The 2019-2020 rookie class came in as one of the most hyped up in recent memory. So far it has been a mixed bag in terms of their performance on the court. Some of the best prospects have floundered, others have lived up to their high expectations and some have come out of nowhere to impress. Here are five rookies from around the league who impressed the most in February.
5. Nicolo Melli
February Stats: 10.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 46% 3P
Nicolo Melli was a relative unknown heading into the 2019-2020 NBA season. Already 29 years old, Melli has already had a long and successful career overseas in countries such as Italy, Germany and Turkey. During the summer of 2019, he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans as a bench rotation piece.
Melli has been a big surprise for the Pelicans this season in a good way. He’s been constantly improving as the season goes along and had his best month so far in February. For the first time, he averaged in double figures for an entire month to go along with five rebounds and a block a night. His defense has also been consistent. The Pelican’s defensive rating with Melli on the court was a solid 109, the equivalent of a top 10 defense in the league.
Where Melli has truly shined is from behind the arc. He runs the stretch four role to absolute perfection at times. In February he has been laser-focused from three-point land, shooting an absolutely absurd 46 percent on five attempts per game.
4. Rui Hachimura
February Stats: 13.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 51% FG
After an unfortunate incident involving teammate Isaac Bonga in December, Hachimura missed the entirety of the month of January. Luckily for the Wizards, he hasn’t missed a beat since his return. He has a well-rounded offensive game and can score reliably from a number of different places on the court.
The one thing he was really missing was a three-point shot. Before February, Hachimura shot well under 30 percent from beyond the arc but since the beginning of February, he is shooting nearly 50 percent! Albeit that is only on 1.7 attempts per game but it still makes it a valuable part of his arsenal that opponents must be wary of, which gives him more space to work with on the offensive end.
Hachimura is a strong contender for one of the NBA all-rookie teams and if he continues the consistent play he showed in February and throughout the season he should be a lock among the league’s 10 best rookies.
3. Ja Morant
February Stats: 18.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 6.8 APG, 27 PTS 14 AST vs Lakers
Ja Morant has been the frontrunner for Rookie of the ear nearly the entire season and he continued his quality play into February, although he was regressed in a few categories. Morant continues to be easily the best passer among rookies. Running an NBA offense is no easy task and Morant has done a stellar job of it. He ranks in the top 15 in the NBA in assists while running a fast, high pace offense.
Morant did take a slight drop back in turnovers this month, he averaged nearly four per game and his assist to turnover ratio was about 2:1, not bad by any standards but a drop off from his performances in January where his ratio was closer to 2.5:1.
Morant’s scoring continues to be efficient, especially for a rookie guard. His 57 percent true shooting is nothing to scoff at and is comparable to other high scoring guards like Donovan Mitchell, Bradley Beal and Kyrie Irving. His three-point shooting did take an alarming drop off in February, from 37 to 25 percent but it is encouraging that he was able to maintain solid efficiency in spite of that.
Morant had possibly his best game of the season to end February, a beautiful 27 point,14 assist performance in a Memphis blowout victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Overall Morant had another very good month of basketball and continues to impress as perhaps the NBA’s best rookie.
2. Coby White
February Stats: 20.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.1 APG, 3 Straight Games with 30+ PTS
Before February, Coby White was well on his way to a disappointing rookie season. He was scoring inefficiently, didn’t offer much in terms of passing and was a below-average defender.
Luckily for Chicago fans, the North Carolina product has absolutely caught fire over the past month, including a scorching three-game stretch where he scored over 30 points in each game, the first time that had ever been done by a rookie bench player. He is finally scoring at an efficient rate and shot over 40 percent from deep this past month while scoring over 20 points per game.
White’s passing has also seen a dramatic improvement. He more than doubled his assists per game from January and at the same time managed to keep his turnovers relatively stable, a good sign that his passing is improving. This effect can also be seen in the Bulls offensive rating when he is on the court. The Bulls offensive rating with White on the court jumped from 95 in January to 118 in February, a jump of 23 points.
It remains to be seen whether this is just a hot streak or if Coby White has truly turned a corner but there is no doubt that he was one of the best rookies last month.
1. Zion Williamson
February Stats: 25.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 11th highest scorer in Feb.
Since finally making his NBA debut in January, Zion has put on an absolute show night in and night out. Using his unique frame and physical gifts, Zion makes a living abusing players in the low post, out hustling people for putbacks, and throwing down sick alley-oops from Lonzo Ball.
Already after barely a month of professional basketball under his belt, Zion looks like one of the best players in the league and has really cemented that fact in the month of February. He’s one of the best and most efficient scorers in the league, scoring over 25 points a night on 56 percent shooting is no easy feat, and has been a surprisingly adept passer at times. His rebounding is also very solid for an undersized forward, mostly due to his insane jumping ability.
Zion still needs some work on his perimeter game and defense but the numbers don’t lie, the Pelicans have a very special talent on their hands who has a great chance at blossoming into one of, if not the best player in the NBA.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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