Post All-Star Break Rookie Juice Rankings

The 2020 rookie class was heralded as one of the weakest in the last 20 years. There were no clear cut future stars, and every prospect had at least one fatal flaw that would keep them from becoming and NBA superstar. Halfway through the season and it looks like most draft experts were super wrong about this class and deserve to be called out for their slander against bonafide future stars like LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and Tyrese Haliburton. 30-some odd games into this wonky season and the rookies have somehow outshined even the rosiest of projections, overcoming zero offseason, a limited training camp, and dealing with the chaos of the pandemic at tender ages. While it probably won’t go down as the greatest draft of all-time, the 2020 NBA Draft is definitely better than anyone could have ever imagined.

1.) LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Stats: 15.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.4 apg

New Melo has been the leader in the clubhouse for this new, prestigious made up award all season. Leading into the 2020 NBA Draft Ball had plenty of detractors and it seemed to be a 50-50 chance he would either be the next Magic Johnson, or perhaps some version of Michael Carter-Williams. Either all-time great or all-time chump seemed to be the thought about Ball for months, and 30-something games into his career new Melo has exceeded even the loftiest of expectations for his rookie season. LaMelo is one of the most exciting players in the entire league, throwing lobs and skip passes all over the court to mediocre dudes like Miles Bridges and Malik Monk. He has the normally woeful Hornets in the 6th seed in the East and currently clear of the play in tournament. Ball looks like one of the next crop of great young players who will be one of the best players in the NBA for the next 15 years.

2.) Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Stats: 15.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.5 apg

It took a while but the first-overall pick in the NBA draft is finally showing critics that perhaps the Timberwolves actually knew what they were doing when they selected Edwards ahead of Ball and James Wiseman. The 19-year-old from Georgia looked like he was in way over his head in the truncated pre-season, and a lot of his struggles plagued him throughout the first half of the regular season. Edwards struggles to make shots and is shaky from three, but holy shit is he an athletic terrorist when he gets a head of steam going to the rim. He threw down what will easily be the dunk of the year against the Raptors, and has a dozen other insane highlights across his first 36 games. In the eight games since Chris Finch took over as head coach Edwards is averaging 22 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on shooting splits of 39.6/31.9/82.1. Edwards is well on his way to becoming one of the most popular young players in the NBA and has started to show that he can actually help the Timberwolves win some more games.

3.) Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

Stats: 12.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.2 apg

Haliburton has been as steady as a 10-year vet all while playing on the least steady team in the NBA (friggin Kangz). The 21-year-old shooting guard has shown the ability to knockdown any shot and is hitting a blistering 43 percent from three as a rookie. Haliburton is already an above average playmaker with 5.2 assists as a nice compliment to De’Aaron Fox. Some people think Haliburton’s ceiling may be a little bit lower than Ball, Edwards, and even Wiseman, but he already has show an incredibly high floor in which to improve upon. Now just get as far away from Sacramento as possible, Haliburton sure would look great in a Spurs jersey wouldn’t he?

4.) Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

Stats: 12.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.4 apg

The Knicks knocked the 2020 draft out of the park, but surprisingly not for their top pick. The Knickerbockers chose Dayton phenom Obi Toppin with the 8th pick in the draft, but it’s their 25th pick Quickley that has helped steer the Knicks back to relevance. Quickley is already showing flashes of becoming the next Lou Williams/Jamal Crawford type slasher scorer who already has one of the best floaters in the game. Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett, and Quickley are the wonky, talented young core that against all odds will be the saviors of Madison Square Garden.

5.) Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

Stats: 10.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.3 apg

The Bulls are back and a lot of it is thanks to their young core, of which Patrick Williams is a key cog in the machine. Williams is a perfect fit in the frontcourt alongside Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Thaddeus Young. While Williams probably doesn’t have a future as an NBA superstar, he has the tools to grow into an important role player on a perennial playoff team.

6.) Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons

Stats: 10.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 apg

One of the lone bright spots for a Pistons team that once again is the most boring team in the NBA. Killian Hayes was supposed to be the top rookie in the Motor City, but since his injury Bey has taken that title. Bey is a nice sized wing who can knock down a three and give the Pistons a boost off the bench.

7.) Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets

Stats: 9.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.6 apg

Undrafted Tate has come out of nowhere to find himself in a solid rotation spot with the Rockets in the aftermath of the James Harden trade. Tate fills a lot of needs for the Rockets who have lost 16 straight games. Tate rebounds extremely well for a 6’4″ small forward and cam provide a little defense, something James Harden never did.

