Assessing the NBA’s Top Rookie Performers

Cam Cobey, Maroon-News Staff

This 2019 rookie class has made a splash in the NBA thus far in the 2019-20 campaign. In what was a class surrounded by the buzz of Zion Williamson, the future NBA superstar, it has been the rest of the class that has been contributing to their teams in a positive manner each night. Williamson has not played a single NBA regular season minute, sidelined by his torn meniscus in the preseason.

One rookie that has started to mold into a talented NBA player is Williamson’s Duke teammate RJ Barrett. Although the Knicks are one of the NBA’s worst teams, Barrett is seeing some meaningful playing time and getting good reps against NBA competition.

With the seventh most playing

minutes in the NBA, Barrett is proving to be an asset to the Knicks, increasing their offensive and defensive ratings when he’s on the court.

Barrett is very good at putting his head down and bulldozing his way to the rim, sometimes utilizing his flashy euro step. He averages 12.2 drives a game, second among rookies. He is also one of 16 players in the NBA to average 15.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game and 3.5

assists per game so far this season.

Another rookie making a splash is Murray State product Ja Morant. The Grizzlies selected Morant at number two, sandwiched between Barrett and Williamson. Morant is exactly what the Grizzlies needed, a point guard that can score and distribute. Morant is averaging almost 19 points and six assists a game, both best among rookies. Although many thought there would be a learning curve from college to the NBA for Morant, he has not shown it.

He’s hit a game winner, had a 30 point performance and added a double-double along the way. Morant has a certain pizzazz to his game; He plays loosely and creatively, and has a very strong skill set. He has an unreal crossover and behind the back dribble, can finish in crazy fashion around the hoop and possesses a strong basketball IQ for a 20 year old rookie.

An unexpected talent has come out of the Bay Area. With the injuries of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors are now one of the worst teams in the league, sitting at 2-12 on the season with arguably the worst roster in the NBA. But a bright spot for the 2015 and 2018 champs is their rookie Eric Paschall.

With their superstars out, Paschall has stepped up and proved himself as a talented player. He can shoot surprisingly well for a guy his frame—6 feet 6 inches, 255 pounds—and plays smaller than he is.

He’s agile for his size, and can pull up for a long range two or drive to the hoop. He even matched up with Lebron James and went 3-4 with six points against the King, showing he can play with just about anyone.

Lastly, out of nowhere, is the impressive rookie duo in South Beach of Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro. These two come from opposite sides of the spectrum; Nunn played at Oakland University, went undrafted and was practically unknown.

Herro was recruited out of high school, played just one season at Kentucky, and then was drafted top 15 by the Heat. The two have been killing it in the NBA. Nunn averages 17.8 points per game (PPG), 2nd among rookies and Herro sits at 13.3 PPG, 6th in the respective category. The two combine for 27 percent of the Heat overall scoring.

They play well together too. Nunn’s

explosiveness combined with Herro’s poise and shooting is a great match that works with the rest of the Miami squad that leads the Southeast division at 9-3.

These rookies have impressed thus far in the NBA, contributing in meaningful ways to their team. They will continue to flourish with more NBA minutes, and other rookies like Zion Williamson, Coby White, Darius Garland and others, will look to ignite their teams just like these rookies have done so far.