The final week of the regular season is nearing completion and that means that for many of these rookies their first year will officially come to an end on Sunday. Guys like Anthony Edwards, Saddiq Bey, Isaac Okoro and Cole Anthony will be watching from home after this week as other rookies potentially get a chance at helping their teams in the playoffs. Some rookies like LaMelo Ball and Immanuel Quickley will be rotation regulars when the postseason rolls around, while other first-year players may see their minutes decreased in the playoffs. We’ll just have to wait and see how much of an impact these guys can make in their first postseason appearance
Now moving on to this week’s rankings, which will reflect a rookie’s performance on a week-to-week basis only, not the collective season. These aren’t Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top rookies this week.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup this week, Martin has been showing out in the opportunity he’s been given. He’s started the last five games for Houston and has put up 20-plus points in four of them. While this dunk below made the rounds on social media, and the ensuing reaction from Milwaukee Bucks big man Brooke Lopez who pretended to be scared when the rookie shouted in excitement created for a funny moment, what’s been most impressive about Martin’s weeklong stint as a starter is his 3-point shooting.
He’s shooting an absurd 61.5 percent from long range on over six attempts a game this week, showing that he’s far more than just a highlight dunker. He’s one of the many young players on the Rockets who has benefited from the increase in playing time over the past two months, and Houston should be very happy with his performance.
We already know Edwards can score, in fact over the course of the season he’s earned the label of a high-volume, low efficiency scorer. And while his 3-point shooting still needs some work, his efficiency from inside the arc has continuously improved. Not only is he making more shots from mid-range, but he’s showing off some of his moves in the process.
As the regular season winds down, Edwards has used the last month of the season or so to work on his finesse and efficiency, and while there’s still a long way to go for him it’s encouraging to see him focusing on aspects of his game that needs work.
Brooks signed a two-way contract with the Rockets in April, and he’s been seeing heavy minutes since being picked up. Part of that can be attributed from Houston waving the white flag on the season and letting its young players play, but it also doesn’t happen if Brooks wasn’t taking advantage of the great opportunity … which he is. He’s been put in the starting lineup for a few games, and this past week he proved that he’s a sniper from deep, shooting 50 percent from long range on nine attempts a game. He’s certainly stepped up to the moment, and it could mean good things for him past this season in the league.
It feels like every week Bey is breaking a new rookie record in the league, and this week it was the record for most 3-pointers made per game (2.4), surpassing names like Donovan Mitchell, Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard. Not only did he set a new record, but his efficiency in doing so has been unreal. He’s making 3s at a 39 percent clip, with Lillard — the next closest on the list in terms of percentage — shot 36.8 percent. Bey’s performance this season has gotten to the point where we’re going to look back on his draft positioning and think it was absolutely ridiculous that he went at 19th overall.
While it’s been great for the Hornets to have Ball back in the fold after missing significant time with a fractured wrist, it’s hard not to notice how poorly he’s been shooting from deep since his return. It’s a small sample — just eight games — but he’s shooting just 20.7 during that span, including a game in which he went 0 for 7 from downtown. On the bright side, though, while Ball’s 3-point shot hasn’t been falling, he’s still finding other ways to contribute on offense, which is what makes him so special. Whether it’s putting up 12 boards and seven assists on a night where he went 0 of 3 from deep, or going an efficient 11 for 22 from the field in that same game he missed all seven of his 3s. He still finished that game with 27 points, and was a plus-7 on the floor while the Hornets more importantly got the win. His shot isn’t falling from long range, but he brings so much more to the game that on some nights you actually might not even notice.
Let’s see what MVP candidate and fellow Sixers teammate Joel Embiid thinks of Maxey this season:
“He’s been on an off the whole season, I feel like he should be playing. The last couple games he’s played he’s been amazing to watch and he’s been doing a great job.”
Incredibly encouraging words from one of the best players in the league, and Embiid isn’t wrong, either. In a win over the Pistons this week, Maxey finished with 22 points, five boards, four assists, two steals and a block. He was doing a little bit of everything in that game and was proving that he’s deserving of more consistent playing time.
As the Sixers prepare for the postseason, it will be interesting to see if coach Doc Rivers includes Maxey in his playoff rotation, because each time he’s on the floor he’s shown that he can provide a lot for this team on both ends of the floor.
Since Markelle Fultz went down with a season-ending ACL tear in Orlando just eight games into the season, Anthony has been the starting point guard for the Magic. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity and shown his craftiness as a scoring guard, but it will be interesting to see what Orlando does when Fultz returns. They both have similar styles to their game, and Anthony, who has increased his scoring total each month this season, is proving that he should probably be in the starting lineup past this season for the Magic. In the time Orlando has had Fultz, he looked the best we’ve seen him since entering the league, but now the Magic may have a tough decision to make when next season starts.
Here’s a fun stat: Okoro became just the third rookie in Cavaliers history to record over 500 points, 50 3-pointers, 50 steals and 20 blocks in his first season. The other two? LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. If that doesn’t speak volumes on how great Okoro has been this season, then I don’t know what does. His offensive game has been coming on strong as of late, and recorded his first-career double-double against the Pacers this week, finishing with 22 points and 10 boards.
He’s already on the path to being an All-Defensive type of player later on down the line, but his improved offensive game over the last month has been what’s really exciting about Okoro. He’s putting up 16 points a game in the month of May, while knocking down 34.6 percent of his 3s, both of which are season highs for him. He’s trending in the right direction and the Cavaliers should be extremely pleased about that.
Hampton still isn’t starting games in Orlando, and it’s really only because of the logjam in the backcourt between Anthony, Gary Harris, Dwayne Bacon. But he probably should be starting, to be honest. He’s scored 15 or more points in six of his last seven games, and is shooting 50 percent from deep in the month of May. Hampton is still getting huge minutes, but he’s averaging the same amount of points as Bacon (11.1) in 45 fewer games played for Orlando this season. Bacon is a free agency after next season, and with all the young players Orlando has it wouldn’t make sense for them to re-sign him, so it would serve more purpose to give those Hampton a spot in the starting lineup right now.
The Pistons have ensured they’re not overloading Hayes in his return back from a torn labrum, as he hasn’t played in a single back-to-back since rejoining the team. He’s slowly working his way back to the starting lineup, and it’s been a treat to watch him after such a long absence. His 21-point, eight-assist, seven-rebound performance against the Bulls this week showed perfectly what Detroit was so high on him in the draft.
He was slicing and dicing Chicago’s defense, getting to the rim with incredible ease and finding an open teammate at the perfect time for an easy look. He has a smoothness about his game, and he never appears to be rushed by the defense or rattled trying to make plays in traffic. Hayes was supposed to be the focal point of Detroit’s draft, and after a long absence he’s proving to be just that.