Adam Silver Concerned Wave Of Positive Tests Inside Bubble Could Stop Restart Plan
With only 22 teams invited to Orlando to participate in the NBA’s restart plan, that put an end to a significant number of rookie seasons around the league. R.J. Barrett, Coby White, P.J. Washington and others will have to wait until the 2020-21 season to continue their NBA careers. But, there are still a handful of rookies heading to Disney World who will get the opportunity to finalize their first year in the NBA. Some will even get the chance to compete in the playoffs, or help lead their team to the postseason.
While the pool of rookies may be smaller now that eight teams are out of the picture, there are still plenty of first-year guys to watch when the NBA returns on July 30. Based on what each rookie did before the season was postponed, and what to expect from them heading into Orlando, here are the latest Rookie Power Rankings for the NBA restart.
Before the hiatus, the Pelicans were being cautious with their No. 1 overall pick, after the former Duke standout missed half of the season recovering from knee surgery. In just 19 games, though, he was like a freight train, bullying anyone in the low post standing in his way. Now, with four months to fully recover, and to get into even better shape, Williamson and the Pelicans will be in a prime position to try and fight their way into the playoffs. There wasn’t a team that could slow Zion down before the pandemic hit, so it’ll be interesting to see if he picks up right where he left off back in March when games resume.
If it weren’t for Williamson coming in and snatching the spotlight for 19 games, Morant would be the unquestioned Rookie of the Year. While that may still hold true, given his electrifying performances all season long, securing the Grizzlies a playoff spot would end that discussion. Early on in the season, Morant immediately became a young star on the rise capable of leading a team to a championship one day. With each dazzling no-look or over-the-shoulder pass, and crossover to the basket, Morant cemented himself as a future face of the league. When he gets to Orlando, he’ll have a fully healthy Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke to shoulder the weight with him.
Nunn has been the surprise rookie of the season, who first showed out against the Houston Rockets in a preseason game. Now, he’s become a regular starter for the Heat, and an integral piece to their success. he may not be the player everyone comes to see like Morant or Williamson, but Nunn’s role is even more important as a rookie because he’s playing on a team that has higher aspirations than just making the playoffs. The Heat have the ability to upset some teams in the East with their depth and shooting, and Nunn, along with another Heat rookie on this list are a major part of that.
The Wizards are completely depleted heading into Orlando after Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opted out. What that means for Hachimura is that he’ll instantly become the star of the show for eight games at Disney World. The offense will likely run through him a bit more without Beal there, which will give him the opportunity to work on his game more, and give him and Washington the freedom to try different things out. Hachimura alone isn’t enough to push the Wizards into the playoffs, or even a play-in game, but having him get game reps will only help his game for the future.
Along with Nunn, Herro has been one of the surprise pieces that has transformed Miami from a middling Eastern Conference team to a dark horse that could become a contender. His marksman-like shooting has proven big on multiple occasions for the Heat, but he’s also more than just a spot-up shooter. He can put the ball on the floor and create for himself a little bit, and has proven to be a quality rebounder. The eight-game seeding schedule will act as a warm-up for Herro and the Heat as they get ready for the postseason, as the real test for he and Nunn will be how they perform under pressure in the playoffs.
Morant might be the most exciting player on the Grizzlies, but Clarke may just be one of the most important. He’s a Swiss army knife with ridiculous athleticism that makes him a constant threat in transition. His effective field goal percentage (64.8 percent) is astronomical for a rookie, and he’s already perfected his mid-range floater. Clarke missed the last eight games before the season was postponed with a quad injury, but is expected to be fully recovered in Orlando. With Clarke back in the rotation, the Grizzlies have a far better chance to hold onto that final spot in the West playoffs now.
Davis has often been overlooked this season because he’s playing on the defending champions, where there are several players above him in the pecking order. Still, though, when the Raptors needed him to step in after several injuries occurred, he answered the call better than anyone could’ve expected for an undrafted player. The combo guard out of Ole Miss ranks in the 78th percentile among spot-up shooters in the league per Synergy Sports and is shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from beyond the arc. If he’s able to continue what he started earlier in the season in Toronto, he may just be a secret weapon for the Raptors when they begin their journey to defend their title.
Dort’s performance before the hiatus earned him a four-year, $5.4 million NBA contract with the Thunder heading into Orlando, no longer making him a two-way player. That contract was rightfully earned, as he’s been a defensive stopper for the Thunder in numerous situations. He’s had to check some of the best guards in the league, like James Harden, Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell, and more than held his own in each matchup. His 6-9 wingspan and lateral quickness make him a pest on defense, and as Oklahoma City plans to make life difficult for whichever team it faces in the playoffs, Dort will be at the center of it all.
Thybulle is already among the best in the league in generating steals and being an all-around disruptor on the defensive side of the ball, and when he’s on the floor with Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson, Philadelphia has one of the best defensive trios in the league. On offense, he appeared to be a valuable 3-point shooter through the first two months of the season when he was knocking down 50 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. However, he hit a wall in January, and went ice cold, shooting 26.8 percent from deep. His defense makes him invaluable to the Sixers, especially when the playoffs start, but if he can’t find his shot in Orlando, he’ll become a liability on offense and cause floor-spacing issues that could hinder Philly.
Porter has had a sporadic rookie season in Denver, mainly because the Nuggets already have a wealth of depth that they don’t really need him too often. However, when he is given the green light on offense, he can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor, and his 6-10 frame makes him switchable on defense. He may not see the court very often in Orlando, or injuries may set in for Denver, which could push him further up the depth chart. If the latter happens, Porter has proven that he can step in at a moment’s notice, and occasionally turn out a 15-point performance. If he performs well, he may just be the best secret weapon Denver could’ve asked for.