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.

Five Biggest Overreactions from the NBA’s Opening Week

We’ve already been in the Upside Down for the better part of the last year, ever since Cats hit theaters (release the butthole cut you cowards) so why would we expect the first week of the 2020-21 NBA season to be any different. In a word, it’s been wonky. Here’s a short list of the craziest things that have happened this week: The Clippers were down by 50 at halftime, Collin Sexton, Andre Drummond, and Darius Garland are 1-3 in the MVP race, The Warriors are the new Knicks, and the most unbelievable of all is the Timberwolves can actually play defense. This is just a snippet of the insanity that has engulfed the start to the season after we already experience the weirdest offseason and the NBA bubble. With more questions than answers this year, there are a whole lot of overreactions to be had from a wild Christmas week. So here are the top five overreactions from the first seven days of the NBA season.

1.) Cleveland is actually really good

The 3-0 start for the Cavs is the most exciting thing to happen in Cleveland sports since the Browns beat the Jets on September 20th, 2018 for their first win in nearly two years. The upstart Cavaliers are undefeated to start the season behind surprisingly strong starts from Sexton, Drummond, and Garland. The Sexland backcourt has been fantastic so far after both young guards struggled last year. Lets bring Cleveland back down to Earth a little bit. First, their three wins were against the Hornets, Pistons, and 76ers who were on a back-to-back without Joel Embiid, not exactly a murderers row to begin the season. Shits about to get real for the Cavs in 2021 as they get another freebie against the Knicks, but then go on a six-game road trip against the Pacers on New Year’s Eve, the Hawks, the 3-0 Magic x2, Memphis, and then the Bucks. Cleveland could easily go from 3-0 to 4-6 in a matter of two weeks. There’s a chance this team is scrappy in the East and vies for a spot in the play-in tournament, but once they play real competition we’ll soon find out that Cleveland fans will have to rely on the Browns for their true playoff hopes, which is obviously sad.

2.) Signing Giannis to a supermax contract was a mistake

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best thing to happen to Greece since Brad Pitt single-handedly beat the shit out of Eric Bana and won the Trojan War. The Greek Freak is the reigning back-to-back MVP and arguably the best player in the NBA. He also shook the pillars of the league earlier this month when he signed a five-year $228 million contract extension to stay in Milwaukee. This was maybe the greatest thing to ever happen to the Bucks, and they won a championship. Since he signed the Bucks have had a rough start the the season. Jayson Tatum called game with a last second banked in three over Giannis to send last year’s number one seed home with a loss on opening night. Then they dismantled the new Knicks, beating the Warriors by 39 in game two. On Sunday they lost to the actual Knicks by 20 points, falling to 1-2 on the young season. That’s a rough start for the best regular season team in the NBA the last two seasons. During the slow start Giannis hasn’t quite been himself. He’s still been great averaging 25.7 points and 13 rebounds per game, but he’s not the world beating Greek God that he was in his MVP seasons. Some might point the finger at his contract, saying that by signing the mega-deal the Bucks mortgaged their future for one player, who based on his performance to begin the season maybe isn’t actually worth it. Don’t be fooled by a slow start, Giannis is worth as much money as anyone wants to pay him. He’s the Patrick Mahomes of the NBA, and especially in small-market Milwaukee. As a Timberwolves fan I know what it’s like to never keep your star players and have no chance at signing any big time free agents, and Minneapolis is way cooler than Milwaukee. The Bucks did the right thing by keeping one of the biggest stars in the league in one of the most boring NBA cities for the next five years. Giannis will eventually regain his MVP form, and even if he doesn’t, what else are you going to do Milwaukee?

3.) The Nuggets will miss the playoffs

Before the season started I picked the Nuggets to finish third in the West, and had Jokic and Murray on the All-NBA Second and Third teams respectively. Jokic looks amazing so far and is averaging what would go down as the greatest triple double in league history with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and a mind fucking 14 assists. Murray on the other hand is capital S struggling. He’s shooting 39.5 percent and has just six assists in three games. The West is still the dominant conference and with a 1-2 start, maybe the Nuggets aren’t all they were cracked up to be. Luckily for Denver all is not lost just yet. One of their losses was to the Clippers, who even though they got killed by the Mavs are still one of the best teams in the league, so that loss is acceptable. The other is to the Kings on a crazy Buddy Hield overtime buzzer beating tip-in. They also beat James Soften and the actually pretty decent Houston Rockets. The D-Nugs are currently behind the Wolves, Spurs, Thunder, and Kings in the standings, which I’m very confident in saying will not be the case come the end of the season. Murray will get his head on straight and Denver will still be a problem in the West. Maybe not the third seed, but there’s no way this team misses the playoffs barring injury.

4.) LaMelo Ball is already a bust

The third Ball bro has been bruuuuuuuuuuuuuutal during his first three NBA games. LiAngelo’s less handsome brother threw up a goose egg in his first outing and is averaging just 6.3 points on 33.3 percent shooting. That’s very Malik Monk of you LaMelo, and it looks worse if you see what the two guys drafted ahead of him are doing at the start of the season. First overall pick Anthony Edwards, who also looked brutal in the preseason, has been arguably the best player for the Wolves this season and sparked them to a somewhat surprising 2-1 record. James Wiseman has been the lone bright spot for the new Knicks of Golden State. He’s shown a decent stroke, and is bullying people inside already and averaging 14.7 points per game and will get every opportunity to grow as it looks like their season is already over. There are a whole lot of scouts and other guys who claim to know what good basketball is who thought LaMelo would be way better than those two and be a star in Charlotte. Pretty much the exact opposite is happening in the first week so is LaMelo already a bust? No of course not, plenty of stars have had a rough go of it at the beginning of their careers. James Soften himself only scored 4.3 points per game over his first three NBA contests and shot just 29 percent. It will take time for a 19-year-old who last played a year ago in Australia to find his niche in this league, but don’t let a bad start fool you into thinking he’s a bust already.

5.) Houston should not trade James Harden

Speaking of the NBA party boy James Soften (Née Harden) he’s looked like the John Daly of the NBA, going straight from the strip club to the court and playing his round little ass off. His first two games have been exactly what you’ve come to expect out of the NBA’s four-time reigning scoring champ averaging 39 points per game so far. The beard is obviously still the best scorer in the game, and at 31 is still a top ten player in the league. Even with his tumultuous offseason in which he demanded a trade, didn’t show up for training camp, and single-handedly put every stripper in a three-state radius through college. So why would Houston even consider trading him when they can still ride him to pole position in the Southwest Division and compete in the Western Conference playoffs? Wouldn’t trading a huge superstar on a competitive team make absolutely no sense?

The Rockets absolutely should still trade him at their earliest convenience. Even with his outstanding performance over the first week, the Rockets are still 0-2 with huge concerns throughout the roster. Yes Christian Wood looks like he can be the second option on a playoff team, but we have no clue what this team really is. Thanks to COVID-19 and guys wanting a fresh cut on opening day, we haven’t even seen John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins on the court yet as they had to sit out due to contact tracing. They could be trash and this team headed for the gutter faster than Harden heading for a Vegas buffet. Harden will also leave in two years and, while you have time to figure it out, his value will only diminish the closer he gets to free agency. Harden is still one of the best players of this generation, but if you’re Houston, you really don’t want to see the rest of his career play out in one of your top notch gentlemen’s establishments.

This week in basketball has provided plenty of hot takes and spicy conversation around the league, but at the end of the day no NBA championship was won in the first three games of a season, plenty have been lost, but lets not overreact too much to what we’ve seen so far.

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.