2021 PBT Awards: Rookie of the Year

Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball and Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Kurt Helin

1. LaMelo Ball (Hornets)

2. Tyrese Haliburton (Kings)

3. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)

LaMelo Ball wins this one comfortably. It wasn’t just the jaw-dropping passes gone viral that started almost day one, nor was it how much better he was shooting from three or on defense than expected. It’s how all of that impacted winning — Ball helped lift up the Hornets and get them to the play-in game. He was essential for them in a way few rookies are to a team.

Anthony Edwards came on late and in the final couple of months of the season was clearly the second-best player in this class, and if you only looked at those months you could make a case he deserves this award. But I also looked at the first months of the season, when Edwards struggled adapting his game to the NBA and being efficient. Edwards was simply not good the first half of the season, and while he deserves credit for where he ended up I will reward the Kings’ Haliburton for his consistency and impressive play from the start.

Dan Feldman

1. LaMelo Ball (Hornets)

2. Tyrese Haliburton (Kings)

3. Immanuel Quickley (Knicks)

LaMelo Ball was awesome, driving winning in a way few rookie point guards do. His exquisite passing stole the show, and he was a plus rebounder for his position. But he also had fewer weaknesses than expected. He was a solid outside shooter and reasonable defender.

Tyrese Haliburton also translated to the NBA better than expected. He’s a creative passer and knockdown outside shooter. But he also looked more like a conventional NBA guard than anticipated.

The biggest expectation-exceeder of the bunch, Immanuel Quickley looked so comfortable in control off the Knicks’ bench. He’s a smooth outside shooter and far better playmaker than he showed at Kentucky.

Quickley narrowly outpaced popular candidate Anthony Edwards and a couple role players, Pistons center Isaiah Stewart and Rockets forward Jae’Sean State. Edwards came on very strong at the end, but he had so many destructive games early. Those also count when I’m judging full-season contributions.