Kia Rookie Ladder

Kia Rookie Ladder: Tyrese Haliburton climbs to No. 2; LaMelo Ball takes back top spot

See which rookies are shining the most after the first six weeks of the season.

The No. 12 overall pick has provided Sacramento plenty of reasons to celebrate this season.

Through the first two editions of the Kia Rookie Ladder, Tyrese Haliburton was underrated, just like he was when he slid to No. 12 in the Draft in November.

Oh, his early play was strong enough to get the Sacramento Kings’ combo guard to No. 3 in the rankings, but there he stayed behind Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball and Golden State’s James Wiseman in one order or another. Rookies have little control, except in occasional head-to-head matchups, over the performances of their peers, and Ball and Wiseman made early impacts with the Hornets and Warriors, respectively.

But Haliburton’s consistent play and obvious contributions to the Kings’ backcourt in rotation with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield earned him a bump this week to the No. 2 rung.

Two big factors played roles in the rookie from Iowa State’s rise. First, Haliburton was crowned the Western Conference’s first Rookie of the Month this season, covering games in December and January. And his recent work translated into winning, with the Kings going 3-1 since last week’s Ladder.

Check out the best plays from Tyrese Haliburton over the first six weeks.

Having an impact on winning is kind of the last frontier in assessing rookies. Individual stats are nice, per-36 minute splits can be revealing, but when a team using a rookie regularly in the rotation gets some traction in the standings, well, that’s what the whole Draft concept is about, right? Get the most help to the teams that need the most help.

The 6-foot-5 Haliburton – a 20-year-old born on Feb. 29, 2000 – has started only once, but his 28.8 minutes per game rank second only to Cleveland’s Isaac Okoro. His scoring and shooting accuracy from the arc (5 of 22) and overall (34.2%) dipped in the past week. Yet his rebounds and passing have been up, with 30 assists to just eight turnovers in the four games through Feb. 1. For the season, his 3.38 assist-to-turnover ratio is better than star ball handlers such as Chris Paul (3.3), Luka Doncic (2.40) and Stephen Curry (1.79).

Taking care of the ball means fewer lost possessions and more opportunities for Haliburton and, especially, his teammates. Lately, he and the Kings have been taking advantage of them where it counts most.

The Top 5 this week on the 2020-21 Kia Rookie Ladder:

(All stats through Monday, Feb. 1)

1. LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

The No. 3 overall pick has been impressive to begin his career.

Season stats: 12.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.1 apg
Since last Ladder: 16.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 7.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 2

First Ball dominated play for Charlotte in their upset victory over the weekend vs. Milwaukee: 27 points, five rebounds, nine assists, three steals, 8-for-10 shooting and a plus-37 in the 12-point triumph. Then he got rewarded with his first start of the season at Miami Monday as Terry Rozier nursed a sore ankle. This time, Ball shot 3-for-11, had five fouls and was a minus-6, yet the Hornets won their third in a row. Properly named the Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Month for December and January, his per-36 numbers (17.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 8.7 apg) are better than what made Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons (16.7, 8.4, 7.8) an All-Star the past two years.

2. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

Season stats: 10.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.4 apg
Since last Ladder: 8.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 7.5 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 3

Considering how much praise Haliburton has earned for his steady, veteran-like-beyond-his-years play for Sacramento, he has had his share of highlight moments, too. Sure, he has scored in double figures 13 times in 18 games and led the Kings in assists six times, with one points-assists double-double. But he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter against Chicago Jan. 6. Haliburton has shown a knack for hitting big shots late, whether inside or (way) outside the arc. He is averaging 1.4 steals for every 36 minutes played, which is appropriate for the steal of the 2020 Draft so far.

3. James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

Season stats: 12.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.7 apg
Since last Ladder: 13.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 1

Wiseman snagged the Ladder’s top rung last week, in spite of his move to the Golden State bench. And he was doing well in that role, boosting his major stats – until landing awkwardly against Detroit on Jan. 30 and spraining his left wrist. Getting sidelined for 7-10 days explains what may be a temporary drop to No. 3.

4. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Season stats: 13.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.9 apg
Since last Ladder: 19.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.8 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 5

If the No. 1 pick in the Draft, any Draft, can’t start for the worst team in the conference, something seems out of synch. That’s the better-late-than-never realization up in Minnesota, where Edwards had been in a bench role for his first 17 appearances. That wasn’t getting any of the Wolves anywhere fast. Edwards’ move into the starting lineup paid off quickly. He is clicking with teammates D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley. His shooting has picked up – 47.5/47.4/1.000 as a starter vs. 35.5/30.4/81.6 as a reserve. And his defensive gaffes have been fewer.

5. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

Season stats: 12.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.8 apg
Since last Ladder: 18.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.5 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 6

Quickley already is giving Knicks fans something that Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox rarely did as rookies, and that’s some reason for hope and excitement. Those two recent lottery picks became part of the woebegone culture that predated them in New York. Quickley is a source of optimism for his scoring, his ability to play point guard and his court smarts so far. The No. 25 pick is averaging 23.0 minutes on 18.4 shots per 36 minutes and moving up the Ladder weekly, while making squirm scouts who projected him as strictly a second-rounder.

The Next Five:

6. Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

Season stats: 10.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.7 apg
Since last Ladder: 9.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 4

Providing floor leadership while shooting 36.2%.

7. Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers

Season stats: 8.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.1 apg
Since last Ladder: 8.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 7

Rookie minutes leader hit 12 of 23 shots to help Cavs go 2-2.

8. Precious Achiuwa, Miami Heat

Season stats: 7.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.8 apg
Since last Ladder: 7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: N/A

A double-double (16.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg) producer per 36 minutes.

9.  Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

Season stats: 9.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.1 apg
Since last Ladder: 12.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: N/A

Hitting 50.9% of 3-pointers for streaking Grizzlies.

10. Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 4.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.7 apg
Since last Ladder: 5.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: N/A

Banging his way to 5.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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