By this point of the year, teams around the NBA have a good idea if they are battling for playoff positioning or pingpong balls as the season begins to wind down.
With more clarity on their prospective paths, some organizations have started to prioritize the development of rookies and other younger players. As a result, several rookies have emerged with strong performances in their expanded roles.
To make sense of it all, we took a look at the best recent performances of these first-year players and ranked them in the latest edition of the Rookie Wire Power Rankings. The rankings are not for Rookie of the Year purposes but, rather, to illustrate the best players week to week.
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Last Rank: 5 Stats: 6.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists After turning in a strong stretch of games following the Aaron Gordon trade, Okeke has struggled to shoot over his last three games. He is averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 37.5% shooting from the field. He has missed his last nine 3-point attempts. Still, Okeke has contributed in other areas of the game and is showing a glimpse of his potential as a strong 3-and-D option. With the Magic in a rebuilding effort, Okeke will have plenty of opportunities to play through his mistakes as he continues to develop at the NBA level.
Jae'Sean Tate, Houston Rockets
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Last Rank: 6 Stats: 10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.2 steals Tate has emerged as a key contributor for the Rockets this season. His numbers to this point are solid, but the undrafted product from Ohio State often does the little things that don't show up in the box score. As pointed out by Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype, Tate leads all rookies in loose balls recovered (55), charges drawn (12) and 3-pointers contested (153) while he is third in deflections (110). He has been named by Rockets general manager Rafael Stone as one of the team's cornerstones and his play this season should ensure he can finally stick around in the NBA.
RJ Hampton, Orlando Magic
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Last Rank: N/A Stats: 4.6 points, 2.7 rebounds Hampton checks in for the first time this season in large part because of his trade to Orlando. He has been given an opportunity to log heavy minutes and the 24th overall pick is beginning to show some of his skills. In fact, Hampton, in nine games, has nearly played more minutes with the Magic (210) than he did in 25 games with the Nuggets (233). He has already scored more points with the Magic (94) than he did with the Nuggets (64). With his new team, Hampton is averaging 10.4 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Magic, while he has scored in double figures five times. The Magic have high hopes for Hampton, which is why the team demanded him in the trade for Gordon, and the final stretch of the season should be a great chance for him to build positive momentum heading into his second year in the league.
Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings
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Last Rank: 2 Stats: 13 points, 5.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals After winning five straight games, Haliburton and the Kings have dropped seven in a row. Haliburton has made his frustration very clear but still believes the Kings are capable of turning things around. For his part, Haliburton is averaging 11.7 points and 5.4 assists over his last seven games. Haliburton has been a breath of fresh air this season for the Kings, and the 12th overall pick will continue to give everything he has over the final month.
Aleksej Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Last Rank: N/A Stats: 7.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists Prior to aggravating an arm injury recently, Pokusevski was playing some of his best basketball of the season. He is averaging 13.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and one block over his last six games with the Thunder. On April 7, Pokusevski erupted for a career-high 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. His seven 3-pointers set the Thunder record for a single game by a rookie while he became the youngest player, at 19 years old, to drain that many 3s in a game.
Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers
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Last Rank: N/A Stats: 8.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists The Cavaliers wanted Isaac Okoro to be more aggressive this month, and the fifth overall pick has done exactly that. In six April games, Okoro is averaging 12.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists on 56.3% shooting (9-of-16) from 3-point range. Okoro is even coming off a career-high, a 19-point performance on Sunday in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. The team has already seen an improvement from Okoro this month, and that could set him up to have his best stretch to close the season.
Malachi Flynn, Toronto Raptors
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Last Rank: N/A Stats: 5.1 points, 2.3 assists, 1.8 rebounds While his overall numbers certainly don't jump off the page, Flynn has emerged as a key contributor for the injury-plagued Raptors. He started to see his role expand at the beginning of April, and the 29th overall pick has produced since. Over his last eight games, Flynn is averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds on 41.5% shooting from 3-point range. Flynn registered a career-high 22 points on Tuesday night and nearly led the Raptors back from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including 12 straight in the final two minutes. The recent uptick in minutes has proven highly beneficial for Flynn, and he is showing why he deserves a longer look by the team.
Theo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Last Rank: 8 Stats: 9.7 points, 3.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds Maledon hit a recent two-game cold streak, but the second-round pick has turned in some incredible performances since our last rankings dropped. He is averaging 14.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists over his last eight games, including a career-high 33 points on April 2. With that outing, Maledon joined Russell Westbrook as the only two rookies in franchise history to score 30 points in a game. His 33 points were one shy of the rookie record, set by Westbrook.
Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons
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Last Rank: 3 Stats: 11.2 points, 4 rebounds, 1.3 assists Bey, who recently set the Pistons all-time rookie 3-point record, is knocking down 3s this season at a historic rate for a first-year player. On the season, Bey is hitting 2.3 3-pointers per game on 38.2% shooting. His 2.3 makes are tied for second-most all-time by a rookie and puts him in the same company as Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic. On a team with several other rookies, Bey has emerged as perhaps the best given his ability on offense. He has been a bit of a revelation this season with the Pistons and projects to have a bright future ahead.
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
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Last Rank: 1 Stats: 18 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals Anthony Edwards infamously doesn't know who Alex Rodriguez is, but it's probably because he has been too busy getting buckets. He has been on a tear of late and finished the month of March in elite company. His 24.2 points per game average during the month was third-most in history by a teenager, behind only LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Edwards has also recorded at least one steal in 23 straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA, and the longest ever by a Timberwolves rookie.