Rookie Report, Volume Thirteen

Raphielle Johnson
·9 min read

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It's Thursday, which means one thing: it's time for another edition of the Rookie Report. This week, we'll focus on Minnesota's top rookie and his solid play of late, positive developments in Oklahoma City and Detroit, and Golden State's rookie big man hitting another bump in the road.

Timberwolves’ Edwards hitting his stride: Top overall pick Anthony Edwards didn’t get off to the best of starts this season, as even though he did have some high-scoring nights the efficiency was lacking. His shooting percentages are still lower than where you’d want them to be, as he’s making 38.5% of his attempts from the field and 31.8% of his 3-pointers. But since the Timberwolves replaced Ryan Saunders with Chris Finch, Edwards has been playing better basketball.

Currently on a run of eight straight games with 19 points or more, the rookie has also shot 44% or better from the field in each of his last four. During that four-game stretch, Edwards is shooting 47.7% from the field, 42.4% from three and 75.0% from the foul line, while averaging 27.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 3.5 3-pointers in 35.5 minutes per. Still well outside of the top-100 in both 8- and 9-cat formats for the season as a whole, over the last week Edwards is providing 5th-round value.

What will happen once the Timberwolves rotation is whole again remains to be seen, as D'Angelo Russell (knee) and Malik Beasley (suspension) will need touches once they’re cleared to return. But hopefully that doesn’t stunt Edwards’ development, as he has shown glimpses of what he can be down the line.

Thunder’s Pokusevski has a career day: Oklahoma City forward Aleksej Pokusevski was a part of the team’s rotation to start the season, but he played more than 20 minutes in just three of his first 17 appearances. In order to get the rookie more playing time, the Thunder sent him to the G-League bubble in Orlando. Since his return Pokusevski has played 29 minutes or more in each of his last four games, and on Sunday the rookie forward had the best game of his NBA career to date.

In Sunday’s comeback win over the Grizzlies, Pokusevski played 39 minutes and posted a line of 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal, one block and five 3-pointers, shooting 7-of-13 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line. Unfortunately this effort did not serve as a springboard for Pokusevski, as he followed that game with a 4/8/1 line in Tuesday’s loss to the Bulls. Offensive inconsistency aside, there is still a positive to take out of Poku’s four-game run: rebounding. He averaged 8.3 rebounds (and 2.5 assists) per game during that stretch, which is good to see especially when taking his slender build into consideration.

With the Thunder at the point where they’re going to give young players who could be a part of the future all the minutes that they can handle for the remainder of the season, Pokusevski will have some value. The offense will be a bit of a gamble, but it appears likely that fantasy managers will be able to count on him for solid rebounding numbers.

The kids are alright in Detroit: While we’re still awaiting the return of Killian Hayes (hip), the Pistons’ other three rookies are still logging rotation minutes in the Motor City. Isaiah Stewart, firmly entrenched as Mason Plumlee’s backup, posted averages of 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in 22.5 minutes per game over the last week (four games), while shooting 65.2% from the field. Stewart’s free throw percentage during this stretch (50%) wasn’t good, but the rebounding and defensive production is good to see. Rostered in just 12% of Yahoo leagues, Stewart has provided 11th-round value in 8-cat, and 10th-round value in 9-cat, over the last week.

Saddiq Bey has been even better, threatening top-50 status in 9-cat formats over the last week. In four games, he averaged 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks and 3.3 3-pointers per, while shooting 43.2% from the field and 91.7% from the foul line. Bey has started each of the Pistons’ last 14 games, and he has the look of a player who will be a fixture in the Pistons’ starting lineup for years to come. Saben Lee has managed to stick in the rotation as Detroit’s backup point guard, but after going on a good run in late-February his production has slipped. And with Delon Wright back in the fold, Lee’s path to minutes is far less clear than those of Stewart and Bey.

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Quickley finally moves into starting lineup: Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has held firm on his desire to bring Immanuel Quickley off the bench, citing Elfrid Payton’s experience as a reason why he was the team’s starting point guard. And when Payton was lost to a hamstring injury, it was Derrick Rose who moved into that spot. Lose Rose to health and safety protocols: start Frank Ntilikina. Well, Thibodeau’s hand was ultimately forced due to the absences of Payton and Rose, and Ntilikina’s lack of offensive production.

