Top 5 Rookie Of The Year Candidates

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY

LaMelo Ball

The 19-year-old third overall pick is the favorite to win the award. In 2018, Ball committed to UCLA as a five-star recruit but ultimately decided to take an unconventional path overseas. Ball traveled to Australia to play in the National Basketball league. He was a part of the Illawarra Hawks and earned the NBL Rookie of the Year award. His experience playing professional basketball overseas already makes him a seasoned player. He is the most NBA ready rookie and plays with a sense of composure on the court. 

Ball possesses elite court vision and has already put the league on notice with his highlight-reel assists in the preseason. The beauty of a player like Ball is that he doesn’t have to score to contribute to his team. What makes Ball so scary is that he can score with ease – his jumper is smooth, and his mid-range game is strong. His ability to break down opposing defenses and attack the paint with command makes him dangerous. 

The Hornets are expecting Ball to lead the team and will give him the keys to the offense. With the shooters that Ball finds himself surrounded by in Charlotte, his dishing skills should be fully displayed. Ball is the most hyped-up player in the draft class, making it is impossible to say he isn’t the favorite to win rookie of the year. 

Obi Toppin

Toppin, the former NCAA Player of the Year, was drafted 8th overall by the Knicks. The forward out of Dayton is New York-bred, already expressing his appreciation for his hometown team. His work ethic and passion for the game shows a high level of maturity for a rookie. In fact, Toppin is 22, somewhat old for a rookie. But Toppins’ age is definitely an advantage for the rookie. He has overcome adversity already; Having received no NCAA Division I offers out of high school, Toppin managed to play a season for Mt. Zion Preparatory school in Maryland. This helped propel him to the Dayton Flyers, where he blossomed into the versatile big man he is today. 

Standing at 6″ 9′, Toppin possesses excellent size and strength. His athleticism is tremendous, given his size, and his versatility on the offensive end makes him a dangerous scorer. He can catch and shoot the three-ball, post up smaller forwards, and can be a pick and roll threat on every possession. If the Knicks give Toppin enough opportunities, he will be one of the top rookies this season. 

Anthony Edwards

The number one overall pick comes into the league, having won the SEC Freshman of the Year award last year for Georgia. Edwards was undoubtedly the best freshman scorer in the country last season. He undeniably comes into the league touted as the draft class’ most talented bucket-getter. 

Edwards’s offensive abilities are dynamic, and Minnesota is an excellent fit for his game. Edwards will run a strong pick and roll game with Karl Anthony Towns and space the floor with his outside shooting. He even showed off his defensive abilities in the preseason, locking up Luka Doncic on a possession. Edwards will be playing alongside D’Angelo Russell, a duo that poses as one of the more underrated young guard cores in the league. 

James Wiseman

Wiseman, the 7″ 1′ center out of Memphis, is the most talented big man in the class without question. In 2019 Wiseman was ruled ineligible to play for Memphis after the NCAA found that Penny Hardaway had helped pay for Wiseman’s expenses in moving to Memphis. Wiseman ended up being reinstated and was eligible to return to Memphis after serving a 12 game suspension. 

Wiseman comes into the league playing for a contender – a situation most rookies don’t find themselves in too often. The Warriors have been lacking a center, so Wiseman’s opportunity puts himself in a position to cement himself. Wiseman is a gifted rebounder, and his presence in the paint is tremendous. He figures to run many pick and roll plays and catch plenty of lobs from Stephen Curry. Wiseman is needed in Golden State, and if he can establish himself, he will be an essential part of a playoff team in only his first year in the league. 

Cole Anthony

Since his sophomore season, Anthony has been one of the top recruits in his class. Anthony was a projected top pick, after ESPN ranked him as the number 2 player in the draft class. However, after sustaining a knee injury last season at UNC, forcing him to miss six weeks, Anthony’s draft stock plummeted. The Orlando magic drafted him 15th overall. But Anthony is out to prove he was overlooked. Anthony showed out in the preseason, finishing as the leading scorer amongst all rookies. 

Anthony has basketball in his genes as his father Greg Anthony played 11 seasons in the NBA. He doesn’t come from a humbling beginning, but his parents raised him with grounded, hard-working values. 

Anthony is a shoot-first point guard who, along with Edwards, is one of the class’s most dynamic scorers. Anthony’s creativity on the offensive end is what makes him stand out. His ability to hit tough and contested unbalanced jumpers and improvise in the paint is exceptional. He is swift and can burn defenders one on one. His quickness is also what makes him a strong and able defender with quick hands. 

As seen in the preseason, the Magic will give Anthony plenty of opportunities. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cole as a top tier rookie this season and sneak into the ROY conversation with the type of drive and passion he has.

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