NBA Rookie Power Rankings: It's Joel Embiid's Award to Lose
Welcome to the fifth installment of numberFire’s Rookie Power Rankings. We now have over two months of the NBA 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 limiting our consideration to players who have averaged at least 15 minutes per game.
However, if we disregarded minutes per game there would be a couple of other rookies pushing on the door -- Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics and Guillermo Hernangomez of the New York Knicks. If either of them can find more minutes in their respective rotations, they’re likely to find their way into the power rankings. Brown's current nERD is -1.1, and Hernangomez is at -0.2.
This installment we have the same five players as last time, but there has been some reordering. So, without further ado, let’s see who our top five rookies are at this point in the season.
5. Domantas Sabonis
Domantas Sabonis has maintained his spot in the power rankings. Sabonis continues to start for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but his minutes per game slipped during the month of December (20.4 minutes per game versus 21.3 on the season) and his field goal percentage was pretty abysmal (39.7%).
His overall points per game and rebounds per game are pretty ordinary at 6.2 and 3.5, respectively, and none of that seems likely to improve unless Sabonis finds more minutes and his shooting percentage comes up. Those two items may be related at the end of the day.
4. Rodney McGruder
Rodney McGruder of the Miami Heat has maintained his spot in the rankings as well and continues to play an important role. He is averaging almost 30 minutes per game over his last seven games and is contributing 5.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game.
Similar to Sabonis, McGruder likely needs to become a more integral part of the Heat offense to move up the rankings, and in part, that may be related to his poor field goal percentage of 39.3%.
3. Pascal Siakam
Pascal Siakam slips from the number-one spot back to number three this week. The best part about Siakam is that he continues to start games for the Toronto Raptors, and they continue to have success with him in the lineup (23-11 overall record).
However, it’s worth noting that, during Siakam’s 14 games in December, his minutes dropped to 16.3 per game, and he similarly had drops in his points per game, 4.5, and rebounds per game, 3.1 (versus 4.9 and 3.6, respectively, on the season).
On the plus side, he maintained a relatively high field goal percentage of 47.4% during December. Any additional minutes for Siakam seem unlikely as long as Patrick Patterson is also playing power forward for the Raptors. In fact, Siakam could take another minutes hit if Jared Sullinger returns from his foot injury, as he also plays power forward.
2. Malcolm Brogdon
Malcolm Brogdon has been starting recently for the Milwaukee Bucks (in place of an injured Matthew Dellavedova) and has been producing. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 31 minutes per game (versus 23.2 for the season), 10.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 6 assists per game.
He even had a triple-double versus the Chicago Bulls to ring in the new year. Brogdon seems like the most significant potential threat to displacing Joel Embiid at the top of the rookie power rankings, especially if Brogdon continues to receive starter’s minutes for the rest of the season.
1. Joel Embiid
Embiid has taken over first place in the power rankings and continues to lead the Philadelphia 76ers in scoring at 19.2 points per game. Embiid is still not an everyday player (because of his prior injuries), but over his last eight games, he’s averaging 28 minutes, 21 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.1 blocks per game.
Embiid continues to be a force, and no other rookie (other than Brogdon recently) is coming close to the numbers that Embiid puts up each night.