NBA Rookie of the Year rankings: Is it LaMelo Ball's award to lose?

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Mike DePrisco
·4 min read
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Rookie of the Year rankings: Is it LaMelo's award to lose? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The 2020 NBA Draft may have lacked top-end star talent, but it's already proved to have produced a number of players that can contribute to winning. 

Even so, there are already at least two players who've flashed All-Star potential just two months into their NBA careers, and they currently stand alone atop the rookie ladder. 

1. LaMelo Ball, Hornets

After finally moving into the starting lineup for the playoff-hopeful Hornets, Ball has ascended as the unquestioned top rookie in his class. He's showcased brilliant playmaking skills, solid defense and concerns about his jump shot have so far been quelled (44% FG, 35% 3P, 79% FT). 

Ball is kind of in the sweet spot to win rookie of the year. He's a well-known name, has the occasional viral highlight pass to Miles Bridges and is in a situation where he's playing a part in leading a lottery team to the playoffs. Unless a certain player in Sacramento hits another level, this appears to be Ball's award to lose. 

2. Tyrese Haliburton, Kings

Every game Haliburton plays, he reminds everyone how dumb it was that he fell all the way to No. 12 on draft night. He has a tremendous feel for the game, is an advanced playmaker and has been a borderline elite shooter (49.8% FG, 44.3% 3P on 5.2 attempts). 

Haliburton could make a push toward Ball once the Kings finally decide to start him over Marvin Bagley, especially if he plays even more minutes alongside De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes. In 132 minutes played, that lineup has a ridiculous +18.3 net rating, which is third in the league for five-man combinations that have played at least 100 minutes together. 

3. Immanuel Quickley, Knicks

The Knicks have definitely found something in Quickley, who's proving to be the steal of the 2020 draft. He's a smooth scorer, capable playmaker and defender, and already has a go-to move with a deadly floater in the middle of the lane. 

New York trading for Derrick Rose is a questionable move considering the chance he takes minutes away from Quickley. If Rose plays more of a complementary, mentorship type of role for the Knicks, it'd be better for Quickley's development and his case in the Rookie of the Year race. 

4. Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves

Edwards played more as a gunner through the first month-plus of his career, which didn't line up with the all-around offensive skill set he showcased in college last year. Now that he's a full-time starter and settled into his role on the Timberwolves, we're starting to see the No. 1 overall pick put up better scoring numbers and make plays for his teammates as well.  

Wings like Edwards, who thrive with the ball in their hands but aren't polished enough to be handed the keys to an NBA offense, take a little longer to develop. With D'Angelo Russell out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, Edwards should get more opportunities in spots he's comfortable. 

5. Jae'Sean Tate, Rockets

Tate has been quite the find for the Rockets this season after coming over from Australia. The 25-year-old Ohio State alum got his first NBA opportunity on a Houston team stuck in the middle of the James Harden saga and has quickly turned into one of the NBA's fiercest perimeter defenders. 

Lu Dort made a similar rise on the Thunder last year and became an integral part of their plans moving forward. Tate is a bit older than Dort, but he's just as good on the defensive end of the floor and might be farther along as an offensive player, shooting over 54% from the floor and 32% on his 3-pointers. The Rockets have a lot of pieces that don't figure to be long-term building blocks, but Tate is definitely a good player to keep around. 

The best of the rest

6. Cole Anthony, Magic

7. Desmond Bane, Grizzlies

8. Patrick Williams, Bulls

9. Deni Avdija, Wizards

10. Payton Pritchard, Celtics