8.) James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

Stats: 12 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.6 apg

The plight of James Wiseman over the last 18 months makes the 19-year-old seven-footer the most interesting rookie in the NBA. Wiseman was the presumptive favorite to be the top pick in 2020 until he was barred from playing for Memphis after three games for improper benefits given to Wiseman’s family. Nobody saw him play basketball for a year afterwards, causing his draft stock to drop with pundits unsure of his talent level. Eventually Wiseman was taken second by the Warriors, a team with a roster full of key members of the Warriors dynasty that won three championships. Adding a talented big man in Wiseman was a gamble for Golden State, how would he fit in with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? The answer is we still don’t know since Thompson is out with an Achilles injury. Wiseman has had an up-and-down rookie year moving in and out of the starting lineup, while facing criticism from head coach Steve Kerr. Wiseman still looks like he’ll be able to blossom into a good Center in the NBA, but his path to stardom has gotten just a little bit more difficult than we originally thought.

9.) Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

Stats: 9.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.3 apg

Bane gives the Grizzlies yet another young player to mix in with budding superstars Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson. At 45.1 percent, Bane is already one of the best long range shooters in the NBA and will fill an important role off the bench for a Grizzlies team fighting for a playoff spot.

10.) Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons

Stats: 5.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.7 apg

Giving the Pistons some big beef in the middle, Stewart has been a lot of fun to watch on the lowly Pistons. Stewart is a tough guy who will be a fan favorite in Detroit for years to come.

2020-21 NBA Preseason Rookie Juice Rankings

The 2020-21 NBA season is going to be one of the weirdest years in sports history. After Covid-19 ravaged the globe and stopped professional sports in March, the NBA bubbled up in July after four months off. The Bubble ended in October, and led to the most compressed offseason we’ll ever see. On top of all of this, the 2020 Rookie class is one of the weirdest in recent history. While there is a nice amount of talent, there is no clear cut superstar in this crop, leading to a lot of mystery surrounding the draft. While there is no Zion Williamson or Ja Morant or bonafide stars right away in this class, there are plenty of players who will get a lot of action early on this season. For me the action is the juice so this season we’re introducing the NBA Rookie Juice Rankings.

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One part rookie of the year rankings, one part swag rating, one part team impact, one part popularity. The rookie juice rating takes this all into account and lets you know which rookie is having the biggest impact on the NBA this season. Past winners of the rookie juice ratings if that were a thing before right now would have been Ja Morant, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, and Darius Miles.

1.) LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Speaking of juice, the youngest Ball brother will likely have the keys to the Hornets offense from the tip this season. The third pick in the draft is the biggest enigma of this season’s rookie class. During the pre-draft process, teams couldn’t decide if Lonzo’s brother was the next coming of Magic Johnson, or Michael Carter-Williams. Michael Jordan and the Hornets will give Ball every opportunity to show what kind of player he can be as a rookie. While the volume will be there, the quality of play will be interesting to watch. LaMelo struggled in his first preseason game going 0-5 with four turnovers, but grabbed 10 rebounds. Preseason stats don’t matter at all but watching him play you really notice two things: his shot looks like mine which is to say it’s really bad, like you’re trying to throw a football with two hands, but he is already one of the sexiest passers in the game. He is already throwing up transition lobs and half court dimes to his new teammates. Time will tell if he actually has what it takes to become a star, but it’s going to be a pretty fun ride for the next few years.

2.) Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers

This might surprise a lot of people because Okoro wasn’t the flashiest draft pick this year but he’s in a great situation to make an impact immediately in Cleveland. The rookie from Auburn will likely start for the Cavs this season and had looked great in his first two preseason games. Cleveland is devoid of any other real talent on the roster. Kevin Love is still somehow there but hasn’t been relevant for about four years. The Cavs do have their two young point guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland who have both had an up-and-down start to their careers. Apart from probably LaMelo Ball in Charlotte, Okoro will get the biggest opportunity to showout in his first season.

3.) Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

The number one pick in the draft is usually the guy most people bet on to win rookie of the year. Not so fast this season as the draft had no clear cut superstar in the making. Edwards was the pick for a Timberwolves franchise that has gone through a complete overhaul the last 18 months. Edwards will not be expected to be the man right away in Minnesota and will be able to progress slowly into his role. The early returns on Edwards in the preseason have been a mixed bag, but like I wrote earlier this week, don’t panic about it just yet. Edwards will have to contend with about six other guys for minutes on the wing, so his numbers may not be what you typically expect from a first overall pick. Four years from now I’ll hopefully look foolish for not believing in him 100 percent right away, but for now all I can see is an inconsistent rookie season from Ant-Man.

