By Hocine LOUKKAF on 6/2/2021
With three guards dominating the rankings over disappointing and oft-injured James Wiseman, this class has displayed franchise-changing potential but also a good group of long-term contributors for the league. Among them, Ball and Edwards have undeniably been the brightest stars, Ball being the most consistent and winningest of the two.
#1 Lamelo Ball, 6-7 PG Charlotte Hornets
Stats : 15.7pts 6.1as 5.9rbds
I have to confess I was among the doubters when the Hornets drafted Ball. He was far from being efficient in an average league, the NBL and I thought he would not adapt right away to the NBA. I was awfully wrong. Lamelo started very well from outside, which was considered his main weakness (despite becoming more inconsistent over the year) but above all, he’s displayed the will to defend (1.6st) share the ball (6.1as for 2.8to) and be part of a team, where his connection with Bridges has brought showtime to North Carolina. He was slowed down by an injury in late March which may have affected Charlotte’s season but the Hornets have added very nice piece to become successful.
#2 Anthony Edwards, 6-5 SG Minnesota Timberwolves
Stats : 19.3pts 4.7rbds 2.9as
Despite a surprising win against Utah at Utah to launch the season, Edwards took much more time than Lamelo to convince. Shooting under 38% FG for January and February while only winning five games over these two months, the last #1 pick used March to prove doubters wrong as his first 30+ scoring games led to wins against Portland (32pts) and Phoenix at Phoenix with a 42-pt outburst. Edwards has still long ways to go to be a consistent outside shooter but his 40% 3pt in May is a good sign and may help him become one of the best scoring guards in the league.
#3 Tyrese Haliburton, 6-5 PG/SG Sacramento Kings
Stats : 13pts 5.3as 1.3st 40% 3pt
Not as hyped as Ball or Edwards, Haliburton may have been the most consistent of the three. Coming from the bench in most of the games, he’s averaged at least a 2.5a/to ratio while averaging 39+% from three each month (except in April). He couldn’t finish the season because of a knee injury but has clearly been a steal for the Kings.
#4 Isaiah Stewart, 6-9 C Detroit Pistons
Stats : 7.9pts 6.7rbds 1.3bl 55% FG
A workhorse inside, Stewart has been exactly what the Pistons have been looking for, a tireless big man giving it all for the team. At 19 during the season, the former Husky looked like a less athletic Wallace, acting as defensive anchor and rebounding machine, but with more offensive potential.
#5 Immanuel Quickley
Stats : 11.4pts 39% 3pt
Despite his poor performances during the playoffs, we cant not overlook the great regular season Quickley had with the Knicks. After several 20+pt games in January, the Knicks decided to trade for Rose, which hasn’t disturbed Quickley, who had his best scoring month in March. Despite his inconsistency, his 39% from three and 89% FT make him one of the most accurate players among the rookies.
#6 Jae’Sean Tate, 6-4 SF Houston Rockets
Stats : 11.3pts 5.3rbds 2.5as
A 25-year-old rookie, Tate has brought his toughness to the struggling Houston Rockets. He’s a do-it-all forward who could even more impactful with better shooting (30% 3pt). Unfortunately, he will have to wait to help a better team as he’s under contract for next year.
#7 Facundo Campazzo, 5-11 PG Denver Nuggets
Stats : 6.1pts 3.6as 1.1to
After a rich career in Europe, Campazzo came to Denver to play back-up for Jamal Murray. He’s finally starting in the playoffs as Murray has been out due to injury. After a mediocre March (2.7pts on 24% FG), he bounced back pretty well with 7.9pts 4.6as 1.3to on 42% 3pt in April. A solid contributor from the bench for Denver over the next 2/3 years.
#8 Tyrese Maxey, 6-3 SG/PG Philadelphia Sixers
Stats : 8pts 2as 0.7to
Playing for one of the contenders in the East, Maxey’s playing time has not been consistent. Neither has been his shooting efficiency two months with 20% 3pt, two months over 33% 3pt). When confident, the Kentucky alumni had some hot, albeit rare, scoring nights like his 39pts 7rbds 6as against Denver or 30pts 7rbds 6as against Orlando. Maxey seems like a future microwave a la Lou Williams from the bench and could even turn into a starter in the good roster.
#9 Xavier Tillman, 6-8 PF/C
Desmond Bane, 6-5 SG, Memphis Grizzlies
Stats : XT 6.6pts 4.3rbds DB 9.2pts 3.1rbds 43% 3pt
I decided to put Tillman and Bane together as they bring the same vet savvy from the Grizzlies’ bench despite not being as appealing as some other prospects. Tillman has been a steal in the second round as he had some impressive performances against contenders (18pts 14rbds vs Denver, 8pts 12rbds vs the Clipeprs). Bane, a late blooming senior last year, has proved his shooting could translate with an impressive 43% 3pt on four atempts per game.
#10 James Wiseman, 7-0 C Golden State Warriors
Stats : 11.5pts 5.8rbds 0.9bl
After three poor games in college, Wiseman was much rawer than expected. Bothered by injuries, the athletic center failed to prove he could be dominant right away and still has a lot to learn in terms of motor and defensive presence. His shooting, which was supposed to be a strength, has also been inconsistent with only 64% from the foul line. Yet, the potential is there but will the Warriors take the time to develop him?
Honorable mention :
Aleksej Pokusevski (7-0 PF OKC, 8.2pts 4.7rbds 2.2as 0.9bl) and Theo Maledon (6-4 PG OKC, 10.5pts 3.5as 3.2rbds) have benefited from the Thunder’s tanking as they have played a lot and displayed great potential. Poku may end up the steal of the 2020 draft with the versatility he showcased at 7ft.
Saddiq Bey (6-7 SF Detroit, 12.2pts 4.5rbds 38% 3pt) and Killian Hayes (6.8pts 5.3as) may be the future yin and yang for the Pistons, Bey being the more steady but also more limited prospect while Hayes may take more time to develop but may end up a more spectacular (better?) prospect.
Isaac Okoro (6-6 SF Cleveland, 9.6pts 3.1rbds) has brought much-need toughness to the Cavaliers’ roster. Yet, he has struggled offensively as expected and will need to develop at least a decent shot not to be considered a reach as a #4 pick.
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