ESPN writer Tim Bontemps recently held a straw poll among 70 reporters to place their unofficial votes for the NBA Rookie of the Year award with the season still in limbo due to the coronavirus.
After gathering the results, Ja Morant was the first unanimous choice to be the award winner due to his exemplary campaign this season while other standouts such as Zion Williamson, Kendrick Nunn, Brandon Clarke, and Eric Paschall got second place votes.
It’s a shame that these rookies won’t be able to show more of what they got because of the ongoing pandemic. However, they should all be commended for a job well done on their first years in the league.
Without further ado, SBOTOP takes a look on the top five rookies who have caught our eye in the 2019/20 NBA season.
RJ Barrett had a tough start in the season where he struggled with inefficiency. But as he got used to the NBA game, the Canadian leftie has shown glimpses of his potential.
A huge part of his turnaround was when the Knicks changed coaches midway during the season. Playing under Mike Miller, Barrett was given more control of handling the basketball which boosted his numbers across the board.
In fact, his top attributes that include having a high motor and a serious-minded work ethic have several scouts seeing him as a future All-Star in the foreseeable future.
“He’s going to be a good player. But the potential is there for a couple of All-Star games, like a Khris Middleton,” said an anonymous NBA exec.
Despite only averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds this season, RJ Barrett has established himself as a key cog for the Knicks. He may not win the Rookie of the Year this season, but he can carve himself a long and decent career in the NBA.
Like Barrett, Coby White also had an up-and-down season as he wasn’t given much playing time by head coach Jim Boylen.
But as the injuries continued to mount for the Bulls, Boylen had no choice but to let him loose and he’s made the most out of his opportunity.
The spitfire guard put on a historic scoring run in the franchise’s history last month as he became the first Chicago player to score at least 30 points in three straight matches since Michael Jordan.
He has formed a unique backcourt tandem with Zach LaVine as both of them can light up the scoreboard on any given night.
While the Bulls aren’t expected to make the postseason yet again, having LaVine and White should already be considered as a bright spot for the squad.
The Miami Heat have gotten a diamond in the rough in Kendrick Nunn with the way he’s performed this season.
Despite being left undrafted in last year’s draft, the 24-year-old stood out in his rookie season by averaging 15.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game in 62 matches.
Nunn has been a big presence off the bench for the Erik Spoelstra-coached squad as he would mesh well with the likes of Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk, and fellow rookie Tyler Herro to hold down the fort.
So far, he has helped the Heat in getting the fourth seed with a 41-24 win-loss card.
Ever since he made his NBA debut against the Spurs, Zion Williamson spoiled us every night by giving us some of the best NBA 2020 highlights.
The Duke alumnus is a force to be reckoned with inside the paint and in transition, as he would put up an average of 23.6 points per game on 59-per cent shooting in his first 19 games of his career.
His mere presence has revitalised a struggling Pelicans club who looked to be down and out in the standings. With him around, the Pelicans’ NBA 2020 chance of making it to the eighth seed in the West improved drastically.
All he needs to do is to improve more on his shooting stroke in order for his game to go full circle. Nonetheless, Williamson is guaranteed to have a long career in the NBA.
Ja Morant has lived up to the billing as the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft as he is poised to bring home the Rookie of the Year citation after this season.
The lanky point guard has not only performed well individually with his 17.6 points and 6.9 assists per game norms, but he has led the Memphis Grizzlies to a 32-33 record which is good for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies were projected to finish last in the West when they traded away Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz last summer. However, Morant took it upon himself to put his team in the thick of the playoff race.
Overall, Memphis have formed an intriguing young nucleus coached by an upstart in Taylor Jenkins. And if they can hold on to the final playoff berth in the West, there’s no doubt that Ja Morant should be dubbed as our Rookie of the Year.
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