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The NBA’s annual rookie honors, including Rookie of the Year and the All-Rookie First Team and All-Rookie Second Team members, are set to be announced over the coming days. As Houston Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate sees it, he’s deserving of that “first team” recognition.
In making his case, Tate responded:
Jae’Sean Tate plays both sides of the ball. Nowadays, I don’t think defense is appreciated enough. I think that I was the best rookie defender. I say that with confidence. I think I was the best rookie defender. If we’re talking about the offensive side of it, I think my numbers are solid. That’s my case. I was just as consistent on the offensive end, and I feel like I was the best on the defensive end.
Tate started 58 of his 70 games played this season, with both figures leading Houston’s roster. The 6-foot-5 lefty averaged 11.3 points (50.6% FG), 5.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 29.2 minutes per game, and he was one of Houston’s best and most versatile defenders. Tate’s linebacker build allows him to hold his own versus traditional big men in the post, but he also moves well laterally against guards on the perimeter.
Late in the year, when lead guards John Wall and Kevin Porter Jr. had their seasons cut short by injury, Tate took advantage of an opportunity to showcase his ball-handling and playmaking skills — as evidenced by his average of 4.4 assists over the final 17 games.
The one inhibiting factor to Tate’s case for an All-Rookie First Team nod could be that Houston (17-55) finished with the NBA’s worst record of the 2020-21 regular season. Assuming LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and Tyrese Haliburton are first-team locks, Rookie Wire projects that New York’s Immanuel Quickley, Memphis’ Desmond Bane, and Detroit’s Saddiq Bey are Tate’s primary competition for the final two spots. Of those three, Quickley and Bane played on teams that made the 2021 playoffs, which may have given them greater visibility to voters.
Whatever the final result, Tate’s debut season in the NBA made quite an impression and should have him well positioned to be an impact player for years to come. And he’s not shy about spreading that message.