1 Flaw Every Top NBA Rookie Needs to Fix This OffseasonMay 21, 2021
1 Flaw Every Top NBA Rookie Needs to Fix This Offseason
For the majority of the 2020 NBA rookie class, the offseason has already begun.
Following a quick turnaround from draft to the regular season last year (with no summer league or preseason), these now-former rookies finally have a chance to catch their collective breath and focus on developing their games.
The class as a whole made a tremendous impact on the league, with a few looking like future All-Stars and plenty of high-level starters scattered throughout the first round.
For the following 10 rookies, these are the areas they need to focus on the most this offseason to ensure a successful sophomore campaign.
Cole Anthony, PG, Orlando Magic
Flaw to Fix: Defense
Anthony came on strong late for Orlando, averaging 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 0.6 steals in his final 17 games.
His defense, as is the case for most rookie guards, left a lot to be desired. Continuing to learn player tendencies will help, but a wingspan under 6'5" may mean he'll never become an elite defender.
The Magic allowed a whopping 118.3 points per 100 possessions with Anthony on the floor (112.8 with him off), and opponents shot 43.6 percent from three with him as the primary defender, an increase of 7.1 percent over their season average.
Saddiq Bey, F, Detroit Pistons
Flaw to Fix: Isolation Scoring
The fifth-leading scorer among all rookies at 12.2 points per game, Bey has been a steal for the Pistons as the 19th overall pick.
Some evolution to his offensive game would serve Detroit well, however. Two out of every three shots Bey took this season were from outside the arc, with a whopping 92.6 percent of his threes coming off an assist.
Per NBA.com tracking data, Bey logged just 41 total isolation possessions all season, scoring at a lowly mark of 0.56 points per possession. He shot just 21.4 percent in isolation and ranked in the 13.3 percentile overall. A talented three-point shooter, Bey needs to continue to grow his offensive game.
Immanuel Quickley, G, New York Knicks
Flaw to Fix: Shot Selection/Getting to the Basket
Quickley showcased a beautiful floater and was very good from outside the arc this season (38.9 percent on threes overall, 46.6 percent on catch-and-shoot looks), but he'll need to improve his ability to get to the basket to complete his offensive development.
Only 5.9 percent of his total shot attempts came within three feet of the basket, with an average shot distance of 18.4 feet killing his overall efficiency.
Quickley was able to convert 61.8 percent of his close looks, yet shot just 39.5 percent overall during his rookie campaign. Adding muscle to his 6'3", 190-pound frame should help him absorb contact more easily and allow for more looks at the rim.
Isaiah Stewart, C, Detroit Pistons
Flaw to Fix: Lack of a Dominant Skill
Even as a 19-year-old rookie, there were few holes in Stewart's game this season.
He led all rookies in rebounds per game (6.7), blocks per game (1.3) and win shares (4.0), all while showcasing a solid overall game. Stewart showed the ability to protect the rim, finish in the pick-and-roll and even shoot threes at a decent clip.
Finding a dominant skill will help him stick in the Pistons starting lineup from here on out and guarantee he gets paid come extension time. Stewart is essentially good at almost everything already but not great in any one area.
Jae'Sean Tate, G/F, Houston Rockets
Flaw to Fix: Three-Point Shooting
Perhaps the most versatile rookie in the class, the 25-year-old Tate played and defended up to four different positions on any given night.
The 6'4" wing/big did have a rough season shooting the ball, knocking down just 20.0 percent of his pull-up threes while converting 30.9 percent off the catch. His overall mark of 30.7 percent was lower than rookie centers James Wiseman (31.6 percent), Isaiah Stewart (33.3 percent) and Xavier Tillman (33.8 percent).
Tate's shooting mechanics are solid enough that he should improve through simple repetition.
James Wiseman, C, Golden State Warriors
Flaw to Fix: Confidence
James Wiseman was the anti-Isaiah Stewart this season. While he wowed at times with his size and skill level, the sizzle always seemed greater than the steak.
The Warriors were absolutely dreadful in his minutes as well, getting beat by 16.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. Per Cleaning the Glass, that figure ranked in the 2nd percentile among all players.
It was painfully obvious how much better the Warriors were this season with Kevon Looney on the floor instead of the No. 2 overall draft pick. Too often when Wiseman made a mistake, his body language would immediately sour, with shoulders slumping and a look of frustration on the then-teenager's face. Golden State veteran Draymond Green told Dubs Talk that he's already taken notice (h/t NBC Sports' Marcus White):
"Enjoying the lumps that he takes, it's all a part of the process. And while taking those lumps, staying confident. One thing that people don't talk about when speaking of the NBA game is confidence, and when you lose confidence in this league, you could forget about it.
