NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Porzingis Shares the Crown With Towns

After Karl-Anthony Towns topped our rankings for the first two weeks, he now shares the honors this time around.

We're going to switch things up a little bit in this week's power rankings. 

I'd like to welcome you to "Who's He Playing Like?" For each of the five top rookies according to our nERD statistic, I'll give you the stat line of a veteran's rookie season and see how the two line up.

One thing to keep in mind: we have a 15 minute per game cutoff for these rookies, so that explains why players like the hot-shooting  Devin Booker didn't make the cut.

5. Willie Cauley-Stein

nERD: 1.4

Points per 36 Rebounds per 36 FG% Blocks per 36 FT %
Willie Cauley-Stein 9.1 9.8 .609 2.1 .515
DeAndre Jordan 10.6 11.1 .633 2.8 .385

The obvious choice for  Willie Cauley-Stein is another poor shooting, efficient big man in DeAndre Jordan. In their rookie seasons, the two played comparable roles, each taking about three shots per game, two of those three coming from within three feet of the hoop. Jordan averaged slightly more in a couple traditional statistics, but Cauley-Stein holds the edge in some advanced numbers. He tops Jordan in Box Plus/Minus and Win Shares per 48 minutes. He also has better Offensive and Defensive Ratings. 

It took six years for Jordan to average double figures in either points or rebounds, but he did both in 2013-14, putting up 10.4 points per game while almost doubling his rebounds per game from 7.2 to 13.6. Is a similar jump in store for Cauley-Stein? We'll just have to wait and see.

4. Nemanja Bjelica

nERD: 2.3

Points per 36 Rebounds per 36 Assists per 36 3PA per 36 3P%
Nemanja Bjelica 10.1 8.3 2.7 2.7 .389
Ryan Anderson 13.4 8.5 1.4 5.2 .365

In a sharp contrast to the fifth guy on this list, number four takes a ton of outside shots and hates being near the basket. 

For as much as people say  Ryan Anderson loves taking three-pointers, Nemanja Bjelica loves shooting from outside the arc even more. In Anderson's eight seasons in the league, he's only had one season in which he's taken more than 58 percent of his shots from deep. Bjelica's already tied him in that regard: 64 percent of his shots have been three-pointers. He's been successful so far, connecting on about 40 percent of them. But even still, he'll likely never become the next Ryan Anderson if his offensive repertoire consists almost exclusively of threes.

3. Nikola Jokic

nERD: 2.7

Points per 36 Rebounds per 36 Blocks per 36 Assists per 36
Nikola Jokic 16.2 10.6 1.0 1.6
Kevin Love 15.8 12.9 0.9 1.0

I know what you're thinking: Adam's comparing some random center who barely plays to  Kevin Love. OK, it sounds crazy -- and it kind of is -- but bear with me for a little bit. 

We think of Love today as the prototypical three-point shooting power forward -- he's taking six-plus three-pointers a game this year -- but it wasn't always like that. In his rookie season, Love only took 19 all season, which makes this comparison particularly interesting. When you give Love and  Jokic starter minutes for their rookie stats, their numbers look surprisingly similar. They both had the same Offensive Rating (112) and about the same Win Shares per 48 (.15 for Jokic and .124 for Love).

If you look a little closer, you can see differences in their game. While they're averaging about the same number of three-point shots per game, Love's taking more midrange shots than Jokic. Because of this Jokic is actually more efficient in his rookie year than Love was. Also, it should be noted that Love had a better Total Rebound Percentage by five percentage points (21.0 vs 16.0). This leads one to believe that even increasing Jokic's minutes, it'll be unlikely to see a 15 rebound season like Love.

T-1. Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis

nERD: 4.9

Points per 36 Rebounds per 36 Blocks per 36 Offensive/Defensive Rating 
Karl-Anthony Towns 19.1 11.8 2.8 106/98
Tim Duncan 19.4 11.0 2.3 108/95
Kristaps Porzingis 18.8 11.4 1.9 106/99

I really wanted to compare  Porzingis to Dirk Nowitzki just so I could include this:

But alas, Porzingis is playing just so much better than Nowitzki did his rookie season that it'd be an unfair comparison. In fact, Porzingis is averaging almost six more rebounds and four more points per 36 minutes than Nowitzki while shooting six percentage points better. So that's why I like the above comparison more. 

Towns and Porzingis have almost identical stat likes to Tim Duncan's rookie season, scoring and rebounding in particular. Aside form the stats above,  Towns and Duncan both shot .577 for their TS%. Porzingis, who has taken more threes and has generally been more inefficient than the other two, trails them by a bit at .551, still a very respectable percentage for a rookie.

Their rebound percentages, the most useful stat for comparing rebounders, are all around 17 percent. And while Duncan holds the advantage in overall defense -- in his rookie season, his Defensive Box Plus Minus and Defensive Win Shares per 48 were both greater than the two rookies -- both Porzingis and Towns have better block percentages. 

Looking at per 100 possession numbers, the similarities between Towns and Porzingis become even more eerily similar.

The obvious difference is that Duncan was keeping up his numbers for 40 minutes a night -- literally every night, he didn't miss a game his rookie year. Porzingis and Towns are both below the 30-minute threshold. It's hard to tell if, given more minutes, the two of them will be able to put up per game numbers similar to what Duncan did (21.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game). But it makes sense that, given their near identical stats, whichever rookie ends up getting more minutes per game will be crowned Rookie of the Year.