2020 NBA Rookie Rankings
Now that the NBA is currently on hiatus for awhile, it’s a good time to analyze this year’s amazing rookie class. I’ve really enjoyed following the rookies this season. Here’s how the “Dutch Lion” would rank them as of now:
- Zion Williamson/New Orleans/6’6″ 280: 23.6 ppg (1st)/6.8 rpg (1st)/2.2 apg/24.3 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) (1st) – Is it possible that Zion has exceeded expectations despite the enormous hype surrounding his professional debut? Yes! Not only is it possible, I think it’s probable. Drafted first overall, Zion is a man among boys out there. How can a 280 pounder jump with as much explosion as Williamson? I’m not sure. Nobody is sure. That’s the amazing thing about Zion. He’s explosive. He might be the most explosive player in the league despite being one of it’s biggest players. Man, it’s gonna be fun to watch. Even though Zion started late because of a minor knee injury, his 19 games played are enough for anyone to clearly see how talented he is. Think about this too, he’s not even in mid-season form yet. If he stays healthy, the sky is the limit. He will be an All-Star next season. He’s going to be a superstar sooner rather than later. A likely Hall of Fame career has only just begun. Historic NBA Comparison: Charles Barkley/6’5″ 250 – Check out the young 76ers Chuck when he used to dribble full court and explode for massive two handed dunks. That’s what Zion looks like, only more explosive than Charles, which is rather scary.
- Ja Morant/Memphis/6’3″: 17.6 ppg (2nd)/3.5 rpg/6.9 apg (1st)/18.1 Efficiency (2nd) – Ja Morant (this year’s #2 overall pick) is an exciting player to watch. Have you seen this kid’s dunks?! In most years, Morant would be the surefire #1 choice for Rookie of the Year. However, this is a great rookie class and with Zion W. drafted one spot ahead of him, I’m afraid that Morant will have to settle for runner-up. Nonetheless, that’s a spot to be proud of behind an All-World talent. Maybe the 175 pound Ja will join Zion in the Hall of Fame someday, despite being 100 pounds lighter. I wouldn’t be surprised. Memphis has loads of young talent including Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, Tyus Jones, and Jaren Jackson Jr. (last year’s #4 overall pick) Watch for Ja to be the face of this franchise that is improving quickly. Historic NBA Comparison: Allen Iverson – Another small point guard that led the league in scoring with a heart much bigger than his body.
- Coby White/Chicago/6’4″: 13.2 ppg (7th)/3.5 rpg (15th)/2.7 apg (6th)/10.8 Efficiency (11th) – As a Bulls fan, I’m ecstatic about Coby White’s future. Just before the NBA season was shut down, Coby started his first game for Head Coach Jim Boylen. Despite not even starting until Game 65, White has shown extreme offensive presence as a quick playmaking point guard. Drafted 7th overall, the 6’4″ Coby is also an excellent three point shooter (35.4%) and free throw shooter (79.1%). I feel strongly that Coby White has a strong future ahead of him in a Bulls uniform. Chicago’s core of White, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter should improve quickly with some experience, and hopefully a better coach on the horizon. Coby will fit in nicely with this young Bulls team as a point guard/shooting guard who can create and score. I really like this comparison that I discovered while researching. Historic NBA Comparison: 6’5″ Mitch Richmond, who was drafted 5th overall in 1988, career average 21.0 ppg and 38.8% on 3 pointers, 6x All-Star.
- RJ Barrett/New York/6’6″: 14.3 ppg (4th)/5.0 rpg (5th)/2.6 apg (7th)/11.4 Efficiency (8th) – RJ is a pretty good player, but I have him ranked behind Coby White because in my opinion White has done more with the opportunity given him. Barrett has 30.4 minutes per game (mpg) whereas White has only 25.8 mpg. While White has only started once, Barrett has only come off the bench once. Barrett is a tall, lean, lefty. He might be a great player too, which just shows how deep this NBA rookie class is. A big negative for me with RJ is his free throw shooting. He shoots just 61.4 % from the stripe. He’ll need to improve that figure or else risk being out of the game at closing time. Historic NBA Comparison: Tayshaun Prince A 6’9″ lefty who shot just 65.4% FT during his rookie year but overcame that problem and shot 76% FT over his 1000+ game career.
- Rui Hachimura/Washington/6’8″: 13.4 ppg (6th)/6.0 rpg (2nd)/1.7 apg (18th)/14.9 Efficiency (4th) – Rui is an athletic forward who has great rookie numbers (top 6) in both scoring and rebounding. His PER Efficiency is 4th behind just Zion, Ja, and Brandon Clarke. Rui should have a solid career, just like his Historic NBA Comparison: Richard Jefferson, a 6’7″ forward from Arizona who played for eight teams over an 18 year career. RJ was a solid team player who averaged 12.6 ppg for his career but as high as 22.6 ppg in a season for the ’08 Nets.
