NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Zion Williamson is back on top and continues to be a nightmare in the post


This was a big week for those who reside in the “Zion will win Rookie of the Year” camp. He put up a career-high 35 points in his first meeting with LeBron James, and then followed that up with two more 20-plus performances in a matchup against the Timberwolves and in his first meeting with Luka Doncic. The downside, though, is that the Pelicans lost all three of those games, making the playoff window for them close even further as they sit five games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

As I said in last week’s rankings, Zion’s Rookie of the Year chances are tied directly to whether the Pelicans make the playoffs, and after their latest heartbreaking loss to the Mavericks, it appears that those playoff hopes might be dead. Especially when Ja Morant is putting forth a herculean effort to help the Grizzlies tread water as they cling to that final playoff spot. Zion’s numbers have been crazy, and it’s been an absolute joy to watch, but any momentum he had to win ROY — and assist in New Orleans’ quest to make the playoffs — was put to an end with the Pelicans latest three-game losing streak.

These rankings will reflect a rookie’s performance on a week-to-week basis, not the collective season, so these aren’t Rookie of the Year standings. For a look at last week’s rankings, click here. With that straightened out, here are the latest Rookie Power Rankings for the 2019-20 season.

Last week: No. 2

Highlight of the week: Williamson is now on a streak where he’s put up 20-plus points in 13-straight games, including two 30-plus point performances. He’s playing bully ball down in the low post, but when the Pelicans took on the Mavericks on Wednesday, Williamson was the one being bullied by Dallas forwards Maxi Kleber and Kristaps Porzingis. Kleber did most of the heavy lifting, forcing Williamson to shoot over him, which resulted in one of the Mavs 13 blocks that night. Still, though, Williamson finished the night with 21 points in the loss and was able to adjust and out-muscle Kleber on a number of occasions. He still needs to develop a shot outside the paint, otherwise teams will try to emulate what the Mavericks did and there will be more nights of Zion falling to the floor and getting blocked. 

Last week: No. 1

Highlight of the week: Now that Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. have returned to full health for the Bulls, the debate around whether White should be starting has lost some of its foundation. However, that hasn’t slowed the North Carolina product down at all. In the Bulls loss to the Timberwolves, White led all Bulls scorers with 26 points off the bench to go with six assists. Even though he’s not starting he’s still getting 30-plus minutes a game, and with Zach LaVine sidelined with a left quad injury, White’s been the best source of offense for this struggling team.

Last week: Unranked

Highlight of the week: In an upset win over the Denver Nuggets, Paschall put up a team-leading 22 points off the bench. It wasn’t an easy 22 points, though, as Paschall started the night missing his first three shots, but when the second quarter came around, he made the Nuggets’ defense pay for giving him too much space beyond the arc, and used their eventual closeouts to drive and hit a mid-range jumper. Paschall’s game will fit right in with the Warriors system next season, and he’ll only benefit more with players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson around him.

Last week: No. 9

Highlight of the week: Even though the best game of Barrett’s young career was overshadowed by typical Knicks drama, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that he led the team to a huge upset win over the Rockets. Barrett’s known to be a high volume, low-efficiency scorer, but in back-to-back games, the Duke product had field goal percentages of 80 and 55.6 percent. It certainly doesn’t mean that he’s solved his inefficiency problems, but it shows that he’s made major improvements over the course of the season to take smarter, high-efficiency shots which will help him going forward if he’s meant to be a cornerstone piece for this franchise.

Last week: No. 5

Highlight of the week: Without Jaren Jackson Jr., Morant has had to shoulder a lot of the offensive load for Memphis over the past couple weeks. While many other teams who are hoping to make the playoffs in the West are waiting for the Grizzlies to trip up and drop in the standings, Morant has kept this team afloat, and pushed Memphis to a 3-0 week behind strong performances. The biggest win of the week was against the Lakers as not only did Memphis hold LeBron James and company to just 88 points, but Morant broke loose for 27 points, 14 assists and six boards. LeBron tipped his hat to Morant in his postgame interview, and if anyone is still debating that the Rookie of the Year award should go to anyone other than Morant, that performance should silence those arguments. 

Last week: No. 8

Highlight of the week: A 26-point outing against the Nets is the reason Reddish is on this list. However, his defensive performance in the following game against the Trail Blazers warrants a bit more attention. He finished that game with a net rating of plus-16, despite only scoring eight points, and a lot of that is due to his defense on the other end of the floor. It wasn’t that he was necessarily locking anyone up — he was tasked with guarding CJ McCollum who still put up 35 points — but he did enough to effect a few shots and make life more difficult on McCollum. Reddish played good defense, but McCollum still knocked down shots, so you can’t ask much more of a rookie defender.

Last week: Unranked

Highlight of the week: Washington has the size and strength to get points at the rim, the toolbox to knock down mid-range jumpers and the sweet stroke to hit 3s at a high clip. All of that was on display against the Denver Nuggets where he finished with 20 points and six boards. Like most rookies, though, he can be incredibly inconsistent which is why he’s cooled off lately after a hot start to the season. The skills are there on offense for him to develop into a 17-to-18 points a night player, but he has to work on putting himself in position to get enough touches per game to get him there. He’s averaging 10 shots a night, but if a long period of time passes before his next shot, he falls out of rhythm and can’t seem to find the bottom of the net. 

Last week: Unranked

Highlight of the week: Hunter is projected to become a solid 3-and-D player in the league, and over the course of the season you can see the development of him reaching that status. He already has the stout defense, but his production on the other end of the floor wasn’t quite there to start the season. Recently, though, Hunter’s become a reliable catch-and-shoot guy on the wing, and as teammates like Young and Kevin Huerter demand the attention from defenses, Hunter has been able to operate with a lot of space around him to knock down those shots.

Last week: No. 6

Highlight of the week: Hachimura is probably the most slept on rookie in this class, only because he’s putting up great numbers but doesn’t get any recognition because he’s playing on the Wizards. It might be the Brad Beal show in D.C., but Hachimura has been an incredibly efficient scorer inside the arc and a quality side piece to Beal as the Wizards are still very much in the running for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Last week: No. 3

Highlight of the week: Nunn has benefited greatly from the number of scoring weapons that surround him in Miami. Not because of the open looks he tends to get, but because if he has an off night it doesn’t hinder the team that much, as evidenced from his eight-point performance against the Magic where the Heat still won. However, it’s much more beneficial for Miami to have him putting up 15-20 points a night like he’s been doing all season because that will only make this team more difficult to defend in the playoffs. 

Dropped out

Last week: 10

Last week: No. 4

Last week: No. 7





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