NBA rookie rankings: Welcome back to the top three, LaMelo Ball

Krysten Peek
·9-min read

LaMelo Ball made his highly anticipated return to the court for the Charlotte Hornets this past weekend and did not disappoint. The return of Ball has put the pressure back on Anthony Edwards as the Rookie of the Year race heats up. Tyrese Haliburton is also playing the best he’s played all season after De’Aaron Fox was placed in the league's health and safety protocols.

There are a couple newcomers to the top 10, and Orlando Magic point guard Cole Anthony cracks the top five for the first time this season. Below are Yahoo Sports’ latest rookie power rankings. All stats are through Sunday’s games.

1. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Previous rank: No. 1

18.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.8 apg

The No. 1 pick from the 2020 NBA draft remains atop of the power rankings after averaging 27 points, seven rebounds and 4.5 assists in the last two games. Edwards led the Timberwolves to their first overtime game of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans and came up short. Edwards has consistently put up big numbers night after night, and if the shooting guard closes out the season the way he’s been playing recently, it will be hard for LaMelo Ball or Tyrese Haliburton to catch him. Edwards has been incredible this season. He’s delivered amazing poster dunks, became the third-youngest player in NBA history with a 40-point game and made some high-level athletic plays all season long (not to mention he kept everyone entertained off the court with some of his postgame interviews).

LaMelo Ball with the ball in his hands going against Max Strus toward the basket. Ball's mouth is open in a yelling manner, while Strus has one arm raised to defend.
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball drives to the basket past Miami Heat guard Max Strus during the second half of their game on May 2, 2021. Ball returned to the court this weekend after recovering from a fractured wrist. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

2. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Previous rank: N/A

15.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.2 apg

Ball did a little bit of everything in his first game back since March 20. He had 11 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 28 minutes. He had one of his flashiest passes of the season when he threw an underhand pass 80 feet to Miles Bridges in transition for the easy bucket.

“It kind of felt normal, I’m not even going to lie to you,” Ball said of the pass after the game.

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The Hornets went 10-11 without Ball and fell to No. 8 in the Eastern Conference. With Ball back on the court to close out the season, the three-man race for Rookie of the Year will undoubtedly heat up.

3. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

Previous rank: No. 3

13 ppg, 3 rpg, 5.3 apg

Here are Haliburton’s stats from his past three games before he left Sunday's win over the Dallas Mavericks with an injury:

  • 23 points, 10 assists (win over the Lakers)

  • 13 points, eight assists (loss to the Jazz)

  • 14 points, 10 assists (win over the Mavericks)

There isn’t a rookie who is playing better than Haliburton in the last two weeks. He injured his knee Sunday and is expected to get an MRI on Monday.

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Haliburton stepped up in a big way in De’Aaron Fox’s absence and is one of the best young playmakers in the league. The future is bright in Sacramento, and Haliburton is a serious contender for top rookie honors this season.

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4. Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

Previous rank: No. 9

12.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.3 apg

Anthony hit the winner against Memphis on Saturday night and then had the best postgame interview of the entire season. “I do this, man. I do this,” he said. “I was built for this. I live for these end-of-the-game moments. That’s my time.”

Anthony has been incredible since returning from a fractured rib at the beginning of April. The former North Carolina point guard was sidelined for more than a month before making a triumphant return to the court. He’s averaging 15 points, 5.4 assists and five rebounds in his 14 games back with this young Magic team. He finished with a season-high 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the win over Memphis. This was Anthony’s second winning buzzer-beater this season after he hit a deep, fadeaway three off the dribble against the Timberwolves early in the season.

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5. Saddiq Bey,Detroit Pistons

Previous rank: No. 2

11.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.3 apg

Bey is leading all rookies in 3-pointers made and is 25th in the league with 148. The former Villanova wing is the best three-and-D guard in this draft class and knocked down five 3-pointers, grabbed seven boards and had five assists in a loss to Charlotte on Saturday night. Bey isn’t a fan favorite for Rookie of the Year, but he’s definitely done enough this season to be in the conversation. He’s completely demolished the record for most 3-pointers by a rookie in franchise history, passing Brandon Knight, who made 106 and is one of the most consistent players this season.

6. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

Previous rank: No. 4

11.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.1 apg

Quickley was the 25th pick in the draft and is completely outplaying his draft spot this season. The Knicks have a lot of young star power with Julius Randle having the best season of his career and RJ Barrett averaging 17.6 points per game this season. Still, Quickley finds ways to add value every minute he’s on the court, whether it’s his deadly floater in the lane or hitting a deep 3-pointer from the logo. In his first season in the league, Quickley is already getting noticed by some of the best players in the NBA.

“His floater game is off the charts,” Paul George said in January. “I like him a lot, and what I like the most about his game is actually a hard quality to find, he’s fearless.”

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7. Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons

Previous rank: N/A

7.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.8 apg

The Pistons are struggling to win games this season, but if there’s any silver lining for fans, all three rookies are showing long-term promise for the franchise. Stewart entered the league as one of the most physically ready bigs in the rookie class, and he’s held his own in the lane throughout the season. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward had a great four-game stretch in April where he averaged an impressive 16 points, 14.3 rebounds and two blocks per game.

“For me, I just want to continue to work and build on my game,” Stewart said after an April 16 win over the Thunder where he grabbed 21 rebounds. “That’s the most important thing for me. I watch a lot of film and am just trying to learn from all my mistakes this year and get better.”

Stewart brings an energy on defense that reminds head coach Dwane Casey of other great Pistons players. "He fits the Ben Wallace mode. He fits all the big guys, Rasheed Wallace, the history of big men in the Pistons history," Casey said. "I told him he wants to be like Ben Wallace."

8. Facundo Campazzo, Denver Nuggets

Previous rank: No. 10

5.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.3 apg

The 30-year-old rookie recorded his first double-double of the season on April 28 when he dished out 10 assists and added 19 points (6-for-9 from the field, 3-for-6 from 3-point line) in a win over the Pelicans. The Nuggets have won five games in a row, and Campazzo is averaging 10.6 points and 7.4 assists in 32 minutes per game. The 5-foot-10 point guard is playing alongside MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic and has been knocking down open shots when the defense collapses on Jokic and finds him in the lane for easy buckets.

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9. Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets

Previous rank: No. 7

11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.4 apg

Tate had his best month of the season in April where he averaged 13 points, nearly two steals and four assists per game. Unfortunately, the Rockets only won three out of 16 games last month. Tate has been a consistent playmaker and has a solid mid-range game but will need to develop his 3-point shot to become the triple-threat guard the Rockets need for the future (he’s shooting just 30% from 3-point range). Defensively, Tate leads all rookies in steals with 84 total steals; Edwards and Haliburton are both second with 76 steals each. Tate is a phenomenal rebounder for his 6-foot-4 frame and is a solid on-ball defender. Head coach Stephen Silas moved Tate to the three-guard position, and it has allowed more space for Tate on the wing to create for others.

10. Trent Forrest, Utah Jazz

Previous rank: N/A

1.6 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 1.5 apg

Donovan Mitchell has been sidelined with an ankle sprain since April 16, allowing some extra minutes for the two-way rookie. Forrest is averaging 17 minutes the last three games and hit a key 3-pointer to extend the lead to five with six minutes left in a close game against the Raptors. The Jazz won 106-102 and are tied for first place in the Western Conference.

“Trent was amazing,” Rudy Gobert said. “I don’t think we win this game without him and the minutes that he gave us in the third and the fourth.”

Forrest had his best game of the season in a win over the Kings where the former Florida State guard finished with nine points and six assists. Mitchell was quick to give Forrest high praise right after the game, and Forrest is expected to see plenty of minutes with both Mitchell and Conley continuing to rehab injuries.

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Honorable mention

Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

KJ Martin, Houston Rockets

Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks

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