NBA: Rookies Making Their Mark Pre-All Star Break

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

As the NBA season enters the All-Star Break, several rookies have emerged as top producers for their team. LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, Immanuel Quickley, and more have piled up numbers, prevailing through sparse training camps and a quick turnaround between the draft and opening day. In this piece, we look at the top performing rookies at the halfway point of the season using regular and advanced stats (such as Win Shares), as well as Opportunity Production Rating (OPR) and FOG’s final big board rank of each prospect. 

LaMelo Ball

Stats: 15.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.6 WS, 44.9 FG% / 37.8 3P% / 80.2 FT%, 19.71 OPR

FOG Final Big Board Rank: 1

LaMelo Ball is the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year so far, and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down as the one of the most productive rookies this year (19.71 OPR)1. Recently named February Rookie of the Month, Ball leads all rookies in points and assists per game. He also ranks among the top ten in the NBA in Steal % and leads the Hornets in Defensive Box Plus/Minus. It’s no surprise that Ball has been a positive defensive metric. He has used his length to his advantage on defense when matched up on guards and has been an active defender. Offensively, his vision has been among the best of the rookie class, and his scoring ability has translated well from Australia to the NBA. Ball is a rising star who has Charlotte battling in the playoff picture.

Tyrese Haliburton

Stats: 13.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.4 APG, 2.2 WS, 49.4 FG% / 43.3 3P% / 83.3 FT%, 16.42 OPR

FOG Final Big Board Rank: 7

As the other February Rookie of the Month, Haliburton has shown why he was a steal for the Kings. He came out of college as one of the best shooters in the draft and has carried over his skillset into the NBA, with a 43.3 3P% and an Effective FG% in the top fifteen in the league. Playing a chunk of his minutes on the wing, Haliburton has defended both wings and guards well, ranking top twenty in the NBA in Steal%. Offensively, he has been Sacramento’s secondary playmaker, ranking second on the team behind De’Aaron Fox in Assist%. Haliburton has been a good secondary ball handler in the Kings’ backcourt and has been a solid defender despite a smaller frame. Ranking second to only LaMelo Ball in Win Shares among rookies, Haliburton projects as an efficient scoring guard with playmaking ability and two-way potential.

James Wiseman

Stats: 11.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.6 WS, 51 FG% / 37 3P% / 62.9 FT%, 14.77 OPR

FOG Final Big Board Rank: 3

When selected, James Wiseman was thought to be a cornerstone for Golden State, and he has shown the potential to develop into a top option for the team. Despite missing some time due to injury, Wiseman has been an efficient bucket-getter when on the court. Averaging 11.8 points in 20.8 minutes per game with a 51 FG%, he has a top three Usage Rate on the Warriors. Defensively, Wiseman has started developing as a rim protector, with a Defensive Rebound% and Block% that rank best on the team. His length has provided balance to the Warriors lineup and he should continue to boost the team’s interior play. Surrounded by veteran champions, Wiseman is on a trajectory for success.

Immanuel Quickley

Stats: 12.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.9 WS, 38.9 FG% / 38.1 3P% / 94.2 FT%, 20.01 OPR

FOG Final Big Board Rank: 34

For the surprisingly hyper-competitive Knicks, Immanuel Quickley has been a highly productive shot in the arm in the backcourt. Coming off the bench, Quickley has shot the ball well from three-point range and has shown the ability to knock down mid-range jump shots as well. He is also an excellent free-throw shooter (94.2 FT%) and has been a focal point of the Knicks’ offense when on the court, with the highest Usage Rate on the team. Defensively, Quickley has room for improvement, but has been an active defender under Tom Thibodeau’s scheme and has shown plenty of defensive upside. One of the late first-round surprises of the draft, Quickley has the tools to be a three-level scorer in New York with a role that can only continue to expand.

Saddiq Bey

Stats: 9.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.5 WS, 40.9 FG% / 39.3 3P% / 85.7 FT%, 12.92 OPR

FOG Final Big Board Rank: 20

Amidst a struggling Pistons team, Saddiq Bey is one of the lone bright spots for Detroit’s future. The forward has been an outside shooter, with 69.3% of his field goal attempts from three and his average field goal attempt distance at 19.6 feet. In addition to the volume, Bey has been efficient, making just under 40% of his threes. Defensively, he could use more development, but his size helps him defend wings and get physical as a rebounder. Bey’s maturity as a scorer combined with his size on the wing give him the potential to grow into a scrappy Harrison Barnes-type player who could be a glue guy for Detroit going forward.

Desmond Bane

Stats: 9.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 WS, 47.8 FG% / 44.3 3P% / 87.5 FT%, 10.98 OPR

FOG Final Big Board Rank: 21

Another late first-round surprise, Desmond Bane has been a pleasant producer for Memphis on the wing. Arguably the best three-point shooter out of the 2020 draft so far, Bane has a 50.7% 3P Attempt Rate (top three on the Grizzlies), making 44.3% of them (top 15 in the NBA). Additionally, Bane ranks top two on the Grizzlies for both Effective FG% and True Shooting% and has flashed the skills to be a mid-range shot-maker as well. While he isn’t the flashiest defender, Bane has the IQ and versatility (has spent minutes everywhere except the five) to quietly limit opposing scorers. Bane’s shooting coming off the bench will play a key role for a Memphis team squarely in the hunt for the postseason.

Other Rookies to Watch:

Tyrese Maxey, 76ERS: 8.0 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 WS, 45 FG% / 27.3 3P% / 88 FT%, 13.03 OPR

Cole Anthony, MAGIC: 11 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, -0.1 WS, 37.5 FG% / 32.5 3P% / 83.6 FT%, 12.42 OPR

Anthony Edwards, TIMBERWOLVES: 14.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, -0.9 WS, 37.1 FG% / 30.2 3P% / 80.5 FT%, 11.99 OPR

Jae’Sean Tate, ROCKETS: 9.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.2 WS, 53.6 FG% / 31.9 3P% / 75.4 FT%, 11.74 OPR

Payton Pritchard, CELTICS: 7.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 WS, 45.7 FG% / 40.2 3P% / 94.4 FT%, 10.74 OPR

Patrick Williams, BULLS: 10.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 WS, 47 FG% / 39 3P% / 78.8 FT%, 10.08 OPR

Theo Maledon, THUNDER: 7.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.4 WS, 39.4 FG% / 35.4 3P% / 75 FT %, 9.02 OPR

*Stats via Basketball Reference, as of March 4th, 2021

1Opportunity Production Rating (OPR) derived using player per 100 possessions stats: A 10-16 OPR is “normal” production, a 25+ OPR is “superstar” production, and a below 7 OPR is greatly underperforming production.

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