So Quickley made the first two starts of his NBA career last week, playing 34 minutes in Monday’s loss to the Nets and another 26 in a loss to the 76ers the following night. In his last four games, Quickley is averaging 17.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.8 3-pointers per game, while shooting 42.9% from the field and a shocking (when considering how good he was to start the season) 64.7% from the foul line.

As far as fantasy is concerned, the low assist average is an issues, especially when talking about a point guard. I’m not sure we see a major jump in that category this season, but I’d expect more production from Quickley as a distributor in the years to come.

Haliburton struggles to shake off the rust: After missing four games due to a sore calf, Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton made his return to action in Sacramento’s win over the Rockets on March 11. He has been on a minutes restriction, but that may have changed ahead of Wednesday’s win over the Wizards. With Marvin Bagley sidelined due to a broken left hand, Haliburton made his third start of the season and played nearly 33 minutes. Shooting 5-of-12 from the field, the rookie finished with a line of 17 points, two rebounds, four assists and three 3-pointers (on six attempts).

At first glance, playing more minutes alongside De'Aaron Fox would make things difficult for Haliburton when it comes to racking up the assists. However he did make at least three 3-pointers for the seventh time since February 1 (16 games played). Personally I don’t expect Haliburton to take too much of a hit in the assist department now that he’s starting, and the 3-point shooting can make up for that if he manages to build on Wednesday’s performance.

Wiseman sidelined due to protocols: Warriors center James Wiseman has shown flashes of the talent that made him the second overall pick in the draft, but there have also been some frustrating hiccups. There were the defensive struggles that led to his being moved to the bench in late-January, and shortly thereafter Wiseman suffered a left wrist injury that kept him sidelined for nearly a month. Now he’s dealing with another issue, as health and safety protocols will keep Wiseman (and Eric Paschall) out of the lineup for at least seven days.

The tough thing about the mandatory quarantine period is that there’s only so much that a player can do to keep in shape; riding a bike or running on a treadmill (if physically able to do so) doesn’t properly replicate the conditioning demands of playing in a game. So whenever Wiseman is cleared to return, he will likely have to go through a phase in which the Warriors ramp up his conditioning before putting him in a game. Fantasy managers shouldn’t panic and drop him, however. Just stash Wiseman in an IL spot and wait until he’s cleared to return, because he should play plenty down the stretch.

Rockets’ Martin vaults into rotation: Houston forward KJ Martin Jr. didn’t play much at the beginning of the season, boasting more DNP-CDs than games in which he played at least ten minutes (three). But then he, along with Kevin Porter Jr., was sent to the G-League bubble with the Rockets’ affiliate in order to get some valuable playing time. The move made by Rockets management seems to have paid off, as Martin has played very well since his return.

In five games played since the All-Star break, Martin has averaged 13.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers per, while shooting 55.3% from the field and 76.5% from the foul line. Rostered in 41% of Yahoo leagues, Martin has provided 7th-round value in 9-cat during this stretch. And even with the return of Christian Wood for Wednesday’s loss to the Warriors, KJ still played 30 minutes and posted a line of 13 points, nine rebounds and one 3-pointer.

He didn’t block any shots Wednesday night, but keep in mind that he had a total of seven in the four games prior (with at least one in each game). Fantasy managers shouldn’t be too worried about this. Given how far off the pace the Rockets are for a playoff spot, younger talents such as Martin, Porter Jr., Wood and Jae'Sean Tate should play plenty down the stretch. I’d hop on the Martin bandwagon now, while you still can.

Past Columns

Volume One: Wiseman’s debut a solid first step

Volume Two: All aboard the Haliburton bandwagon

Volume Three: Fultz injury thrusts Anthony into the spotlight

Volume Four: Opportunity knocks for Maxey

Volume Five: Grizzlies rookies limited due to postponements

Volume Six: Wiseman moved to the bench

Volume Seven: Rozier injury pushes Ball into starting lineup

Volume Eight: Bulls' Williams making strides

Volume Nine: Pistons' Bey takes advantage of opportunity

Volume Ten: A role change for Haliburton?

Volume Eleven: Ball, Haliburton headline rookies in Rising Stars Challenge

Volume Twelve: Ball clear favorite for ROY honors at halfway point