NBA rookie power rankings: Anthony Edwards dunking over competition

Krysten Peek
·8-min read

Every time it appeared LaMelo Ball was running away with the Rookie of the Year honors, another player stepped up and basically said, “Not so fast.” The Charlotte Hornets guard cruised into the All-Star break as the runaway favorite before a fractured right wrist sidelined him indefinitely.

After a 42-point performance in a win over the Phoenix Suns on March 18, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards is a serious contender for the top rookie honor.

The No. 2 overall pick, James Wiseman, is in a seven-day quarantine after missing a COVID-19 test. Other notable injuries: the New York Knicks' Immanuel Quickley is out with a left ankle injury and the Orlando Magic's Cole Anthony remains sidelined with a fractured rib and “is not really that close” to returning anytime soon.

Here’s an updated look at Yahoo Sports rookie power rankings. All stats through Saturday's games.

Anthony Edwards with two hands on the rim after a dunk.
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards dunks against the Phoenix Suns on March 18, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

1. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Previous rank: No. 3

16.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.5 apg

The No.1 overall draft pick is averaging 24 points per game since Chris Finch took over as head coach in late February. His 42-point performance was the most impressive game from a rookie this season, shooting close to 50% from the field on 31 shots. Edwards became the third youngest player in NBA history with a 40-point game.

"Our future success starts now," Finch said of Edwards after the game.

Edwards’ outside shooting still needs some work. He had to shoot 13 3-pointers in order to make four in his standout game against the Phoenix Suns. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is the most physically athletic rookie, and he’s been the most entertaining player above the rim this season. You never know when he’s going to unleash another monster dunk. Edwards has solidified a spot in the Rookie of the Year discussion with his offensive performance in the second half of the season.

2. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Previous rank: No. 2

16 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.2 apg

Ball had the most scrutiny coming in this season and had been nothing short of incredible on this young Charlotte Hornets team before suffering a fractured wrist that reportedly could end his season.

He took 158 less shots than Edwards and had a more consistent shot, shooting 45% from the field. When Ball faced LeBron James for the first time, he scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half, missing only two shots. After the game, James had high praise for the young rookie.

“I think he’s damn good [for] his age,” James said. “His speed, his quickness, his ability to make shots at all facets — in the paint, floaters, threes, he has a three-tier already and he’s going to only get better. He’s going to get better and better as the season goes on, as his career goes on.”

Ball leads all rookies in rebounds (235), assists (249) and steals (62). He was doing things that no 19-year-old should be doing in the league like his shot-fake turnaround 3-pointer against the Toronto Raptors or crossing over Deandre Ayton in a mismatch to finish at the rim.

3. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

Previous rank: No. 1

12.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.2 apg

Haliburton has been relatively quiet lately but has still found ways to be productive on the floor even when his shot isn’t falling. He still managed to dish out seven assists in a win over the Boston Celtics on March 19 after going 1-for-6 from the field and scoring only four points.

“Whatever role I need to play for this team, I’m going to do it,” Haliburton told Yahoo Sports on draft night.

He’s lived up to that, showing zero signs of discouragement. There have been stretches in the last month where he’s scored 17 points on 42% shooting from the field and other nights where his minutes have been limited due to four of his teammates scoring 20-plus points. Haliburton is second in assists in the rookie class, trailing Ball by 29 assists, and is second in field-goal percentage, shooting 47.3% (a hair better than James Harden, who is shooting 47.1%).

4. Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets

Previous rank: No. 6

10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Tate had a season-high 25 points against the Atlanta Hawks on March 16 where he did a little bit of everything, scoring at all three levels. The 6-foot-4 wing has been one of the biggest surprises of the rookie class after going undrafted and playing for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL last season. Yes, he’s 25 years old and significantly older than the other players in his rookie class, but he’s settling in comfortably in the NBA and proving to have a bright future in this struggling Rockets team. Tate recorded his first double-double this season in a loss against the Brooklyn Nets on March 3 where he dropped 12 points (5-for-10 from the field) and grabbed 10 boards.

Saddiq Bey holds the ball before shooting a free throw.
Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey looks to shoot a free throw against the Toronto Raptors on March 17, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

5. Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons

Previous rank: No. 5

10.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Bey’s role and minutes have increased as the season has gone on. The Pistons are the worst team in the Eastern Conference and it’s the former Villanova small forward who has shown the most promise on this struggling Detroit team. Bey posted 48 points in the last two games and had six 3-pointers in a win over the Toronto Raptors. He’s shooting 40% from 3-point range, 41% from the field and averaging less than one turnover a game. The Pistons took him at No. 19 in the NBA draft, and he’s looking like a huge steal as they work to rebuild the franchise.

6. Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

Previous rank: No. 7

9.8 ppg, 4.9 apg

Williams is known for his defensive presence on the court but had a season-high 23 points in a win over the Toronto Raptors on March 14. He also added six rebounds and four assists in just 27 minutes on the court. Give it a year or two, and Williams has the potential to be the best player in this draft class. He has great size at 6-foot-7 and 227 pounds, and he can already defend multiple positions. It’s the development of his offensive game that gives him the highest ceiling with comparisons to Kawhi Leonard being thrown around before he was drafted No. 4.

7. Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

Previous rank: No. 8

9.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg

Bane had a season-high 20 points in a win over the Washington Wizards on March 10 where he went 5-for-8 from 3-point range and is averaging 42.4% from deep in the month of March. There were concerns about Bane’s size coming out of college, listed at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-4 wingspan, but he appears to be getting shots off just fine. Bane is becoming a great complementary piece to the Memphis backcourt playing alongside Ja Morant.

Facundo Campazzo holds the ball in his hands as he looks for an open teammate.
Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo looks for a teammate to pass the ball to during their game against the Charlotte Hornets on March 17, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

8. Facundo Campazzo, Denver Nuggets

Previous rank: No. 10

5.2 ppg, 2.7 apg

Campazzo has dished out 18 assists in the last two games and is one of the most exciting players to watch when he’s on the floor. His minutes are limited playing behind Jamal Murray, but he’s a dream point guard to play with, always making the right pass even when he has a layup one-on-one in transition.

“I enjoy every game, and I feel like every game is my best game. It’s important to be ready with every opportunity I try to put my heart into every game,” Campazzo said after the Chicago Bulls game on March 19.

How can you not love this guy?

9. Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers

Previous rank: Honorable mention

8 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Okoro is leading the rookie class in minutes played, averaging 32.5 per game. He is a lockdown defender who is usually assigned the task of taking on the best player of the opposing team, whether that be Jayson Tatum or Zach LaVine. Okoro has also had his fair share of monster dunks this season and is one of the most dangerous players in transition, always finding ways to finish at the rim.

10. Kenyon Martin Jr., Houston Rockets

Previous rank: N/A

7.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg

Martin Jr. is the son of former No. 1 pick Kenyon Martin, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The 6-foot-6 wing played at high school powerhouse Sierra Canyon alongside Scotty Pippen Jr. and Indiana Pacers guard Cassius Stanley. The high-flying small forward spent a gap year at IMG Academy playing on the prep team before declaring for the draft. Martin Jr. got a little bit more comfortable with the pace of the NBA game while playing in the G League bubble season and is now emerging as one of the most exciting rookies to watch. He’s averaging 12.8 points per game since returning to the Rockets and at least he’s added some excitement with his incredible dunks for the fans this season.

Honorable mention:

Theo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder

Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs

Payton Pritchard, Boston Celtics

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