The 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year race appeared to be over as Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball overtook the pack and was enjoying an outstanding first season. Then, Ball fractured a wrist that will require surgery and will put him on the sideline for the remainder of the season.
Ball’s injury put a new twist on the Rookie of the Year race. How will it all play out?
The New Favorite With Ball seemingly out of the race because of the injury, the new ROTY favorite is the old favorite – Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards.
Edwards was the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft and he has certainly proven his value thus far this season. Edwards worked his way into the starting lineup and has now started 33 games for the T- Wolves. He is averaging 17.6 points and 4.3 rebounds a game.
As good as Edwards is, he is not a lock for the ROTY award. If there is anything consistent about Edwards, it is that he is wildly inconsistent. Of all qualified players in the NBA, there are only four with a true shooting percentage that is less than Edwards’. None of those four have started more than 17 games this season.
Edwards continues to score, but Minnesota continues to lose. Plus, Edwards hasn’t shot 50 percent or better in a game since January. That may open the door for another candidate.
There is some serious value in Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton who has really come on strong as the Kings make a run at obtaining a play-in spot. Prior to their recent three-game skid, Sacramento had won seven of eight games.
In that streak, Haliburton scored in double figures in all but one game, which happened to be the Kings only loss (Philadelphia). The Kings rookie went off for 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting – 4-of-5 from three-point range – against Cleveland. He scored 21 against Golden State when he shot 6-of-7 from behind the arc.
For the season, Haliburton averages 13.2 points and 5.0 assists per game. Among rookies, only Ball averages more assists per game. He also averages 1.3 steals per game, also second among all rookies.
The Kings are now 12th in the West and just a game out of 10 th place. Should the Kings earn a play-in spot, one of the big reasons will be Haliburton’s ability to create. While his ceiling might not be that of Edwards or Golden State’s James Wiseman, Haliburton is certainly worth of the ROTY in 2021.
New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley is on the outside looking in when it comes to the 2021 ROTY. Quickley has only started three games and averages 12.4 points for head coach Tom Thibodeau. Quickley is an important part of the Knicks rotation and after a 25-point performance in a close loss to the Clippers on Feb. 1, Quickley was listed at +650 to win ROTY.
Those odds have risen again with Edwards’ and Haliburton’s recent successes. Still, Quickley is an option if the Knicks can somehow pull off the unthinkable and go deep in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Otherwise, this is a two-dog race between Edwards and Haliburton. Twenty-one Rookies of the Year were No. 1 draft picks like Edwards. The last three ROTYs were a No. 1, 2, or 3 pick.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.