NBA 2020-2021: Top Performing Rookie’s Early On

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

As the new and unique NBA season is underway, there are many rookies getting acclimated to the league on minimal training camp experience. While we are only a few weeks in, there are several rookies who have showed their worth for their teams. Using regular and advanced stats (such as Win Shares), as well as Opportunity Production Rating (OPR), we can evaluate these rookies to see which ones have performed the best thus far (through January 7th).

Tyrese Haliburton

Sacramento KINGS

Stats: 11.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.7 APG, 0.7 WS, 51% FG, 48% 3P, 87.5% FT, 18.17 OPR

Haliburton seemed like a steal at the time for Sacramento, and he has played like it. So far, he has been one of the Kings’ best shooters and has been an excellent playmaker behind De’Aaron Fox in the backcourt. Shooting 48% from 3, producing an above-average OPR, and dishing out a 7.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, Haliburton already has 0.7 Win Shares, ranking first among rookies, as well as a 142 Offensive Rating. Already one of the top shooters and passers of the draft class, Haliburton projects to be a big part of the Kings’ future.

James Wiseman

Golden State Warriors

Stats: 11.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.0 WS, 46.8% FG, 41.7% 3P, 61.9% FT, 11.16 OPR

The Warriors have not regretted their pick 2 selection of Wiseman. Settling into Golden State’s frontcourt well, Wiseman has produced as a rim protector and paint scorer. He ranks best among rookies in rebounds per game and ranks top 3 in the league in block %. While his mid-range and 3 point shooting could use some tinkering, he has flashed potential as a shooter, and should learn well under Draymond Green at Golden State. He looks to be a staple of the Warriors’ frontcourt for the foreseeable future and has the tools to develop into a star big man.

LaMelo Ball

Charlotte Hornets

Stats: 11.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.9 APG, 0.4 WS, 40.5% FG, 34.3% 3P, 73.7% FT, 15.63 OPR

Initially off to a slow start, Ball has ramped up his production in Charlotte. With the Hornets’ second unit, Ball has lived up to his label as a playmaker and scorer, producing an above-average 15.63 OPR. He has produced a positive box plus/minus coming off the bench, leads all rookies in assists per game, and also ranks top 5 in the league in steal %. As he continues to develop on a young Hornets team, Ball’s length and playmaking skills will allow him to progress into one of the draft class’ top guards.

Payton Pritchard

Boston Celtics

Stats: 8.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.3 WS, 50% FG, 34.8% 3P, 87.5% FT, 11.32 OPR

In the absence of Kemba Walker, Pritchard has been a pleasant surprise for Boston. So far, he has come off the bench for the Celtics, receiving the 5th most minutes on the team. Pritchard has been an efficient shooter in the Boston backcourt, especially from mid-range, and has a +10.1 On-Court plus/minus per 100 possessions, while playing squarely in the middle of the Celtics’ rotation. He has shown that he is ready to be part of an NBA contender, with a more immediate impact than most other rookies. Pritchard has produced on both sides of the ball and projects to be a potential long-term rotation piece for the Celtics.

Immanuel Quickley

New York Knicks

Stats: 7.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.3 WS, 53.3% FG, 42.9% 3P, 100% FT, 22.35 OPR

A late first round pick, Quickley has performed well in a limited capacity for a surprisingly decent Knicks team. Quickley has a smaller sample size than the other rookies here, but he has shown a lot of potential. He has shot the ball well and has flashed potential to be the Knicks’ primary ball handler long-term. He ranks among the top 7 of rookies in box plus/minus and has a +6.9 On-Court plus/minus per 100 possessions. It is a very small sample size, but his large 22.35 OPR shows that Quickley could be a long-term piece at guard for New York.

