The NBA announced the rosters for the non-existent Rising Stars Game this year, and while we won't be able to see LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant all on the same team, we can only hope that the league will make up for it in some way next year. The new format that the league adopted in 2015, which went from rookies vs. sophomores, to Team USA vs. Team World, was supposed to highlight all of the international talent the league has seen enter the NBA in recent years.
However, that switch away from fielding a whole team full of rookies meant that there would be some notable snubs left off both rosters, which is exactly what happened this season. Rookies like Immanuel Quickley, Saddiq Bey, Desmond Bane and Patrick Williams were all left off the list, and while it's completely understandable given that Team USA is absolutely stacked, it's still unfortunate that some rookies who have been great in the first half of the season won't get that honor.
The current format is a great idea, as it shows how global the game of basketball is, but it also limits some of the league's brightest from getting to play on a larger stage. If anything it just shows how much young talent the NBA has as a whole, which shows that the league is in good hands going forward.
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.
Ball had his second-highest scoring game of the season when he put up 30 points against the Trail Blazers in a loss, in a performance where he also dished out eight assists and grabbed four boards. He continues to impress with each game, as his passing game is well beyond what people expected it to be, where he's showing the glimpses of being as creative a passer as his brother Lonzo, and his shooting efficiency from both the field and 3-point range has continued to improve this season.
He nabbed Rookie of the Month honors for the second time this season, as he's the clear-cut frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. Inserting him into the starting lineup has given the Hornets another offensive weapon alongside Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, making Charlotte one of the most exciting teams to watch this year.
Edwards had another ridiculous dunk this week, but what was more impressive about his three performances were how consistent he was. He had back-to-back 20-point games, and a 19-point performance against Ball and the Hornets. The biggest knock is still his inefficiency, as he's still hovering around the low 30s from deep and below 40 percent from the field. This is the time when Edwards is able to work on his shooting efficiency, so he's expected to experience growing pains, but the Wolves probably hope that he eventually can become a more efficient scorer at some point this season.
Quickley was snubbed from the Rising Stars roster, but when you look at who made the U.S. roster, and remember that it encompasses rookies and second-year players, then it's understandable. There were several rookies who would make the cut in any year, but when Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Tyler Herro are also on the roster, then it makes more sense. That aside, though, Quickley had a big week, capped by a 26-point performance in a loss to the Spurs. He finished the game with a plus-minus of -13, which is atypical for him considering he's been so efficient this season, but that was also the second-most minutes he played this season, which is also a factor. As he continues to get more playing time, his efficiency is likely to take a slight dip, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he's still played a key role in the Knicks having such a strong start to the season.
Most 25+ point games among all rookies this season:— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) March 3, 2021
Immanuel Quickley: 5
Anthony Edwards: 3
LaMelo Ball: 3
Most FT's made among all rookies this season:
Immanuel Quickley: 98
Ant Edwards: 80
LaMelo Ball: 68
Minutes played this season:
Ant Edwards: 1,015
LaMelo Ball: 984
Lee is making the most of his continued increase in playing time, as evidenced from a 20-point outing in a surprising win over the Raptors. His development in the past month has been the best part of the Pistons trading away Derrick Rose, as Detroit can now assess all of its young talent and allow these young players to grow with more opportunity.
It's only fitting that Lee and Bey are right next to each other in the rankings, as the Pistons have several young players who continue to impress. But while Lee is rising, Bey took a little stumble this week in his 3-point shooting. He's shooting 40 percent on the year and is routinely shooting 50 percent for chunks of the season, but in back-to-back games he shot 20 percent from beyond the arc. He combined to go 3-for-13 in a two-game stretch against the Knicks and Raptors and wasn't able to find other effective ways to contribute on offense. It may just be an outlier, but when his shot isn't falling he'll need to find other ways to impact the game.
The Celtics are 6-3 this season when Pritchard scores 10 or more points off the bench, and his 14 points certainly came in handy in a close game against the Clippers this week. His contribution has been up and down all season, and he hasn't been in the weekly rookie rankings since the start of the season, but ever so often he'll have a performance like the one against the Clippers, where he went 4-of-7 from deep, that will show why he's earned his way into the regular rotation for Boston.
Williams' performance against Zion Williamson was certainly an eye-opener this week. Just look at this:
Williams was thrown into the fire early in the season having to guard guys like Giannis and LeBron, and he was certainly outmatched. But looking at how he was able to body up a tank of a person like Zion in that clip certainly shows some improvement against bigger opponents. Just another reason why Chicago's selection of him grows more brilliant by the day.
Tate has been great on offense for the Rockets this season, except from behind the arc where he's shooting 32 percent on the year. The Rockets attempt the third-highest number of 3s a game (42), but rank dead last in 3-point percentage (33.3 percent). If Houston is going to continue this style of play, where 3-point shooting is heavily relied upon, then guys like Tate are going to need to knock down those shots. In a rebuilding year there isn't a better time for him to get comfortable with shooting that shot.
Bane was put through the ringer in Memphis' game against the Clippers this week, having to check both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on separate occasions. While that will surely go down as a learning opportunity for him against a dominant L.A. team, Bane continued to work and show small improvements over the course of the game. His one-on-one defense still has a long way to go, but he showed glimpses of being a solid defender, which is all you can really hope for from a rookie.
In an incredibly shocking win over the Sixers, Okoro put up 15 points, eight boards, three assists and three steals. That was his career-high in points and rebounds, and probably closer to the performance the Cavaliers thought they would get from him on a nightly basis when they drafted him fifth overall. It's a positive sign that he has the ability to score at a high level in this league, but now he needs to build on that and become consistent.