The 2019 NBA rookies had an inaugural season like no other due to Covid-19. While analysts were predicting Zion Williamson and Ja Morant would be future all-stars, there were several other solid players to come out of this rookie class. The season will resume in roughly 2 weeks once the teams come out of the bubble and I can’t wait to watch a game again. I think it will be interesting to see whether the hiatus had any impact on a team’s momentum or dynamics. I’ll also be watching the following 5 rookies. My guess is that it’s one of these players who may just tip the scale for their team to win the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.
5. Kendrick Nunn
Kendrick Nunn scored 112 points in his first 5 games which are the most ever by an undrafted rookie. That’s right Nunn was undrafted! Kendrick Nunn is a true guard and was playing very well before the season was paused. He even received a starting spot in the 2020 Rising Stars Challenge.
The Heat have a lot of really strong players and can go far in the playoffs if they can beat the Bucks and Celtics. Jimmy Butler is a no-nonsense all-star who brings out the best of his teammates. They also have Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard who are both big contributors and Bam Adebayo who is possibly the Most Improved Player.
4. Matisse Thybulle
As a Sixers fan, I absolutely love Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle is a defensive force in every game. He is not only a lockdown defender but he has solid defensive stats like averaging 1.4 steals a game and 0.7 blocks. He is shooting 35.2% at the 3-point line which is something the Sixers desperately need help with after letting JJ Reddick walk and trading Jimmy Butler to the Heat.
The Sixers have some great defensive players in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Al Horford but Thybulle is bringing something they need off the bench. There have also been rumors that Head Coach Brett Brown is playing Ben Simmons at Power Forward in scrimmages which would give some more time for Thybulle to shine.
On a side note, Thybulle has been trending in the news recently for his YouTube channel. He is documenting his experience living in the bubble since it is such new territory. His series is called “Welcome to the Bubble” and I recommend giving it a view.
3. Tyler Herro
The shooting machine, Tyler Herro is the second rookie Heat member on my list. Herro and Nunn complement each other nicely as Herro is more of a pure shooter and Nunn is your traditional point guard. Herro is shooting .391% from the 3-point line while averaging 12.9 points per game and 1.9 assists. He is somebody that the defense has to constantly watch or he will burn them.
Herro and the Heat are 4th in the East and have a record of 41–24. As I said earlier, there are a lot of strong players on this team and the rookie duo of Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro are great additions for this contending team.
2. Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson is #2? Yes, Zion is #2 going into the bubble because he has only played 19 games. Now he has averaged 23.6 points, 2.2 assists, and 6.8 rebounds. He is a great player and has the potential to be a superstar. He is my #2 because he doesn’t have as much to prove as #1 on this list. He went into this year as the favorite and has analysts calling for him to be Rookie of the Year. Maybe if he played a full season I’d feel differently.
The Pelicans are also 28–36 and not in the play-offs. I do love the trio of Zion, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram. They’re all young players and will probably take the Pelicans to a few championships. For this year, Zion is going to have a lot of work to get the Pelicans back in the playoff picture. They have to go against the Clippers, Lakers, and Nuggets. (If he pulls it off, I may have to revisit this list).
Zion has recently left the bubble in Orlando, Florida for personal family matters but when he returns he will be a must-see TV.
- Ja Morant
Ja Morant is my pick for Rookie of the Year. The #2 picks are averaging 17.6 points, 6.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds. He is the face of the Memphis Grizzlies who are 32–33 and currently 8th in the West. While most eyes were on Zion, Ja Morant took the NBA world by storm and is always playing hard. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he plays coming out of the bubble.
The Grizzlies have a good young core of players with Jaren Jackson Jr and Brandon Clarke. None of these players are in their prime yet and when they get there this team will be a serious contender.