Anthony Edwards

Minnesota Timberwolves

Stats: 15.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, -0.2 WS, 40.9% FG, 28.8% 3P, 73.7% FT, 11.55 OPR

Coming out of college as a scorer, #1 pick Edwards has produced in that capacity for Minnesota. Leading all rookies in points scored per game, Edwards has produced well for the middle of the Timberwolves’ lineup. He also ranks top 3 on the team in Usage Rate, taking on a slightly large offensive role in games Karl-Anthony Towns has missed. If Edwards can become more consistent shooting from outside for a struggling Timberwolves team, he could live up to his billing as top pick in the draft class.

Other Rookies to Watch:

Cole Anthony, MAGIC: 8.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.1 WS, 30.3% FG, 19% 3P, 95% FT, 12.02 OPR

Deni Avdija, WIZARDS: 6.4 PPG, 4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.3 WS, 47.4% FG, 45.8% 3P, 57.1% FT, 10.94 OPR

Patrick Williams, BULLS: 10.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.1 WS, 47.1% FG, 47.1% 3P, 84.2% FT, 9.09 OPR

Precious Achiuwa, HEAT: 7.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.2 WS, 57.1% FG, 52.4 FT%, 11.30 OPR

Saddiq Bey, PISTONS: 10.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.2 WS, 36.1% FG, 46.3% 3P, 71.4% FT, 13.38 OPR

*Stats via Basketball Reference, as of January 7th, 2021

Below is a full breakdown of the top performing rookie’s in terms of OPR.

[Rookies playing in more than 3 games]              Player Pos  Tm  G   ScaledPTSper100       OPR
  Immanuel Quickley  PG NYK  4      26.5728099 22.348247888
  Tyrese Haliburton  PG SAC  6      13.8179539 18.174363152
        Jordan Nwora  SF MIL  6      23.6147333 17.651786622
        Daniel Oturu   C LAC  4      14.6617842 17.279427369
        LaMelo Ball  PG CHO  8      12.8688250 15.625060016
    Jaden McDaniels  PF MIN  5      15.5579154 15.046332299
    Facundo Campazzo  PG DEN  7      16.4601042 14.348083356
      Nathan Knight  PF ATL  4      31.1864407 14.309152542
          Saddiq Bey  SF DET  7      12.5916110 13.383288776
          CJ Elleby  SF POR  4      11.0734463 12.588757062
      Devin Vassell  SG SAS  7       8.2146769 12.431741512
        Cole Anthony  PG ORL  8       9.5955382 12.016430548
        Sam Merrill  SG MIL  5      10.5052731 11.794218479
        Tyrese Maxey  SG PHI  9      10.3222181 11.597774447
    Anthony Edwards  SG MIN  8      15.3394864 11.551589085
    Payton Pritchard  SG BOS  9      11.0735045 11.318803620
    Precious Achiuwa  PF MIA  7      14.1272491 11.301799295
      James Wiseman   C GSW  8      13.2932109 11.164568756
        Deni Avdija  SF WAS  8       7.7658029 10.942642286
        Tyrell Terry  PG DAL  4       1.4957265  9.946581197
    Patrick Williams  PF CHI  9      11.7826964  9.086157145
        Desmond Bane  SG MEM  8      10.3562278  8.374982230
      Lamar Stevens  PF CLE  5       7.9153622  7.852289755
      Isaiah Stewart   C DET  6       6.0791278  7.633302222
      Jae’Sean Tate  SF HOU  6       8.4587938  7.447035071
        Chuma Okeke  PF ORL  5       3.9680233  7.244418605
          Isaiah Joe  SG PHI  4       0.6308666  6.014693298
        Isaac Okoro  SG CLE  4       6.6650509  5.302040717
          Josh Green  SG DAL  6       6.7509482  4.770758534
        Théo Maledon  PG OKC  7       9.4573454  4.765876314
        Reggie Perry  PF BRK  4       7.4282297  4.592583732
      Malachi Flynn  PG TOR  4       0.0000000  3.200000000
  Aleksej Pokusevski  PF OKC  5       0.3844100  1.697528030
      Killian Hayes  PG DET  7       3.4615385 -0.630769231
        R.J. Hampton  PG DEN  5       7.0000000 -2.830000000

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