippers, Wiseman played just 12 minutes, but he put up 14 points and seven boards to finish the game a plus-10. Then the following two games he averaged 25 minutes, and while he was efficient against Utah, he struggled against the Lakers. Part of it has to do with where he is in his development -- especially on defense -- but if he's not getting consistent minutes, then it's going to be difficult for him to find his rhythm in every game.
Tate had a career-high 25 points against the Hawks and made it look ridiculously easy in the process. He was draining 3s, soaring in for dunks, dropping off dimes to teammates and scrapping in the paint. It's performances like that one against Atlanta that make you remember that he's 25 years old and is eons ahead of these other rookies in terms of feel for the game. The Rockets may lose a ton of games this season, as I type this they're currently on an 18-game losing streak, but guys like Tate and Martin Jr. will at least make the losing entertaining.
After not playing for 17-straight games, the Thunder put Poku in the starting lineup coming back from the All-Star break, and in his first career start he put up 14 points, eight boards and three assists in a win over the Mavericks. Two games later, he dropped 23 points and racked up 10 boards against the Grizzlies, while going 5-for-8 from deep. Prior to this past week, Poku had only scored 10 or more points just once this season, so for him to do it twice in once week is sure to turn some heads in the Thunder organization. Expect to see more of this 7-0 forward in the second half of the season, as OKC continues to run with its young guys in a rebuilding year.
Here's a fun stat on Knight's performance against the Rockets earlier this week:
Nathan Knight has joined Mason Jones (HOU), Jae'Sean Tate (HOU) and Facundo Campazzo (DEN) as one of four undrafted rookies to score at least 15 points in a game this season.— Hawks PR (@HawksPR) March 15, 2021
Oh, and here's this ridiculous dunk he also had from this week:
He's a 6-10 forward with a broad frame who can clear space around him with ease. When he was in college he was a man amongst boys on most nights, and even in the league that's still true. He's gotten more playing time since the All-Star break, and he's used every opportunity to show that he should be getting more minutes. You can never have too many guys who just have a high motor, are relentless in the post on both ends of the floor and can bring some energy off the bench.
I wrote about Maledon as one of five underrated rookies to watch in the second half of the season, and him being in the top 10 rankings this week helps me show that I know know what I'm talking about...at least a little bit. He nearly had a double-double against the Mavericks with an 11-point, nine assist performance, and followed it up with another consistent performance. We'll see if he can increase his scoring output as the season goes along now that he's an established starter on this young team.