Wed, Dec 11, 2019

A handful of rookies made their way back into the top 10, while Coby White and Rui Hachimura ascend to the top of the list. White had perhaps the best performances of the week, scoring 20-plus points in back-to-back games, on top of setting a rookie record for the most made 3-pointers in a quarter. Ja Morant dropped a bit this week, however, his play lately has been nothing short of remarkable, lifting the Memphis Grizzlies to victory with his game-winning shot against the Charlotte Hornets. Two of the three Warriors rookies dropped out this week, while Phoenix Suns‘ rookie Cameron Johnson made his first appearance after his 3-point shooting made him a bigger part of the Suns’ rotation.

There haven’t been any new updates on the Zion Williamson front, however, when the rookie sensation does make his NBA debut, it could very well shake things up not just in rookie rankings, but for the struggling New Orleans Pelicans as well. 

Remember, these rankings will reflect a rookie’s performance on a week-to-week basis, not the collective season, so these aren’t Rookie of the Year standings. One week a player could be No. 2 on the list, and after that, they could fall out of the top 10 altogether. It all depends on a rookie’s weekly performance.

With that straightened out, here are the latest Rookie Power Rankings for the 2019-20 season.                 

1. Coby White, Chicago Bulls

While putting the finishing touches on his 27-point performance against the New York Knicks, White was serenaded by the United Center faithful with chants of “Coby!” “Coby!” ringing throughout the arena. White set a Chicago Bulls record for most made 3-pointers in a quarter, hitting seven of them in the fourth quarter, and became the first rookie in NBA history to accomplish such a feat, and he did it all while his college coach, Roy Williams, was in attendance. 

White hasn’t received a single start for the Bulls this season, mainly because of the logjam at the position in Chicago, but when he takes the court he is absolutely electrifying every single time. He then followed up his 27-point outing with a 26-point performance against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. He’s been a huge boost off the Bulls’ bench, and while Jim Boylen might not want to grant him the starting point guard spot just yet, it’s only a matter of time before he forces his way into the starting lineup.

2. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards

Last week, in the Washington Wizards’ loss to the Indiana Pacers, Hachimura went scoreless in 20 minutes of action, capping off the worst week of his young career so far. Hachimura responded extremely well to the down week though, averaging 21 points over the next two games for the Wizards, while shooting over 70 percent from the field in both games. He’s been absolutely feasting within the mid-range, and while his 3-point shot hasn’t been falling to start the season, he’s been effective enough inside the arc that the Wizards can be patient until his shot develops more. He became the quickest Wizards player to score 100 career points, passing John Wall, and has shown signs of being a valuable piece for the Wizards going forward. His defense needs a lot of work still, but the fact that he’s shooting 53.6 percent on 2-point shots is something that’s incredibly impressive for a rookie.

3. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

Nunn had a so-so week for Miami last week, but the reason he dropped out of the rankings was mainly due to the huge scoring performances across the board from other rookies. This week, however, Nunn has returned to the top 10, and is back to impressing every person that watches him play. It’s hard to believe that he went undrafted with the numbers he’s been putting up in his rookie campaign, and his latest 23-point, eight assist outing against the Cleveland Cavaliers just added to that sentiment. His play has kept him in the starting lineup with Jimmy Butler, and with the Miami Heat sitting at 8-3 in the East, it doesn’t look like he’ll be replaced any time soon. There’s still a lot of games left to be played, but Nunn could very well be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year when it’s all said and done. 

4. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

So far, Morant is leading all rookies in scoring and assists, and he’s already shown that he can live up to the big moments. First, it was the game-sealing block against Kyrie Irving in just his third game of his career. Then, this week he sinks a game-winner against the Charlotte Hornets to cap off a 23-point, 11-rebound performance. 

Morant’s already been causing problems for opposing defenses and is always in attack mode when he’s coming up the court with the ball. The game-winning shot against Charlotte was as tough of a shot that anyone could hit. He had three defenders draped all over him as he went for the layup, and somehow still found a way to finish through all that traffic. He still needs to grow into his body — you’ll notice that his arms aren’t quite big enough to keep his arm sleeve in place  — but he’s not afraid of attacking the rim right now, so imagine what he’ll be when he adds more muscle.  

5. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies

Last week, Clarke was ranked No. 5 on this list, and here he is again at that exact same spot. It’s a good description of Clarke’s play so far this season: consistent. He’s scored in double figures in four-straight games now, and his chemistry with fellow rookie Morant has been an exciting wrinkle to watch this season. He’s continued to be incredibly efficient from the field, shooting 60 percent on the season, and even has a 3-point shot in his arsenal as evidenced by the 57.1 percent he shot from beyond the arc this week. He’s only recorded one block this past week, but over the season, he’s averaging 2.1 rejections per 36 minutes. 

6. Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns

The Suns’ top pick in the 2019 draft is making his first appearance in the rookie rankings, after breaking through with a 15-point, six-rebound performance against the Brooklyn Nets. He shot 47.4 percent from 3-point range this past week and is proving to be just another solid piece for Phoenix to use coming off the bench. Johnson put up another 15 points in 20 minutes of action against the Atlanta Hawks, where he converted on 50 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. If he can continue to consistently knock down 3s for Phoenix, he’ll be very valuable for a team that suddenly looks like a serious playoff contender in the early going. 

7. Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors

The high from getting the Warriors’ first win inside Chase Center has worn off, but Paschall is still balling out for Golden State. He didn’t put up 34 points again, but he’s been a go-to piece for a suddenly depleted Warriors team just trying to scrape together some wins. He put up an admirable 15 points against a tough, defensive-minded Lakers team, and grabbed six boards against the Utah Jazz earlier in the week. He’s an undersized power forward who can put the ball on the floor, and has the strength to finish through traffic. The comparisons to Draymond Green have been stated before, and while Green is a far better player than Paschall at this time, if the Warriors happened to stumble upon the next Draymond Green, then this season will have had at least one bright spot.

8. Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers

In a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Garland committed some rookie-on-rookie crime when he crossed up stout defender Matisse Thybulle not once, but TWICE on his way to the rim for an easy layup. It wasn’t his best performance of the week, that would be the 15 points and six assists he put up against the Washington Wizards, but that single play against Philadelphia was so impressive that it deserves all the attention. 

9. De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks

Hunter has been touted for his defense. In fact, that was one of the main reasons the Hawks drafted him to pair with Trae Young on the perimeter, but as of late, he’s been getting it done on the offensive end of the floor as well. He put up 14 points and five rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers, and in a win over the Denver Nuggets, he finished with 12 points and six boards while locking up Jamal Murray on the other end of the floor. His defense may be his calling card, but don’t forget that he can fill up a stat sheet on offense as well.

10. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Earlier in the week, Knicks coach David Fizdale called his rookie, “one of the true bright spots of this team.” He’s not wrong either, Barrett has been an absolute delight to watch on the Knicks so far, despite their 3-9 record. His brightest spot of the week came in the form of a 21-point, nine-rebound performance in a loss to the Chicago Bulls, and while he didn’t put up gaudy numbers against the Dallas Mavericks in front of a playoff atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, Barrett did leave us with this gem of a highlight against last year’s Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic.

The spin, the finish, the looking at his hand as if he were on fire, Barrett was built to play under the bright lights of New York City, and Knicks fans will love him for that. It also helps that it came against the Mavericks, a team that Knicks fans spent the majority of the night booing, not just Kristaps Porzingis for obvious reasons, but nearly everyone on the Mavs any time they scored.

Dropped out

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