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Early Predictions for the 2020-2021 NBA Rookie of the Year Award

The NBA regular season is fast approaching and we are just two weeks away from seeing the new crop of rookie players in action for the first time. With no clear best player in this year’s draft class, the Rookie of the Year race is wide open and there are a number of players with the talent and the team around them who are capable of taking home the award. Here are the top five candidates for the 2020-2021 Rookie of the Year Award with their projected stat lines.

James Wiseman

Projected Stats: 10.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 2.1 BPG

James Wiseman finds himself in an ideal situation coming into his first season in the NBA. Instead of being drafted by one of the NBA’s basement dwellers as most top five prospects inevitably are, Wiseman will be joining the Golden State Warriors, winners of three of the last six NBA titles. 

James Wiseman, potential No 1 pick in NBA draft, declared ineligible by school | College basketball | The Guardian
Wiseman shows his impressive box-out skills, courtesy of The Guardian

For many years, the Warriors only major weakness has been the center position and Wiseman immediately turns that weakness into a strength. Although he will mainly be a periphery player on the offensive end, Wiseman will figure to score at a decent clip on lobs and putbacks while providing Golden State great rebounding and shot-blocking. 

If Wiseman keeps the starting center job to himself throughout the season and cement himself in the Warriors rotation, he’ll put himself right into the middle of the Rookie of the Year conversation.

Anthony Edwards

Projected Stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 SPG

It would be a very bad sign if the first overall pick wasn’t on the Rookie of the Year watchlist to start the season but luckily Anthony Edwards should at least have a good opportunity to win the award. 

Joining a depleted Timberwolves forward core, Edwards should get plenty of minutes and shot opportunities, especially with Malik Beasley more than likely suspended to start the season. The main question mark for him is whether he’ll be able to provide efficient scoring in the NBA. He struggled with his shot selection at Georgia, shooting under 30 percent from deep. But with enough opportunities, Edwards may put up enough raw points to drag his way to the Rookie of the Year award. 

LaMelo Ball

Projected Stats: 14.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 7.3 APG, 40% FG

LaMelo Ball playing in Australia

Probably the most hyped prospect in the draft, LaMelo Ball comes into the NBA with high expectations and lots of responsibility. Since he’s expected to lead the Charlotte Hornets offense right away, he’ll get plenty of game time to show off his incredible playmaking and hopefully improve on his defense and shooting efficiency.

A lot like Anthony Edwards, Ball needs to keep his shooting splits in check in order to stay effective on an NBA court. But unlike Edwards, his passing can help carry his quality as a player. WIth good shooters around him like Devonte Graham, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward, Ball should rack up assists in bunches. If he’s able to stay healthy and hold his position as the Hornets starting point guard, Ball will most likely find himself on the All-Rookie First Team at least.

Obi Toppin

Projected Stats: 16.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG + 1.0 BPG

After an explosive sophomore season at Dayton which saw him win NCAA Player of the Year, Obi Toppin will have the eyes of New York on him after going 8th overall to the Knicks. With his well-rounded offensive game highlighted by his world-class verticality, Toppin will be an elite NBA scorer from day one who will only get better as he learns the ins and outs of a professional offense. 

Where Toppin is projected to struggle is on the defensive end. While he forces a good amount of turnovers, he also lacks lateral speed and defensive IQ. Toppin will need to improve on defensive switches and the pick and roll in order to play big minutes in a crowded Knicks frontcourt. But if his defense is good enough to earn him minutes, Toppin will be among the top contenders for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Killian Hayes

Projected Stats: 12.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 5.9 APG, 38% 3P

Hayes dribbles up the court in New Zealand

Killian Hayes finds himself in a very similar situation to LaMelo Ball, a young point guard who will immediately be handed the keys to an NBA offense. Coming out of the French A-League, Hayes has proven himself to be a more polished and NBA-ready prospect than Ball, especially in the shooting department. While he is not quite the emphatic facilitator that Ball is, Hayes still holds his own as a passer.

Where Hayes will have trouble is the level of talent around him. He doesn’t have many good shooters or lob threats on the roster and will have to improvise a lot more than Ball will in Charlotte. As a shooter, Hayes proved himself as more than reliable from beyond the arc in Europe and Detroit will be hoping that he can come in and provide a bit of added scoring touch to a Pistons team in desperate need of it. 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com

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