NBA Rookie Power Rankings: The Final Word
This is our last rookie power rankings report for the NBA season. This column looks very similar to the penultimate report that was filed two weeks ago, as the top five had solidified their spots on the list. Of course, our number-two ranked player, Joel Embiid, has been out of action for some time now due to a season ending injury.
In addition, certain highly touted rookies never made much headway with the rookie power ranking, such as Dario Saric and Brandon Ingram, both of whom have two of the worst nERD scores in the NBA, -7.6 and -11.0, respectively.
As you know by now, 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.
So, without further ado, let’s see who our top five rookies are to end the season.
5. Ivica Zubac, C, Los Angeles Lakers
That being said, at 20 years of age and 7’1”, Zubac definitely showed potential and finished out the season averaging 11.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game over his last 12 contests.
Zubac has a chance to be an important piece for the Lakers moving forward.
4. Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Milwaukee Bucks
Malcolm Brogdon finished the season averaging 10.2 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. In addition, he averaged 26.4 minutes and was a strong shooter, posting a 45.7% field goal percentage and 86.5% free throw percentage.
Most importantly, he played quality minutes for a team that made the playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks finished 42-40 and took down the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of their playoff series. In that game, Brogdon continued his important role, as he played 34 minutes and chipped in 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Brogdon is the rookie with the most power as the playoffs get underway; he just couldn’t overtake a few players during the regular season.
3. Juan Hernangomez, C, Denver Nuggets
Juan Hernangomez continued his up-and-down play as the season wound down. His season-long numbers were not particularly exciting, as he averaged 4.9 points and 3 rebounds per game over 62 games.
There were some highlights, however, such as his 40.7% shooting from three-point range, and in his nine starts, he played over 32 minutes per game and averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds and made 1.7 three per game.
The Denver Nuggets were almost a playoff team, as they won 40 games, and at times Hernangomez was a key player. We’ll see what he can do next season, but it’s worth nothing that he’s just 21 years of age.
2. Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
As noted last time, Embiid’s statistics really say all it all. He was crushing opposition every night that he played. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game.
Embiid’s per 36 minutes statistics for the season really were astounding when you consider as a 23 year old he’d never played an NBA regular season game before -- 28.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3 assists, and 1.6 three pointers.
Unfortunately, we were only treated to 31 games this season, but if he's healthy and able to play the entire season next year, he could post some of the best numbers in the entire NBA.
1. Willy Hernangomez, C, New York Knicks
Amid all of the dysfunction surrounding the New York Knicks this season, there were a few glimmers of hope -- one of them being Willy Hernangomez. As the Knicks' season sunk further and further and became more about playing for the lottery, Hernangomez really benefited from more minutes.
You see a glimpse of this from the Knicks' last five games of the season. During that stretch, Hernangomez averaged 12.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3 assists while playing 26 minutes per game.
We’ll see if his role becomes more prominent next season, which will partially depend on what happens with the Carmelo Anthony ongoing saga. Either way, Hernangomez turned in the most efficient season of all rookies in 2016-17 by our numbers.