Late last month the NBA unveiled the three finalists for the Rookie of the Year award based on votes counted from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters around the planet.
The three youngsters hoping to take Ja Morant’s crown are Charlotte Hornets LaMelo Ball, Sacramento Kings Tyrese Hailiburton, and Minnesota Timberwolves Anthony Edwards.
Whilst the majority of basketball fans focus on which team has the best odds to win the NBA finals, let’s take a look at the Rookie of the Year odds and try to work out which of the three is most deserving of the award. If you agree or disagree with our reasoning, let us know why in the comments section below.
#3 Tyrese Haliburton
Out of the three finalists for the Rookie of the Year, Tyrese Haliburton is the one that doesn’t really need to worry about his chances of winning the award. Whilst he has had a great season for the Kings, it did come as a surprise for many to see him named in the final three.
Saddiq Bey, Jae’Sean Tate and Anthony Cole all appeared to be more favoured than Haliburton by fans prior to the confirmation of the final three. That isn’t to say that Haliburton has played poorly or isn’t deserving of recognition though, it’s because his opportunities to shine have been limited by injury after injury.
Throughout the season, Haliburton has averaged 13.0 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds whilst shooting 47.2% from the field and 40.9% from three point range. It was his form during Christmas and the earlier part of 2021 that really put him in to the reckoning for the Rookie of the Year award.
A series of stunning performances saw him pick up the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in December/January and February. Unfortunately he then went on to pick up a knee injury that ruled him out for the last 8 games of the regular season.
That paucity of action will surely hamper his chances of Rookie of the Year as decision makers will not have to cast their minds back as far to recall moments of brilliance from Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball.
(Some of the moments that helped persuade voters of Tyrese Haliburton’s Rookie of the Year qualities.)
#2 Anthony Edwards
At the beginning of the season there was a lot of rubbish talked about the Minnesota Timberwolves and Anthony Edwards. Some fans and pundits made themselves look foolish, claiming that Edwards was a good stats and bad team player, or that he simply didn’t have what it takes to perform consistently in the NBA.
In the opening months of the season, these critics looked on smugly as Anthony Edwards did indeed take time to adjust to the NBA. As the campaign progressed though, Edwards went from strength to strength and is now making the doubters eat their words.
In fact, since March there has been no hotter rookie in the NBA, with Edwards averaging 23.4 points per game, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals. Those performances helped the Timberwolves to go 14-19 in their final 33 league games which is really something when you consider that they had gone a league worst 7-28 just prior.
If the Rookie of the Year award was awarded on second half of the season performances, Anthony Edwards would be head and shoulders above the competition. As the inclusion of Tyrese Haliburton shows though, voters are taking a holistic view to the contenders which works out just fine for…
(Not bad for an ‘inefficient chucker’ and a ‘bad team player’.)
#3 LaMelo Ball
In 2000 the NBA Rookie of the Year award was shared for the fourth time, between current Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Elton Brand and three-time All-Star Steve Francis. Due to structural changes in the voting system, the chance of a future co-winner of the NBA Rookie of the Year award are slim to none.
That hasn’t stopped some fans and pundits from suggesting that this year’s award should be shared between Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball. Voting improbabilities aside though, those calling for a joint award are just plain wrong.
Anthony Edwards might have had a stellar end to the season, but LaMelo Ball has had a stellar season period. Prior to the All-Star break in March, Ball was posting some historic numbers as well as inspiring his older and more experienced teammates to greater heights.
(Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2021 Rookie of the Year – probably)
After a 21 game break with a fractured wrist, Ball returned to the fray and adapted to the impacts of his injury stoically. Lacking in match sharpness and perhaps confidence in his technique, he focused more on production, becoming a playmaking powerhouse for the Hornets.
If Anthony Edwards is to be applauded for his improvement over the course of the season, Ball has to be given a standing ovation for his consistent performances throughout the campaign and the way in which he modified his game after a nasty injury.
Anthony Edwards may well go on to be the better of the two, but the award isn’t about that. The Rookie of the Year award goes to the player who has performed the best over the course of the entire season and that player is LaMelo Ball.