As many of the awards for this NBA season will soon be announced, there has been a lot of speculation about who deserves the Rookie of the Year (ROY) Award. The three finalists for the award are Lamelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and Tyrese Haliburton. All three have had incredible rookie seasons, though it’s safe to say that the winner comes down to Edwards and Ball due to the fact Haliburton is playing behind All-Star caliber Point Guard De’Aaron Fox. Picks #1 and #3 in the 2020 NBA Draft, they both have a chance to become future All-Stars in the league.
Some factors that should go into deciding the ROY Award are the impact that rookie makes on their team, statistics, how well they adjusted to the NBA, and how many games they played. This is why in 2012, Michael Carter-Williams won the ROY Award as he became the lone young star on the tanking Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 17, 6, and 6. So this year, who deserves the ROY? Lamelo Ball or Anthony Edwards?
Category 1: Impact
First, let’s look at the impact each of these players have had on their respective teams. Last season, shortened by COVID-19, the Hornets finished with a dismal 23-42 record, or a .354 winning percentage. The Timberwolves were even worse, sporting a 19-45 record, or a .297%. In the 2019-2020 season, the Hornets were the 10th seed and the Timberwolves were the 14th seed. So, how has that changed this year?
This year, the Hornets were once again the 10th seed, but if it wasn’t for a loss against Washington in their last regular season game, they would have been the eighth seed. The Hornets were a much improved 33-39, or a .458%. They made the play-in with the help of Lamelo Ball and the team’s young core, and they have a very bright future.
This year, the Timberwolves were the 13th seed, and their record improved slightly as well, from 19-45 to 23-49. Their seeding and wins went up in a shortened season, which is something, but at the same time, they haven’t slipped out of the lottery, and are contending for a top three pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
In Ball’s rookie season, the Hornets improved by 10 wins, while the Timberwolves improved by four wins. Category 1 goes to Ball.
Category 2: Statistics
For his rookie season, Ball averaged 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.6 steals on 43.6% shooting from the field, and 35% from three. These are great numbers that show an all-encompassing point guard who will have many triple-doubles in his future. Ball also has a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 17.5, and averaged 2.8 win shares per game.
Edwards, on the other hand, averaged 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.1 steals on 41.7% shooting from the field. It’s understandable that Edwards scores more points and dishes out less assists, as he is a shooting guard, and is not expected to distribute the ball and facilitate the offense. On the other hand, Ball’s assists come from Miles Bridges, Terry Rozier, and PJ Washington, while Edwards can pass to All-Stars D’Angelo Russell, Karl Anthony-Towns, and 20+ point per game scorer Malik Beasley. Edwards is also shooting 32.9% from three and 77.6% from the free throw line.
In every statistical category save for scoring, Ball beats out Edwards. This includes both player’s per 36 minutes and per 100 possession stats, which show how much a player would average in 36 minutes of playing time and 100 straight possessions on the court.
Ball (per 36 minutes): 19.7 points, 7.7 assists, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals per game
Edwards (per 36 minutes): 21.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals per game
Ball (per 100 possessions): 26.7 points, 10.4 assists, 10.0 rebounds, 2.7 steals per game
Edwards (per 100 possessions): 28.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.7 steals per game
It’s safe to say that, statistically, Ball is the better rookie.
How They Adjusted to the NBA(and Injuries):
When it comes to debut games, Edwards had a better first game than Ball did. Edwards relies heavily on his athleticism, which didn’t take to long to adjust to the NBA. Edwards also desperately needed to succeed for a not so great Timberwolves franchise, so he got to start and received many more touches than Ball did1. He scored 15 points, adding in four rebounds and four assists in his first game. Ball, on the other hand, didn’t score at all in his first game. However, he also didn’t start at this time, as the Hornets have two other great, young point guards in Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier.
Ball would soon adjust to the NBA, as in his fourth ever game he would score 22 points. His first career triple-double would happen 10 games in, and we all got a glimpse at how great a one-two punch Ball and Miles Bridges would be.
Edwards continued to score in double figures, but never grabbed more than 10 rebounds or dished out 10 assists. Neither had a very difficult time adjusting, but it feels as though Ball has a higher basketball IQ than Edwards, and knows what to do in just about every situation once he gets the feel for it.
The one thing that holds back Ball’s case for ROY is his wrist injury. After falling awkwardly in a game, Ball was forced to miss 20 games, and if last year’s ROY race taught us anything, it’s that injuries to the best rookie can cause him to lose. Ball still played a large majority of the season, and in a condensed season, anything can happen.
It seems that if you look past Ball’s injury, the ROY argument isn’t that much of an argument. What do you think? Is Ball the ROY or is it Edwards? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!
1: One could argue from this point, if Edwards was immediately starting and Ball had to wait, doesn’t that mean Edwards was better? No. Minnesota had no other blossoming shooting guards at the time, and the Hornets had three good point guards. If you’re still not convinced, look at the Timberwolves win total one more time and each player’s win shares.
One thought on “Who Deserves the Rookie of the Year Award?”
While Lamelo Ball was the front runner until hit with that wrist injury, I think the ROY will be Anthony Edwards.