The top 10 is filled with a slew of new faces this week, as players like Kendrick Nunn and Rui Hachimura cooled down, and newcomers like No. 6 overall pick Jarrett Culver finally make their arrival. The Warriors deployed an incredibly young starting lineup against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, and as a result, picked up their first win in the newly-opened Chase Center behind a tremendous effort from their rookies. Golden State might not make the playoffs with Stephen Curry expected to miss a considerable amount of time, but its rookies have shown there’s more to watch than just the stars.
Zion Williamson is still waiting in the wings, and while there is still no timetable for his return from a torn meniscus, he recently said: Remember, 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. One week a player could be No. 2 on the list, and after that, they could fall out of the top 10 altogether. It all depends on a rookie’s weekly performance.
With that straightened out, here are this week’s Rookie Power Rankings of the 2019-20 season.
Morant has finally settled into playing in the NBA and his most recent week of action has shown that he’ll be just fine in this league. In each of his three games this past week, Morant scored 20-plus points, including a 26-point outing in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Grizzlies are one of the youngest teams in the league, and they are going to lose a lot of games before they become a winning team, but with Morant as their point guard, paired with last year’s rookie standout Jaren Jackson Jr., and fellow rookie Brandon Clarke, this team could be a playoff mainstay in a few years. Morant’s rookie season will see ups and downs, but the glimpses he’s shown so far indicate that he has the talent to become a true star in this league.
2. Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors
In what eventually became another loss for the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 2, Paschall proclaimed after getting fouled on his way to the rim that “they can’t guard me.” He said it with the kind of gusto and confidence that seemed eerily similar to something Draymond Green would say. He flexes when he out-muscles someone for an and-1 or an offensive rebound, he has the energy and intensity like Green and can guard guys bigger than him just like Green. His 34 points against the Portland Trail Blazers is the highest point-total for a rookie this season, and with Green and Curry nursing injuries, Paschall will only get more opportunity to shine as the season continues. No one expected Paschall to put up these kinds of numbers as a second-round pick, but he’s proving everyone wrong about that with every game he plays.
3. R.J. Barrett, New York Knicks
Barrett is ranked fifth in the entire league in minutes per game, and while some may argue that’s far too much for a rookie to handle, Barrett is thriving in his star role with the Knicks. Barrett is already loving playing against the Boston Celtics, in his first game against them he put up 26 points in The Garden, and when the Knicks matched up against them again earlier this week, Barrett put up 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. If not for a Jayson Tatum dagger at the end of the game, the Knicks would’ve won that game too. Barrett will essentially have a green light on this Knicks team the entire season to get acclimated to the pace of the NBA and which shots work and which do not. It might result in some poor shooting performances as the season goes on, but it will only make him better in the long run.
4. Jarrett Culver, Minnesota Timberwolves
Before the draft, Culver was considered one of the top three players in his class. Some had him over Barrett, but ultimately he fell to Minnesota as the sixth overall pick. A dynamic scorer, Culver was going to take some time to develop but had the potential to become a solid foundational piece for Minnesota. He’s played in every game this season for the Wolves, but he hadn’t had his breakout moment until this week. Culver had his first 20-point game in a win over the Washington Wizards, and in a loss to the Grizzlies put up 15 points. In the game against Memphis, you could see Culver gaining confidence, taking his shot when it was there, not being afraid to take a defender one-on-one, and as he’s given more opportunity to improve his offensive game, his numbers will only increase.
5. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Even though Morant is the more tantalizing rookie on this Memphis team, Clarke has carved out a spot for himself as well. He’s becoming someone who could very well average a double-double throughout his career, and has been a great lob threat for Memphis early in the season. Against Minnesota, Clarke had his best game of the season to this point, putting up 18 points, and grabbing eight rebounds while going a perfect 7-for-7 from the field. He’s very active on the offensive glass, and is super versatile allowing for Memphis to use him at either forward spot. As a roll man, he’ll feast off of passes from Morant this season, and while he doesn’t shoot them often, he can become a 3-point threat if he works on it consistently.
6. Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
As part of the rookie trio that helped the Warriors upset the Trail Blazers, Poole put up 16 points and five assists in the win. He wasn’t the most efficient in that game, shooting 18.8 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from beyond the arc against Portland, but he’s shown that he can be more efficient, as evidenced from his 20-point outing against San Antonio where he went 50 percent from both the field and 3-point line. With Curry out, and D’Angelo Russell also nursing an injury, Poole will pretty much get to shoot the ball at will, and while more abysmal shooting performances are likely in his future this season, he’s shown that he’s capable of hitting shots at a higher clip. It might be tough to watch him clank shot-after-shot, but as he improves and adapts to the NBA game, more of those will start to go down.
7. Ky Bowman, Golden State Warriors
After Bowman went undrafted out of Boston College, the Warriors signed him to a two-way contract following his performance on their summer league squad. In his first NBA start for the Warriors, Bowman put up 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists against the Hornets and then followed that up with a 19-point, 8-rebound performance against the Trail Blazers. Bowman’s performance this past week has been more impressive when compared to Poole and Paschall, mainly because he went undrafted. Now, to be starting for Golden State and making a huge impact is an amazing journey. What’s even better, while Curry might be out for at least four months, Bowman could still pick his brain and get advice from one of the best point guards in the league.
8. P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets
Washington and the Hornets have been a treat so far this season, he’s already set rookie records with his 3-point shooting, he’s hit the 20-point mark twice and he’s been a beast on the boards. This is not a rookie that is afraid of anyone. He will stare down opposing players after blocking their shots or putting them on a poster, all while knocking down 3s and soaring to the rim. Washington fell only one spot from last week’s rankings, and that’s largely because of the Warriors and their rookies stepping up in a big way. He might’ve had a down week compared to previous ones, but he’s still a must-watch rookie in the early going for Charlotte.
Hunter gets a little overshadowed in his class, but even more so on his own team. It’s hard to outshine the Hawks’ second-year star Trae Young, but Hunter had been performing extremely well the entire season. His bright spot of the week came against the Spurs when he put up 16 points and eight boards in the win for Atlanta, but his defense is really why the Hawks drafted him in the first place. Against the Bulls, Hunter was switched on to Zach LaVine, and managed to say in front of him every step of the way. LaVine tried to cross Hunter up, but the rookie stayed locked in and forced LaVine to settle for a fadeaway jumper which he missed. That’s just one example of many that show how valuable Hunter is on the defensive end of the floor.
10. Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
Herro isn’t in the starting lineup for the Heat anymore, but he’s still getting buckets. He had one down game this week against the Denver Nuggets when he only managed to put up two points, the lowest total of his season so far, but he bounced back in a win against the Phoenix Suns when he finished with 15 points. Herro might get switched in and out of the starting lineup depending on need, but moving him to the bench hasn’t completely slowed him down, if anything, it’s just allowed him to feast on opposing bench players. Earlier in the season it looked like Herro could be the person who takes the spotlight for Rookie of the Year, but with Morant, Barrett and Paschall all stepping up in recent weeks, it looks like it won’t be that easy.