NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Willy Hernangomez Maintains the Top Spot
This is our penultimate rookie power rankings for this NBA season. It’s been a long year, and we’ve seen some twists and turns with the rookies.
Joel Embiid, the player everyone viewed as the likely rookie of the year, has fallen in the rankings due to a season-ending injury. So a bit of suspense and surprise has been built into our last couple columns as we get to see who wins out.
Since Embiid is out for the year, there has been quite a bit of talk about Dario Saric as the best rookie. However, his nERD is -5.8 is the seventh-worse mark in the NBA, so he’s not going to ascend to the top of our power rankings.
As many of you know, we don’t merely use the latest hype to point out who is deserving of being one of the league's top five rookies, we're using math -- and we'll specifically be talking about nERD. This metric measures a player's contributions, based on efficiency. The number will indicate how many wins above or below .500 a player would make an average team over a full season. You can read more about nERD in our glossary.
Without further ado, let’s see who our top five rookies are at this point in the season.
5. Ivica Zubac, C, Los Angeles Lakers
Ivica Zubac continues to make a big impact for the Los Angeles Lakers as we move towards the end of the season. With the Lakers out of playoff contention, Zubac has seen his minutes reach almost 23 per game, and this has allowed him to average 11.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game during March.
At just 20 years of age, Zubac seems primed to make significant progress next season and be a key cog in the Lakers' rebuilding project.
4. Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Milwaukee Bucks
Malcolm Brogdon has been very solid during the month of March. Over 14 games, he’s contributed 12.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per night. He’s shooting a scorching 95.5% from the free throw line and 48.9% from the field.
Most importantly, the Milwaukee Bucks are 10-4 over this stretch of games and currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks are primed to make the playoffs.
Brogdon will continue to have a real impact on the Bucks as he’s averaging over 30 minutes a game in March. It's safe to say the Bucks will need his continuing contributions in the playoffs if they want to advance.
3. Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
There is not much, if anything, new to say about Embiid. He’s still put up the best per-game averages of any rookie -- 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks on a mere 25.4 minutes per game. There are also numerous articles about how he should still be the rookie of the year in the NBA.
However, Embiid only played in 31 games, and he has now slipped to third in our power rankings based on nERD.
2. Juan Hernangomez, C, Denver Nuggets
Juan Hernangomez's minutes have been all over the place as this season winds down, with a lot of it depending on who is healthy in the Denver Nuggets' frontcourt each night. However, he has managed decent numbers on approximately 19 minutes per night over his last 8 games.
Hernangomez is averaging 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 51.2% per game over that span. The Nuggets are only one game out of the playoffs with eight games to play, so he’s been playing in important games down the stretch this season.
1. Willy Hernangomez, C, New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are a bit of a disaster. They have the fifth-worst record in the NBA, including a 4-10 mark in March, and are 8 games out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They're bound for the lottery again.
However, one bright spot has been the play of Guillermo Hernangomez in the middle. Over his last 10 games, he’s averaging 11.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.5 assists on 24 minutes per game. He’s also shooting over 51% from the field.
It’s difficult to assess where Hernangomez fits on the Knicks next season as they seem to be in constant rebuild mode, but he may be a solid piece for their rotation if he sticks around.