"You may as well hang 'em up because you're not going to be able to produce at the level you need to be able to produce at. Confidence is so important, so I'm just always on him about just staying confident."
With Wiseman likely unable to do much physically this summer while recovering from knee surgery, he can still digest plenty of film and improve the mental aspect of his game.
Ranking sixth among rookies in scoring (11.5 points) and third in rebounding (5.8), Wiseman can still develop into a dominant two-way force if his confidence continues to grow.
Patrick Williams, F, Chicago Bulls
Flaw to Fix: Playmaking
Patrick Williams started all 71 of his games for the Bulls this season after zero starts for Florida State the year before and silenced any questions about his three-point shooting by going 39.1 percent from beyond the arc.
For someone who won't turn 20 until August 26, Williams showed some really positive signs overall.
The Bulls may need him to take on more of a facilitating role, however, especially if the team fails to acquire a franchise point guard this offseason.
Williams finished the season with just 99 total assists to his 98 total turnovers (1.4 to 1.4 per game), and his 6.7 percent assist rate ranked just 54th among all first-year players.
As he showed during his FSU days, Williams is athletic and crafty enough to become at least an above-average passer, and running plays through him would help set the table for guys like Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Coby White.
For a Bulls team that ranked just 20th overall in assist-to-turnover ratio this season, some added playmaking from Williams would do wonders for the 21st-ranked offense.
Tyrese Haliburton, G, Sacramento Kings
Flaw to Fix: Aggressiveness
Tyrese Haliburton has been the NBA's best rookie surprise, as no one outside of Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball had a better freshman season.
Finishing third among rookies in scoring (13.0 points), second in assists (5.3) and second in steals (1.3), Haliburton was the only first-year player to shoot better than 40 percent from three (40.9 percent) while averaging double-digit scoring numbers.
While it was natural for him to take a backseat to players like De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes at first, the 21-year-old has earned the right to demand the ball and take on more of a leadership role already, as Haliburton explained to The Athletic's Jason Jones:
"That's just the staff and vets like Moe [Harkless], they're on me to go get the ball, be aggressive and lead the team. I'm getting great words of wisdom every day, learning more every day and I think at the end of the day, like we keep talking about, my development. To go in the right direction, I've got to be more vocal, be a leader and just have fun and play basketball."
Forced to play small forward with Fox and Hield in the backcourt at times, Haliburton would benefit from a Hield trade at some point and soak up more minutes playing off Fox in the backcourt.
While the Kings' draft history over the past decade hasn't been kind, Haliburton is a home run pick who needs to know it's OK to act like it.
Anthony Edwards, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Flaw to Fix: Pick-and-Roll Efficiency
Anthony Edwards has looked the part of a No. 1 overall pick this season, leading all rookies in scoring at 19.3 points per game (21.3 in 55 games as a starter).
What's even more encouraging is the success that he, Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell realized together. The Wolves' young core carries a net rating of plus-4.9 in 327 total minutes.
While Edwards has been a dynamic scorer (and maybe the league's best in-game dunker already), he needs to get better as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll.
The Wolves run Edwards in the pick-and-roll 6.4 times per game, accounting for 31 percent of his total offense. This play generates just 0.79 points per possession, however, ranking in the 34.5 percentile.
Towns is the type of athletic, floor-spacing big whom Minnesota should be killing teams with in the pick-and-roll every night. He's a terrific three-point shooter who can pick and pop or stride to the rim and dunk on the opponent's head following a perfectly placed pass.
Becoming an improved pick-and-roll facilitator usually means getting more reps in and becoming more comfortable with the players around you. It also means reading a defense and taking whatever it gives you, all areas in which Edwards continues to get better.
LaMelo Ball, PG, Charlotte Hornets
Flaw to Fix: Off-Ball Engagement
LaMelo Ball would have been the runaway Rookie of the Year if not for late-season wrist surgery and is still in the running for the award despite playing 21 fewer games than Anthony Edwards.
Ball was everything Charlotte could have hoped for in Year 1. Already one of the league's craftiest passers, Ball showed off a solid outside shot (35.2 percent overall, 37.5 percent before the surgery), an area of concern coming into the league.
The Hornets have plenty of facilitators, however, with Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Devonte' Graham (restricted free agent) all able to run the offense at times as well. Using the 6'6" Ball as a cutter more often would help get some easy baskets and take some of the playmaking responsibility off the 19-year-old.
Ball was only used as a cutter 14 times all season, shooting 33.3 percent (4-of-12) for 0.57 points per possession. This kind of efficiency ranked in the 3rd percentile overall.
Ball has the type of frame that enables him to be used in a multitude of ways, not just as a primary facilitator. While passing will always be his greatest skill, the Hornets can get even more creative with him offensively in Year 2.