Every Top NBA Rookie's Biggest Strength and Weakness

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 12, 2021

Every Top NBA Rookie's Biggest Strength and Weakness

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Many of this year's NBA rookies are off to promising starts, and each possesses an identity built around a signature strength.

    Every one of them also has a key deficiency that represents an obstacle in their transition from college or overseas to the NBA.

    We pinpointed the biggest strength and weakness for each top-producing rookie and noted how those factors affect play and development. 

Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves, SG)

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Self-creation 

    Aside from a special mix of power and explosiveness, Anthony Edwards' most valuable strength is his ability to create his own shot. 

    Credit his footwork off the dribble first. Edwards creates space for jumpers with stutter steps, step-backs and other movements to freeze defenders or knock them off balance. And the footwork shows on drives to the basket, while sidestepping or while Eurostepping through gaps into finishing opportunities at the rim.

                          

    Key weakness: Shot selection/pull-up game

    The shot that could elevate the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie to All-Star status is also what's behind his 37.9 field-goal percentage. 

    He can get into his pull-up from anywhere on the floor, and he's a skilled enough shot-maker to hit them while contested or multiple feet behind the arc. But he's shooting just 27.4 percent on 4.5 pull-up attempts per game.

    Shot selection, settling and overconfidence deserve as much blame as Edwards' actual jump shot, which is clearly competent, given his 45 threes through 25 games. 

Cole Anthony (Orlando Magic, PG)

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Shot-making

    Concerns emerged during Cole Anthony's one season at North Carolina. But there was always a feeling that his shot-making created a high floor. 

    Shooting 45.5 percent from three over the Orlando Magic's last 13 games, Anthony has a confident stroke with range off the catch and an ability to drill dribble jumpers off his ball-handling creativity. 

    Regardless of how he develops as a decision-maker and finisher, Anthony's jumper should help drive his value as an on- and off-ball scorer.

                

    Key weakness: Finishing

    Questionable decision-making not only plays a role in Anthony's assist-to-turnover ratio (94-51) but also his poor finishing dating back to college. He's vulnerable to tunnel vision in the paint or predetermining a layup attempt. 

    Anthony still must improve his touch and ability to adjust around rim protection. This year he's converting just 47.9 percent of attempts inside five feet. 

Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards, SF/PF)

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Versatility/adaptability 

    There isn't any one system that Deni Avdija's game requires to thrive in. He's a fit anywhere because of his versatility and mentality. 

    Spending 47.6 percent of his possessions on spotting up, he's comfortable off the ball, shooting 38.3 percent from three, cutting for baskets and willingly moving the ball. A low-maintenance player, he makes plays within the offense, waiting for the right opportunity to strike as a set shooter, driver and passer. 

    Avdija hasn't been used often on the ball for the Washington Wizards, but flashes from his time with FIBA and in the Israeli League suggest he can eventually become a threat to handle in transition and pick-and-roll sets.

              

    Key weakness: Pull-up shooting

    No pull-up game limits Avdija's scoring potential. Making 28.6 percent of his 0.8 attempts per contest, he isn't comfortable shooting off the dribble and wasn't in previous FIBA or European settings. 

    It doesn't help that Avdija isn't an advanced creator. He relies mostly on catch-and-shoot chances, line drives, position inside and fast breaks. Adding a pull-up jumper should help him become a tougher scoring threat in the half court.

Immanuel Quickley (New York Knicks, PG/SG)

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Shot-making/floater

    Lacking size and explosion at 6'3", 190 pounds, Immanuel Quickley has still scored 11.8 points in 19.0 minutes per game, almost exclusively via three-point shot-making and a signature floater.

    Instead of shooting challenged two-point pull-ups, he opts for deeper, less-contested threes off the catch and dribble. And with limited burst and explosion to get to the rim, Quickley has developed soft touch and control off one foot (before rim protection) around the foul line and short corners. 

    With the floater, the New York Knicks rookie figured out how to use change of speed to get inside the arc and find space, where he can take his time with loading up into those one-handed push shots. 

              

    Key weakness: Low-percentage shot selection

    The most used shots in Quickley's wheelhouse aren't easy to hit consistently.

    It's important to have a floater, but it's tough to rely so heavily on it for two-point scoring. He's making a shot inside five feet once every two games. He struggles to finish through length around the basket or get there for uncontested layups. 

Isaac Okoro (Cleveland Cavaliers, SF/PF)

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Defensive toughness

    Defense and toughness have helped Isaac Okoro earn 33.8 minutes per game to lead all rookies. 

    He still makes mistakes, but Okoro is physically and mentally built to guard the opposing team's top-scoring wing or forward. At 6'5", 225 pounds, he defends with intensity on the ball and the type of effort that forces his man to work a little harder. 

    Assuming his defensive IQ and awareness continue to build over the years, Okoro should play a key role even if his offense never blows up.

         

    Key weakness: Generating offense 

    Okoro is a bigger threat to shoot than create, but he's still limited in both departments without an advanced handle in the half court, a pull-up game or a reliable three-ball. Offensively, he's mostly used as a cutter, ball-mover and hopeful spot-up shooter. 

    Only three other NBA players‚ÄĒRoyce O'Neale, P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington‚ÄĒaverage more than 30 minutes and eight or fewer points.¬†That's the type of player Okoro ultimately projects as: a defensive specialist who the Cavaliers hope can develop into a serviceable three-point shooter from the wings and corners.¬†

Jae'Sean Tate (Houston Rockets, SG/SF)

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Defense

    While Jae'Sean Tate has earned a jack-of-all-trades reputation for the Houston Rockets, defense is still his most valuable strength. 