4.) James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

Wiseman is the true wildcard here. He’s yet to see any action during the preseason with rumors spreading that it was due to Covid, so we don’t have any clue as to how the Warriors are going to use the second pick in the draft. He could and probably should be the starting center right off the bat, but Steve Kerr could get wonky now that Klay Thompson is out for the year and play super small ball with Draymond Green at the five. Wiseman also could be trash or could be really good, I have no fucking clue. He was one of the most scrutinized players in the draft, mostly because he only played three college games that all came more than a year ago. Is he Shaq? Obviously not right now but could he come out right away and average 16 and 10 and have a similar rookie year to Deandre Ayton two years ago? Probably. Or he could be Hasheem Thabeet and out of the league in three years, honestly who knows. I have a feeling after the season starts he’s either going to fly up or down this list very quickly.

5.) Obi Toppin, New York Knicks

Obi Toppin is my pick for Rookie of the Year so it’s a little weird that I have him all the way down at number five on my preseason rookie juice rankings. Toppin is probably the most NBA ready of any lottery pick this season, but I just don’t trust the Knicks to do anything right. While I envision him being the starting small forward and scoring about 15 points per game with six or seven rebounds, the Knicks could fuck it up by trying to force him to be a big and keep him on the bench behind Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson. I think Toppin ends up as the Rookie of the Year, but the fifth ranking right now shows just how wide open the race really is.

6.) Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

The Iowa State (Go Clones!) combo guard was arguably the best value pick in the draft when he slid to Sacramento at 12. He should be the third guard already behind De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Haliburton might be the most steady rookie in the class on a team that could use a steady influence. He’s one of those rookies that doesn’t have any eye-popping stats, but you could see averaging something like 13 points, six rebounds, and five assists as a rookie, and in a weaker class that could be good enough to win rookie of the year. He’s this year’s Malcolm Brogdon, maybe a little boring but a safe bet to be at least pretty good.

7.) Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons

How do you say DE-TROIT BASKETBALL! in French? Killian Hayes is the Pistons’ second French first round pick in as many after selecting Sekou Doumbouya 15th in 2019. Hayes will likely start allowing Derrick Rose to come off the bench. He’s had a rough start to the preseason shooting 4-18 in two games with eight turnovers. Good thing for Hayes fans (Hayes heads?) out there because this is the most meaningless preseason in which to judge NBA rookies in league history so who cares if he looks bad. The Pistons are going to be trash this season so they might as well see what they have in Hayes. Also he’s 19 so he’s got about 4-6 years until we really find out if he’s bad or not. This season could go down the drain quickly for Hayes, but there should be no pressure on him as a rookie.

8.) Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

I think people forget that this time last year Cole Anthony’s name was being thrown around as a potential number one pick in the draft. He had a shaky freshman season with an overmatched North Carolina team so his draft stock fell pretty far. Orlando took him 15th and he’ll likely start out as the backup point guard to Markelle Fultz, who is fine, I guess, but it’s not like he’s backing up Damian Lillard and will only see 10 minutes a game. Anthony should get good minutes off the bench and he can score in the NBA, we’ll see if he can do much else running with the Magic’s second unit. Also he had Spike Lee at his draft party, that’s the most juice any 15th pick has ever had in any sport ever.

9.) Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

To be honest, I really don’t know that much about Patrick Williams. The Bulls took him fourth overall and Williams will be slotted behind Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in the front court and has the opportunity to make a real impact right away. He’s likely a project as Williams only played 22 minutes a game in his lone season with Florida State. Chicago might be the best spot for a project big. He won’t have to carry the team and do too much too quick, but should find a role in the rotation and play some meaningful minutes early on. I highly doubt he’s going to rise much farther up the rankings, but in a weaker year Williams could be one of the most solid rookies this season.

10.) Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks

Honestly Okongwu might only play like eight minutes a game this season, but if he gets 15-25 he’s going to do the most with it. He’s behind Clint Capela and John Collins in the front court and will likely cede minutes early on to Danilo Gallinari and De’Andre Hunter at the power forward spot. His foot injury might force him to miss a few games to start the season, and he’ll get brought along slowly, but he could very easily find himself in the top three by the end of the season.