• Kaunda Chama

The young and gifted – NBA’s 2020 top rookies

There is nothing that pleases basketball fans and analysts more than getting new and exciting talent into a league, and watching how they fit in and perform in their rookie seasons. This can be said for all leagues around the world, including the NBA.

From the 80s that welcomed rookies like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan; the 90s with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson and Vince Carter; to the early 2000s with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Stephen Curry – rookies have come into the NBA and reminded everyone why they love the sport and the league.

However, after the 2019 draft that was headlined by bona fide stars like Zion Williamson, 2019 rookie of the year Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, Darius Garland and Tyler Herro, the 2020 youngsters seemed rather lackluster at face value and many onlookers seemed quite uninspired by them.

Fortunately, even the biggest cynics can’t help but be pleasantly surprised by what the latest bunch of NBA rookies have brought the hardwood. A lot of them, especially the top picks, are a pleasure to watch. Even after joining the league at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is ravaging the world and changing how everything is carried out, including sporting events, they have indeed put their best sneaker forward.

We looked at five players, in no particular order, who the Post Up Crew has identified as the top performing rookies in the NBA so far. These players only arrived at their franchises recently and are already playing like they have been here before.

Charlotte Hornets point guard Lamelo Ball has managed to silence doubters early in his NBA career, something that could potentially work well for his future. Although many expected him to be the first pick due to the fact that he showed that he was league-ready while playing in the Australian professional league, his father’s off-court antics had him come to the league with a target on his back, much like his elder brother Lonzo three years ago.

So far, Ball has already impressed, holding his own alongside seasoned guards like Terry Rozier and Malik Monk. Whether its scoring or assisting, the youngest of the Ball brothers looks comfortable doing both. He has already broken the record for the youngest NBA player to get a triple-double, a record once held by his brother. He has played in all of the Hornets’ 14 games this season and is averaging 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game, with a Player Impact Estimate (PIE) of 12.7.

After a couple of seasons of playing relatively small ball, the Golden State Warriors needed a young, efficient and athletic big man, and they have definitely found one in 7-foot center James Wiseman. The former University of Memphis Tiger is averaging an impressive 20 minutes per game for the Warriors and his presence is being felt in the paint.

The 19-year-old brings a lot of energy to the team, with great skill both on the offensive and defensive end, and gives Golden State a great second option, for now, at the center spot. A good scorer and rim protector, Wiseman is averaging 10.7 points, six rebounds and 0.4 assist per game with a PIE of eight.

It goes without saying that the Sacramento Kings have not had the best of luck for a good number of seasons, but every now and then they do land a good pick. Recently they have scooped the likes of D’ Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III, and in the 2020 draft, landed Tyrese Haliburton.

The fearless guard plays with the confidence and ferocity that compliments the efforts of his teammates well and his current trajectory, although only 12 games in at the time of writing this article, will see him develop into a great backcourt talent in the league.

At 6’5” Haliburton is averaging 11.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for Sac Town, with a PIE of 11.1.

With the first pick in the 2020 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Anthony Edwards from the University of Gorgia and they have not regretted it. The former Bulldog is already showing signs that he will soon be the point guard they will rely on.

Playing alongside the likes of D’ Angelo Russell and veteran guard Ricky Rubio, Edwards is well positioned, especially in a small market like Minnesota, to develop into a great guard. The number one pick is averaging 12.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game off the bench, with a 5.5 PIE. With more experience and some work on his assist game, he could soon be a walking double-double.

When Patrick Williams was drafted by the Chicago Bulls he undoubtedly joined a team with a rich history – having been home to Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Africa’s very own Luol Deng.

The 6’7” forward has already become a key piece for the franchise and is a notable presence in the team’s front court. In his 13 appearances for the team so far, he has averaged 10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game with a PIE of 6.3. Williams is a great addition to the young Bulls squad that boasts a slew of promising youngsters at the franchise as it tries to regain the glory it enjoyed in the 90s.

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