- Kendrick Nunn/Miami/6’2″: 15.6 ppg (3rd)/2.7 rpg (26th)/3.4 apg (5th)/13.3 Efficiency (7th) – Kendrick Nunn is a surprise entry on this list as he was undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. Nunn has had a history of off-the-court problems. He was kicked off of Illinois’ team after a solid Junior year in 2016 in which he averaged over 15 ppg. He then transferred and finished his college career at Oakland, where he redshirted and then scored a crazy 25.9 ppg! After being undrafted, he joined the Golden State Warriors G-League team and put up 19.3 ppg before joining the Miami Heat this season. Nunn has started 62 games for the Heat this year. What does the future hold for Nunn? Hard to gauge. Another legal problem could force him out of the NBA but for now he can score and the Heat seem to love him. Historic NBA Comparison: Goran Dragic, his Miami Heat teammate. Dragic was overlooked in the NBA Draft, like Nunn, as he was drafted 45th overall. Dragic is a 6’3″ lefty. Nunn is a 6’2″ lefty.
- Eric Paschall/Golden State/6’6″: 14.0 ppg (5th)/4.6 rpg (6th)/2.1 apg (12th)/13.7 Efficiency (5th) – I watched plenty of Paschall when he was at Villanova. The guy can flat out play. He was well coached at ‘Nova by Head Coach Jay Wright. He was taught to play an NBA open floor style of game. It has really helped Paschall in his rookie year for the defending Runners-Up as they have so many injuries. Head Coach Steve Kerr has needed to turn to rookies such as Paschall and he has responded. In over 27 minutes per game, Paschall has scored 14 ppg and rebounded at a high level with over four and a half per game. His PER is 5th highest of all NBA rookies. As well as Paschall has played, it will be interesting to see him in his sophomore year when the Warriors get Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green back. Will Paschall get as much playing time? Will he get better surrounded by a World Champion cast of teammates? Historical NBA Comparison: Draymond Green, his Golden State teammate. They show some similar skills and are both 6’6″ 250 pound players that can facilitate from the perimeter.
- Brandon Clarke/Memphis/6’8″: 12.0 ppg (12th)/5.8 rpg (3rd)/1.4 apg (22nd)/16.3 Efficiency (3rd) – Maybe we should have ranked Brandon Clarke higher on the list. Drafted 21st overall, Clarke is out of Gonzaga. He’s 6’8″ and is 3rd in PER Efficiency. Playing alongside Ja Morant, Clarke could be a great core piece for the Grizzlies down the line.
- Tyler Herro/Miami/6’5″: 12.9 ppg (8th)/4.0 rpg (12th)/1.9 apg (14th)/11.1 Efficiency (9th) – Another reason the Miami Heat have had such a surprisingly good year (41-24) is the unexpected play of the two rookies, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro. Herro has only started 6 games on the year, averaging just over 27 mpg. In those minutes, Herro is averaging 12.9 ppg. A solid rookie year for Tyler Herro.
- Darius Garland/Cleveland/6’1″: 12.3 ppg (10th)/1.9 rpg (35th)/3.9 apg (3rd)/9.1 Efficiency (19th) – Darius Garland was drafted 5th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers despite the fact they drafted Collin Sexton, also 6’1″ the previous year with the 8th pick. Why would the Cavs select two 6’1″ point guards in back to back years? I’m not too sure, but I guess it’s because they are both really good young players. It hasn’t helped the Cavs, who are 19-46 and in last place in the Eastern Conference standings. Without knowing all the details, I would bet Cleveland is getting killed on defense and on the glass. Well, they can always draft some taller guys this Summer. They’ll be in the NBA Lottery again.
- Jaxson Hayes/New Orleans
- Daniel Gafford/Chicago
- P.J. Washington/Charlotte
- De’Andre Hunter/Atlanta
- Cam Reddish/Atlanta
As I was writing and researching this article, I was impressed by how many intriguing rookies there are in this year’s crop. I project at least two players to end up in the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is obviously a difficult thing to project. Could more than two players end up in the Hall? For sure. Anything is possible, especially with so much young talent. We don’t even know for sure how many of these guys will last in the NBA for three, five, or ten years. Nonetheless, with Zion and Ja in this group, the 2019 NBA Draft class will be talked about and analyzed for years to come. I hope you enjoyed this piece and I hope I can look back on it someday with pride rather than with remorse.
Thanks for reading,
Reid “The Dutch Lion”
I hope the government and the medical community get the coronavirus outbreak under control before too much harm is done to the sports world!
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I’m thinking and hoping things are back to normal, or closer to normal, by mid-May. That would be the end of the 8 week quarantine thing advised by professionals. Of course, then the athletes need to ramp up their training again. We’ll see. It could be worse. Overall, this is a good trial run for when something worse happens someday.
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Hadn’t thought about that, but that is certainly true. Kind of a nation-wide emergency test!
Well, unfortunately I think the Chinese started all this to test the system. They need to be stopped.
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