An injury to LaMelo Ball re-opened the 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year race. Ball had become a lock to win the award, but his season-ending surgery has reinvigorated the conversation. While he could yet pick up the first hardware of his NBA career, Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton are both vying for consideration.
Ball’s performances for the Charlotte Hornets made it seem like he had the award wrapped up. He was leading Charlotte to significant overachievement. Edwards and James Wiseman, the players picked before him, were raw.
NBA Rookie of the Year race 2021
The intrigue, though, is that Ball played little over half a season. It’s unlikely he returns in 2020/21. Winning the award with so few games played is not impossible, but availability matters. It’s up to Haliburton and Edwards to make it the decisive factor which rules Ball out of contention.
There’s a certain quantity versus quality within the Haliburton and Edwards rivalry. Edwards is putting up bigger numbers. Haliburton is by far the more efficient of the two, and he’s helping the Kings make a legitimate postseason push.
Surface-level stats are kind to Edwards, though. He’s been durable, playing every game this season. He’s above 17 points per contest for the campaign, and there has been the sort of headline-grabbing moments which can alter awards voting.
Edwards has also been among the least efficient scorers in the league. Only a few days ago, he was in the bottom five in true shooting.
Haliburton’s to lose
Scoring 13 per game, recording five dimes and 1.2 steals, Haliburton’s traditional numbers don’t leap off the page. Sacramento losing their last three hasn’t aided his cause either.
Comfortably over 40% from three, however, and rarely turning the ball over, Haliburton’s case really is compelling. There aren’t viral dunks like Edwards. His playmaking isn’t as flashy as Ball. What he does, though, is help the Kings win games. He has been trusted by Luke Walton throughout the season and understandably so.
The strength of Haliburton in the NBA Rookie of the Year race has fluctuated. Like any rookie, his performances have been up and down at times. He’s still made the right plays. He’s still defended at a good level.
This would have rightly been Ball’s award in a landslide if he stayed healthy. Barring injury or a massive drop off in performance, Haliburton should be viewed as the comprehensive favorite in Ball’s absence.
He does a bit of everything for the Kings, and he does it all at an above-average level already. Edwards’ ceiling might be higher (that’s up for debate, too), but he’s the far inferior player at this point.
Of course, coaching, and the general chaos on the Timberwolves has hampered Edwards. Those conditions don’t impact this Rookie of the Year race. Haliburton deserves the award.
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