DAR Sports: The 2020-2021 NBA Rookie Report Part 1

By Jeff Axel

This 2020 draft class has dealt with a lot of adversity. From not having a NCAA tournament to a lack of true development time because of COVID, this all left us with uncertainty on certain players. It was even harder without a summer league and a condensed training camp. There have been 2 rookies that have been exceptional so far this season despite the strange circumstances, I believe.  LaMelo Ball has made the Charlotte Hornets one of the most exciting teams in the league. His journey started in Lithuania, the JBL, Spire, and eventually Australia after the early Chino Hills days. We didn’t get a chance to see him perform alongside his peers much in high school (although he did ball out overseas) so the number 3 pick was a mystery. LaMelo is averaging about 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists on the season, looking like a clear frontrunner for Rookie Of The Year. For the month of February, since he's become a starter, he’s averaging about 20 points per game to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists on 40% from 3 and he is a big reason the Charlotte Hornets are currently 7th in the East. His energy is infectious as he’s a versatile 6’6 point guard with a quick first step, flair and a killer instinct. He’s looking like a new version of Penny Hardaway. This season he became the youngest player to record a triple double in NBA History and it won’t be long until he gets his 1st All Star appearance.

Lamelo’s best game as a pro so far was an excellent 34 points and 8 assists performance to go along with 4 three pointers made against one of the best teams in the NBA, the Utah Jazz. LaMelo shows a level ofconfidence finishing with either hand, using great court vision and scoring from multiple levels on the court that is rarely seen in 19 year olds. He’s already had multiple games this season that’s been better than big brother Lonzo and the sky’s the limit.

In the Western Conference, Tyrese Haliburton is playing at a high level off the bench for the Sacramento Kings. So much so that he’s making Buddy Hield expendable and it’s looking like he and De’Aaron Fox are their backcourt of the future. The Kings were thrilled that he fell to 12th in the draft and early on he’s rewarding them and showing other teams they missed out on a quality player. The 20 year old is averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists on 50% from the field and 45% from 3. Don’t let the awkward jump shot form fool you, Haliburton plays under control and competes on both ends which has been earning him an increase of minutes. The Kings have lost 10 straight games but Haliburton has been a bright spot this month. He’s averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals on 52% from the field and 47% from 3 on 6 attempts per game. If veterans like Buddy Hield or Harrison Barnes are moved at the trade deadline we’ll most likely see Haliburton improve those numbers.

Haliburton’s career high happened with his 23 point performance against the Nets. With this level of efficiency you can’t keep him on the bench forever. LaMelo and Tyrese Haliburton are trending towards being the best guards from this draft class, and the fact they’re being so impactful without the luxury of summer league or training camps and a 1 month turnaround from the draft to the preseason makes this more impressive.



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