    Remarkable lateral quickness makes him difficult to shake free from, and he does a good job anticipating moves and shots. Combined with his foot speed, that creates lockdown-stopper potential. 

    At 230 pounds, he's a wall. Ball-handlers are rarely able to turn the corner on Tate past the free-throw line. And he's blocked 17 shots with the athletic ability to rise up and make plays on the ball. 

         

    Key weakness: Offensive polish 

    Even without sharp skills, Tate is shooting 62.8 percent inside the arc thanks to his strength, athleticism and motor. But for a 25-year-old, he hasn't developed much as a creator off the dribble or a shot-maker.

    Between his 8.8 assist percentage, nonexistent pull-up game and limited three-ball (0.6 3PTM), Tate remains a limited scoring and playmaking threat away from the basket. 

James Wiseman (Golden State Warriors, C)

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Inside scoring 

    A strong 7'0" frame, a 7'6" wingspan and plus athletic ability regularly help James Wiseman position himself for high-percentage scoring chances inside. He'll continue to pick up multiple easy baskets per game regardless of his skill development from here.

    He possesses an enormous catch radius around the rim for lobs, and he has a huge advantage on the offensive glass. Even on basic rip-through moves from the foul line or jump hooks, which may be considered specialty shots and not necessarily finishes, his length allows him to create separation, better angles and shorter shots closer to the rim.

          

    Key weakness: One-on-one execution 

    A consistent jump shot will alleviate concerns over Wiseman's suspect one-on-one game. At this stage, he isn't a reliable scorer to feature in the half court against a set defense. 

    Ranking in the 26th percentile on post-ups, Wiseman lacks a counter game and touch when contested. He's shown some ball-handling ability in the open floor, but the Warriors won't want him trying to create in tighter spaces in the half court. 

LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets, PG)

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Setup passing

    Elite passing typically translates, and LaMelo Ball's has carried over from the NBL. His 35.1 assist percentage ranks No. 9 in the NBA.

    With special vision, elite delivery skill, size to operate over defenders and shiftiness to shake them, his playmaking potential is as high as anyone's in the league. 

    Some of the lobs he's thrown to Miles Bridges highlight unbelievable timing and precision. 

    His improving scoring only strengthens his chances of reaching superstardom. But it will always be Ball's ability to create easy opportunities for teammates that drives his value to the Charlotte Hornets.

    Key weakness: Finishing against length

    The scouting report on Ball has changed as he's proved himself a more competent shooter than expected based on results from Australia. However, finishing in traffic is still a challenge for the 180-pound guard who lacks strength and explosiveness.

    He's still able to pull off coordinated finishes at the rim with both hands, but struggles to separate on drives force Ball to use low-percentage touch shots over defenders in the non-restricted paint, where he's shooting just 36.4 percent.

Patrick Williams (Chicago Bulls, SF/PF)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Positional skill set

    Playing both forward spots for the Chicago Bulls, Patrick Williams has developed a valuable skill set for a 6'7", 215-pound player. He's shooting 39.6 percent from three and 44.4 percent on pull-ups with an ability to attack closeouts, pass on the move or slice to the rim.

    He's a physical matchup for 3s and a tough one for bigger 4s who have to deal with his combination of shooting and driving. 

    Though Williams doesn't yet have one reliable skill, the 19-year-old's foundational skill set creates exciting potential scoring versatility. 

      

    Key weakness: Finishing drives

    Strength and athleticism lead to emphatic dunks and suggest promising finishing potential. But he's struggled to convert off his own dribble, shooting just 36.7 percent on drives to the basket.

    His misses are a result of either rushing a shot attempt, taking off from a tough spot or falling away to avoid contact. 

    Williams can handle the ball, but there is also room for improvement that will allow him to be more decisive on drives, hit gaps quicker and have better control going up.

Tyrese Haliburton (Sacramento Kings, PG/SG)

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: IQ

    Shooting is creeping up Tyrese Haliburton's strength rankings, but his identity still revolves around having the highest basketball IQ. 

    From FIBA to college and now Sacramento, his assist-to-turnover ratio always stands out. He makes the right reads that don't always make highlight reels, whether it's the extra pass to the corner shooter or the timely entry feed to a post scorer who has space and position. 

    In pick-and-roll situations, he's seemingly able to cast a slow-motion spell on defenses before finding the open man while operating at his own pace. 

    Despite lacking blow-by speed and creative handles, he's still scoring inside the arc by wisely picking the right spots to attack or slow down into a floater before rim protection arrives. 

    Weakness: Self-creation 

    Haliburton excels in ball-screen situations, but he isn't going to break down defenses one-on-one or provide any isolation offense.

    A high handle makes it tough to create separation into his unorthodox jumper, and he lacks explosiveness driving to the basket, where he's averaging just 0.9 made field goals in 29.4 minutes per game.

Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers, SG)

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Most valuable strength: Two-point scoring 

    Tyrese Maxey has given the Philadelphia 76ers an efficient scoring punch off the bench despite having trouble shooting from distance. 

    His impressive finishing from Kentucky has translated. Using an effective mix of strength and coordination to adjust, he's making 61.0 percent of his attempts inside five feet. 

    With terrific touch on his floater and two-point pull-up (49.3 percent), he's also been a threat in the second level when run off the three-point line. 

    Key weakness: Three-point shooting

    After struggling from three at Kentucky, Maxey still looks shaky behind the arc (0.6 3PTM, 31.3 percent). A low release and pushing motion have been a cause for concern dating back to college.

    He's still a capable shot-maker from deep, and his shooting inside the arc, plus promising free-percentages, create room for optimism. But the Sixers will need that three-ball to become a strength‚ÄĒnot just a bonus‚ÄĒfor Maxey to maximize his scoring potential.¬†

              

    Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Sports-Reference.com