NBA

NBA Rookie Rankings: Anthony Edwards continues impressive scoring, Malachi Flynn proves himself with Raptors

We’re nearing the final month of the regular season, and rookies we haven’t heard much about earlier in the year are still getting some opportunities to shine. Whether that is because teams are dealing with injuries, or squads are waving the white flag and starting to play younger players, it’s allowed some end-of-the-bench rookies to capitalize on the moment. As we get closer and closer to the postseason, we’ll see first-year guys getting more playing time as teams gear up for the postseason and start to rest players for injury prevention. 

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.

Let’s just take a moment to all appreciate how great of a response Anthony Edwards gave when asked about his thoughts on the new team owner of the Timberwolves, who just also happens to be very famous former MLB player Alex Rodriguez:

Right before that Edwards had a 24-point performance where he went 5-for-11 from 3-point territory, but that was the true highlight of the night. Edwards has quickly become one of the most entertaining players to listen to in his media interviews, and this one was just the peak of his hilarity. Jokes aside, while some have all but handed Rookie of the Year honors to LaMelo Ball, Edwards has had an incredibly impressive second-half to his season that warrants some discussion. 

His team isn’t winning, but month-to-month his efficiency has improved, which was one of the biggest knocks on him earlier in the season. Since the All-Star break, Edwards is averaging 24 points, five rebounds, three assists and over a steal a game. If we’re going to knock guys like Joel Embiid, James Harden and LeBron James for missing a chunk of games in the MVP conversation, then the same should go for Rookie of the Year.

Saddiq Bey is proving, yet again, that Villanova guys are some of the best players you can pick in the draft. In 2018 it was Jalen Brunson, the following year it was Mikal Bridges and now Bey is following that same mold of being a well-developed, high basketball IQ guy who you want on your team. He’s already broken the Pistons record for most 3-pointers for a rookie, and he tied Damian Lillard for most 3s made by a rookie through 50 games. He’s been one of the best rookies all season long and has already made himself indispensable for Detroit in his first year.

Talk about a rookie coming out of nowhere, Malachi Flynn just started to get consistent playing time over the last month, and has really begun to take advantage of the increased playing time the past two weeks. Not only did he put up a career-high 22 points this past week against the Hawks, but he scored 12-straight points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to almost force a comeback. 

It’s not that he can just score from all three levels, it’s the level of difficulty of these shots he’s knocking down. Fallaway jumpers, knocking down 3s with defensive pressure on him, finishing through contact at the rim and stopping on a dime, pump-faking and nailing a turnaround jumper. He’s the type of spark plug player you want coming off the bench, and the Raptors just discovered that in the last two weeks.

End-of-the-bench rookies always have to stay ready for when their moment comes, and Jordan Nwora has done a good job in spurts for the Bucks when needed with Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined. He hasn’t been incredibly consistent in the minutes he’s seen, but in just his second start of the season, he put up 24 points, six rebounds and went 4-for-10 from deep. He’s not always going to put up those numbers, as evidenced from the following two games where he put up 11 and eight points this week, but he was still incredibly effective and more importantly efficient. His 3-point shooting has been the most impressive thing about him in the past couple weeks, and while he won’t be asked to shoot six or seven 3s in a game on a regular basis, being able to come in and knock down two or three is a huge asset.

All season Jae’Sean Tate has been impressing everyone on offense, but his defense has been just as special. He’s incredibly undersized for a small forward in the NBA, standing at just 6-4, but he makes up for it in sheer strength. Just look at how he checks Indiana Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis, who has seven inches on him.

He has the ability the frustrate the heck out of opposing players, and his ability to be a brick wall in the post is underestimated as some players may think they have a mismatch with him on them. However, he forces Sabonis into a turnover, igniting the Rockets and letting the Pacers know he isn’t an easy target on defense.

Despite some inefficiency lately, Haliburton is still having a positive impact on the Kings. He ranks in the 96th percentile in assist percentage, per Cleaning the Glass, showing that despite his 28.6 percent 3-point shooting in the month of April, he’s still figuring out ways to put his fingerprint on the game. That’s a huge positive for Sacramento, knowing that even if Haliburton is going through a shooting slump — which he most definitely is lately — he’s still essential to have on the floor because of his ability to get others involved on offense.  

Bane’s shooting has been the big storyline of his rookie campaign, and understandably so given he’s shooting 45.5 percent (!!) from deep, on top of 47 percent from the field. You couldn’t ask for better shooting from a rookie, and while he’s primarily been used as a spot-up shooter, he’s shown some flashes of good court vision over the course of the season. Against the Mavericks that was on full display, with crosscourt passes through the smallest of windows, and alley-oops to teammates when the defense collapsed on him, he was showing glimpses of what he could become in the future for the Grizzlies.    

After missing 24 games with a rib injury, Cole Anthony returned to the Magic‘s lineup and has had a couple of solid games since then. It’s going to take a while before he’s operating at the level he was playing at prior to his injury, so efficiency-wise his numbers have been pretty rough to look at, but if nothing else his return allows Orlando to see what he looks like on the floor with RJ Hampton, who the Magic picked up in the trade for Aaron Gordon

The two players play off each other pretty well, and Hampton’s size and versatility make up for Anthony’s weakness. If these two can establish some chemistry and grow together, then the Magic should be pretty happy with the young players they have. 

Isaac Okoro has really come alive on offense in the past couple of weeks for the Cavaliers, and his 19-point performances against the Pelicans was his best offensive game to date. He’s often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player, which results in him expending a lot of his energy on that end of the floor, but if he’s able to be more impactful on offense as well, he’ll no doubt develop into a solid two-way threat in a few years.

Facundo Campazzo reminds me a lot of JJ Barea, but with greater court vision. Barea had this uncanny ability to come in off the bench and drop 11-14 points for the Dallas Mavericks during his best seasons, but then would also have nights where he only had five or six points, but still left an impact. Campazzo is slowly becoming that for Denver, and while he’s a serious liability on defense, that’s not why the Nuggets signed him. 



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