NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Joel Embiid Keeps Climbing

Embiid continues his march on number one in our efficiency-based rookie rankings.

Welcome to the fourth installment of numberFire’s Rookie Power Rankings. We now have two months of the season under our belts, so let’s take a look at the rookies who have performed the best.

As usual, we’ll be using our nERD metric to evaluate which rookies have been playing the best for their teams throughout the season. nERD indicates how many wins above or below .500 a player would make an average team over a full season.

We are still limiting our consideration to players that have averaged at least 15 minutes per game. As has been the case, you will see that a couple of players dropped out of our rankings this week (Jamal Murray and Kris Dunn), but we have two new guys in Rodney McGruder and Malcolm Brogdon.

So, without further ado, let’s see who our top five rookies are at this point in the season.

5. Domantas Sabonis

nERD: -1.4

Domantas Sabonis slipped two spots from our last power rankings. Although he continues to start for the 16-12 Oklahoma City Thunder, his minutes per game have dipped recently. Over his last 10 games, he’s only averaging 19.3 minutes per game (versus 21.1 on the season) and he’s only shooting 41.5% from the field during that span (an almost two percentage-point drop versus his season average).

He’ll have a hard time making a significant impact if he shoots that poorly and plays fewer than 20 minutes per game.

4. Rodney McGruder

nERD: -1.0

Rodney McGruder is a 25-year-old rookie playing relatively big minutes for the Miami Heat this season. He’s played in 27 games and started 15 of them while averaging 25.6 minutes per game.

Over his last 10 games, he’s averaged 31.5 minutes per game while also averaging 5.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. McGruder’s shooting percentage from the field during that stretch has been atrocious at 31.1%, but overall for the season, he’s shooting 38.8% from the field. Improved shooting might help McGruder move up the power rankings as the season moves on.

3. Malcolm Brogdon

nERD: -0.8

Malcolm Brogdon is our second newcomer to the rookie power rankings. He (like McGruder, who is 25) is a little bit older for a rookie at 24 years of age. Maybe that’s helped him step in right away and contribute for the 13-13 Milwaukee Bucks.

Brogdon is averaging 22.5 minutes per game over his last 10 games and chipping in 7.8 points and 3.7 assists per game while shooting a respectable 42.6% from the field.

On the season, Brogdon is also contributing almost 1 three-pointer made per game and almost 1 steal per game.

He also did this last night.

2. Joel Embiid

nERD: -0.5

Joel Embiid is slowly closing the gap on first place in the power rankings and continues to lead the Philadelphia 76ers in scoring at 17.9 points per game while also contributing 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Embiid is still a part-time player (because of his prior injuries), but over his last seven games, he’s increased his average minutes per game to 26.9 (almost 3 minutes more per game than his season average).

Embiid is a force, and no other rookie comes close to the numbers that he puts up each night, but based on efficiency, he's playing like a below-average player, based on nERD, primarily stemming from his 5.2 turnovers per 36 minutes.

1. Pascal Siakam

nERD: 0.1

Pascal Siakam is still at the top of the hill, with the best nERD ranking among qualified rookies. There isn’t much to talk about from a flash perspective with Siakam, but he has been remarkably consistent while starting every game for the Toronto Raptors. He plays 19 minutes per game and is shooting a very good 54.2% from the field and 77.3% from the free throw line. This results in 5.7 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game.

His nickname could be “no flash,” but his consistency is helping the Raptors stay on top of the Atlantic Division at 20-8.