These players captivated the attention of basketball fans with their terrific performances during the season.
The 2019-20 NBA season concluded with the Los Angeles Lakers winning the title for the 17th time. In a campaign that would be known for the unprecedented nature of events, there have been several rookie players who stood out for their performances.
Let us take a look at the top five newcomers in the league who managed to distance themselves from the rest of the rookie class with their top-notch displays:
5. Coby White
The only player on this list who failed to make it to the bubble, Coby White had a thrilling February for the Chicago Bulls. The potential shown by the 7th overall pick will give hope to all Chicago Bulls fans, who are yearning for a title since the Michael Jordan era.
Hailing from Jordan’s North Carolina, White became the first rookie in NBA history to score 30 points off the bench in consecutive games, after 33-point performances against Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards, the latter contributing to a nine-point win. These performances came after he set a Bulls franchise record for the most three-pointers made in a quarter against the New York Knicks. He hit seven three-pointers in the fourth quarter to take his team to victory by 18 points.
He finished the season with an average of 13.2 points per game. If his trend continues upward as seen during the season, the All-Rookie Second Team selection will be only the start of honours in his career.
4. Tyler Herro
Miami Heat didn’t have an exceptional regular season and Tyler Herro also got limited attention from fans and pundits. But, then the playoffs happened and suddenly everyone heaped praise on the former Kentucky youngster. Known for his prolific shooting, the world noticed the Heat rookie after a monster performance against Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Conference Finals. Herro scored 37 points in the game.
After Goran Dragic got injured, He took over as a starting guard for the Heat and was justly praised by their star player Jimmy Butler and coach Erik Spoelstra, for his remarkable performances and effort for the Miami outfit. His regular-season numbers of 13.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game were also enough to earn him All-Rookie Second Team honours.
3. Zion Williamson
Every team wanted Zion Williamson before the start of the season and despite sitting out for most of the games, the wonderkid from Duke managed to show everyone why they were all trying to nab him. After being drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans, Williamson missed several matches after injuring his meniscus in pre-season.
However, his return was one of the most celebrated events of the season. He took the floor against Spurs after being out for more than three months. His 22-points outing was a much-awaited treat for the fans, who witnessed his true potential when he went off for 17 points in three minutes in the fourth quarter.
He played only 24 games for the Pelicans, but averaged a whopping 22.5 points per game. Williamson also became the first teenager to score 20 points in 10 or more consecutive games in the NBA. He was a finalist for the Rookie of the Year honours, missing out mainly because of his lack of game-time. However, he did manage to get a spot on the All-Rookie First Team for his performances. His Sophomore would be analyzed closely by everyone involved within the game, as he has all the potential to become the next big thing in the NBA.
2. Kendrick Nunn
Kendrick Nunn has risen from rags to riches through hard work and sheer determination. The 25-year-old is defying odds by being a starting rookie player in the NBA and that too for one of the topmost franchises. After going undrafted in 2018, Kendrick Nunn had to spend time in the G-League before he was noticed and picked up by Miami Heat for the 2019-20 season.
The former Illinois guard earned a starting spot on the Heat roster and channeled his excellence to an All-Rookie First Team honour and second place in the Rookie of the Year voting. His minutes and performances dwindled considerably in the playoffs due to a combination of injury and the promotion of Goran Dragic in the roster pushing him to a bench role. However, he still managed to contribute, tallying 18 points in a Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Nunn earned three out of the four Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honours this season, averaging 15.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. Miami Heat and Pat Riley have found themselves another diamond in the rough.
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1. Ja Morant
The only unanimous All-Rookie First Team selection, Ja Morant’s ascendancy over the past few years has been mind-boggling. From unrated high school status to a top draft pick and then leading a very young team to the brink of the playoffs, Ja Morant has been a revelation this season. His striking combination of athleticism and passing ability, coupled with his extraordinary effort and selflessness has made him a must-watch and propelled Memphis Grizzlies into the limelight.
After ending the season with a stat line that read 17.8 points, 7.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, the former Murray State guard was rightly judged as the Rookie of the Year, an honour synonymous with future superstars of the league.