NBA Rookie Rankings: Anthony Edwards drops 42 on the Grizzlies; Saddiq Bey breaks a Stephen Curry record

The final week of the regular season is just around the corner, but these rookies haven’t slowed down one bit. Despite a handful of their teams already being eliminated from playoff contention, several of these first-year guys are still churning out their best performances of the season. Anthony Edwards is still putting up ridiculous numbers, Saddiq Bey is breaking more records in Detroit and LaMelo Ball finally returned for the Charlotte Hornets just in time to prepare for the playoffs. There’s still plenty reason to still watch these first-year players as the season winds down, and this week proved exactly that.

Now moving on to this week’s rankings, which 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.

Another week, another handful of performances by Edwards, proving that the Rookie of the Year race is a lot closer​ than many think. In fact, it wouldn’t be outlandish to say Edwards is the Rookie of the Year. What he’s been doing since the All-Star break should be given more attention, as he’s averaging 23.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals since then. He’s also been far more efficient, knocking down 35.2 percent of his 3s, and shooting 44.7 percent from the field. That efficiency carried over into this week, as he shot an absurd 77.3 percent from the field on his way to dropping 42 points for the second time this season.    

Although Edwards hasn’t contributed as much to winning games as LaMelo Ball, who many see as the frontrunner for the award, that speaks more to the state of the Timberwolves franchise which fired head coach Ryan Saunders midway through the season. Edwards has consistently improved over the course of the season, and is making Minnesota look good for picking him No. 1 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft

Bey did something pretty ridiculous this week. The former Villanova forward just casually broke Stephen Curry‘s and Allen Iverson’s record for most games with five or more made 3s by a rookie in NBA history. 

What’s even crazier is that Bey is doing it in a shortened season, with minimal preseason, no summer league and still has six more games to push that record even further. Bey knocked down five 3-pointers in back-to-back games this week to break the record, eclipsing 20-plus points on both occasions. The Pistons have had an abysmal season, but Bey’s standout rookie season has been a bright spot for the future.  

Most of the highlights we’ve seen of Kenyon Martin Jr. have been rim-rattling dunks over guys like John Collins and Rudy Gobert, but this week he showed off some his touch from deep, and his soft touch around the rim. He put up a career-high 23 points, and recorded his second double-double of his career against the Sixers, while also knocking down two 3s and recording two blocks. He showed his ability to create mismatches in the paint with his strength and size, and showcased his 3-point shot which is still very much a work in progress. 

It was an unfortunate week for Tyrese Haliburton and the Kings, as the standout rookie suffered a knee injury that will keep him out of the final week and a half of the season. Fortunately he won’t need to undergo surgery and there was not ligament damage to his knee, but Sacramento will be extra cautious with one of its brightest young stars. Prior to going down, though, Haliburton showed that he should probably be starting for the Kings, as he averaged 17 points, 8.2 assists 2.8 boards and 1.2 steals in the starting lineup with De’Aaron Fox out.

LaMelo Ball is back! After missing 18 games with a fractured wrist, Ball returned to the Hornets lineup, and it didn’t take long for him to get off a ridiculous assist that only he could do.

Ball made this fullcourt, underhand scoop pass to Miles Bridges look absurdly easy. It looked like a pass a player would make to a referee up the court to inbound the ball, not an accurate dime under the basket for an easy bucket. Don’t let him fool you, that was incredibly impressive, but difficult. The Hornets have gone 2-1 since his return, and are still fighting for playoff seeding with just 2 1/2 games separating them and the Miami Heat who sit seventh right now.

At this point in the season, the Orlando Magic might as well just let R.J. Hampton start and see what happens. He’s already proven he can contribute in a big way off the bench, and with Terrence Ross out indefinitely it’s the perfect timing for him to fill in the backcourt alongside Cole Anthony.

Hampton scored a career-high 18 points in a win over the Grizzlies, then tied his high again later in the week against the Celtics. As he’s getting more opportunity in Orlando his game continues to open up and it’s been beneficial for the Magic to see what they have in this young guard for the future. 

After weeks of slowly improving his offensive production, Isaac Okoro broke free this week with a 32-point outburst where he went 3 of 4 from deep and an efficient 10 of 16 from the field. It was a breakout night for Okoro, who is becoming well-respected for his defense this season, but continues to show improvement on offense as well. If he can have consistent performances like that over a sustained period of time, he’ll be a tough two-way player in this league for years to come. 

Although Edwards dropping 42 points was the story of the night, the Grizzlies still won the game, and some of that is thanks to Desmond Bane‘s big shots down the stretch. Bane made two game-icing 3-pointers on back-to-back Grizzlies’ possessions, capping off a night where he put up 22 points off the bench. It was the second-straight game where Bane put up 22 points, which is a career-high for the rookie.

Cole Anthony is starting to make a knack of knocking down game winners for the Magic, and he did it again this week against the Memphis Grizzlies. After Dillon Brooks put Memphis ahead with seven seconds left, Anthony came down got the switch he wanted on defense then drilled a 3-pointer in the face of Kyle Anderson.

What made that shot even better was Anthony’s postgame interview in which he spoke with complete conviction about his ability to make that shot. “I wanted an [isolation]. I just knew if I got someone on an island they wasn’t gonna be safe,” Anthony said. Well, he wasn’t wrong. 

Here’s a fun fact: Immanuel Quickley is shooting nearly 40 percent on 3-pointers 30-34 feet away from the rim. It’s a small sample size (7-18), but just for comparison’s sake, Stephen Curry is shooting 44 percent from that distance, while Damian Lillard is shooting 34 percent from 30-plus feet out. Quickley doesn’t shoot that shot at the same volume as those two long-range threats do, but he’s shown great efficiency from there which is apparently something he’s been practicing according to Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau. “We have a 4-point line at our practice facility, and he shoots just as effectively from that area. When he has an opening in transition sometimes those are the best looks that he’ll get.” If I.Q. starts taking those shots at a higher rate — and makes them just as consistently — he’ll be even more terrifying in transition and halfcourt sets.

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