NBA Rookie Rankings: Zion Williamson continues to prove why he is a generational talent - CBS Sports

NBA Rookie Rankings: Zion Williamson continues to prove why he is a generational talent - CBS Sports

10 February 2020

Before the New Orleans Pelicans took on the Chicago Bulls Thursday night, Zion Williamson participated in shootaround just nine hours earlier where there were hordes of cameramen and reporters just waiting to ask the young rookie questions about a wide range of topics. He's likely experienced this type of media attention at every road arena the Pelicans have traveled to since he returned, and it'll likely follow him for the foreseeable future if he continues to play the way he has. 

When he was announced in the starting lineup for that game against Chicago, he received the loudest cheer not just of Pelicans players, but of Bulls players as well. Everyone in attendance was there to see Zion Williamson put on a show, and he did. He finished that game with 21 points while shooting 81.8 percent from the field. It wasn't filled with a slew of rim-rattling dunks or deep 3s, but every time he out-muscled a defender in the paint to get an easy bucket you could just tell everyone's reaction in the arena was, "man, this kid is going to be a problem for a long time." The hype around him is monumental, only matched by LeBron James in his rookie season. So far, though, Williamson has done everything right to show that the hype is warranted.

These rankings will reflect a rookie's performance on a week-to-week basis, not the collective season, so these aren't Rookie of the Year standings. For a look at the previous rookie rankings, click here. With that straightened out, here are the latest Rookie Power Rankings for the 2019-20 season.

Last week: No. 2

Highlight of the week: In the eight games that Williamson has played in this season, he's put up 20-plus points in six of them. He still has a long journey to go to become a complete basketball player, mainly working on his jump shot, but the way he's able to use his body to get points in the paint is veteran-level stuff. He's not super flashy, save for a few jaw-dropping lobs he'll catch on a nightly basis, but instead, he spends most games in the paint fighting for offensive boards or just straight up out-muscling everyone for some points. If the Pelicans are going to post him up frequently early on then he'll need a diverse bag of tricks to be truly effective, but right now he's been able to get by on the sheer force and strength he brings, and it's been a joy to watch over the past two weeks.

Last week: No. 1

Highlight of the week: In between sparring with Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry on Twitter, Morant has continued to ball out. Memphis has played some weaker competition this past week, but every win counts when you're fighting for the playoffs. Morant gets a lot of attention for his scoring, but his court vision may be the best skill he has. He ranks 12th in the league in assists per game (7.0) and 13th in assist percentage (35.0), and the chemistry that he's managed to build up with the rest of the young Grizzlies core is shining through with every no-look pass. The game moves incredibly slow for Morant because he's not just planning out what he's going to do in advance, he's able to pull things off mid-air or navigating through traffic. You may think he's going to do one thing, when at the last second he flips the ball to an open teammate for a better look. This kid is playing well beyond his years, and with each win the Grizzlies racks up their timeline continues to accelerate.

Last week: Unranked

Highlight of the week: After being snubbed from the Rising Stars game, Davis exploded against the Chicago Bulls for 31 points. It was a career-high for the undrafted rookie, and after the game even Raptors coach Nick Nurse acknowledged that maybe Davis should be getting more attention than he has. Nurse said, "I always think about the games where I play him six minutes and wonder what the hell I'm doing when he's playing like that." Davis flying under the radar may work out well for the Raptors when the playoffs roll around because while everyone is concerned with stopping Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, Davis can just be flying around the floor knocking down open looks.

Last week: Unranked

Highlight of the week: Imagine what Paschall would be with Zion's size. He already has the finesse and shooting that Zion needs to develop, and he technically is already built like a mini version of a tank himself, but if he had the strength, power and brute force that Willamson has he'd be unstoppable. After pulling a disappearing act last week in all three of the Warriors losses, Paschall displayed a healthy level of consistency this week to help Golden State pick up two wins. Paschall has been productive all season on a tanking team, it will be interesting to see how much better he can be when he has Stephen Curry passing him the ball.

Last week: No. 7

Highlight of the week: Porter only played in one game this week after injuring his ankle, and while it doesn't look to be too serious he's already missed three games because of it. He's become a huge part of Denver's rotation as of late, and he adds another layer to this offense that operates at one of the slowest paces in the league (97.69). It's not just his scoring that is beneficial for Denver, at 6-10 his length is useful on the defensive end of the floor. He's an average defender, but he can guard both forward positions which will come in handy when the playoffs near.    

Last week: No. 5

Highlight of the week: Since returning from a sprained knee, Porter has elevated his play significantly and is proving his worth as a legitimate 3-point threat. He's more effective when he's moving without the ball, showing that he can knock down spot-up 3s on a consistent basis and that he can be useful coming off screens and cutting to the basket. He's the ideal player to surround Collin Sexton and Darius Garland with because Porter isn't the greatest ball-handler. However, with Sexton and Garland sharing the majority of the ball-handling duties in Cleveland, Porter and focus on moving around the floor and trying to find open spots for when one of those two guards dish it to him on the wing.

Last week: No. 9

Highlight of the week: Garland has already proven that he is a special ball-handler, especially when he's taking a defender one-on-one, but his finishing rate in the paint is where he needs some work. He's shooting just 38.9 percent in the paint, which isn't great considering that's where 30 percent of his shots are coming from. He's got the handle and the speed to get to the rim, but now what he needs to work on is making sure he's finishing on those plays otherwise the sweet crossover won't matter if it doesn't result in points.

Last week: No. 3

Highlight of the week: Hunter started the week missing two games due to an ankle injury, but was able to come back for the Hawks' win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. He's been playing well as of late, and what's more impressive is the entire young core in Atlanta is starting to mesh well together. The lineup of Hunter, Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish and John Collins has a net rating of plus-4.3, which is an encouraging sign considering those are likely the players the Hawks will want to build around for the future. Hunter's defense makes him an invaluable asset to have on the floor, but the next obstacle to overcome is being able to compete when Young and Collins aren't on the floor. That will be the task of Hunter and Reddish to figure out as they both progress.

Last week: No. 10

Highlight of the week: With the Bulls continuing to lose players due to injuries over the past month, White has been given the opportunity to showcase his skills a bit more. What's been truly odd, though, amidst all the injuries is Jim Boylen's reluctance to put White in the starting lineup to see how he does. With the way Chicago's season is going it doesn't look like the playoffs are still a viable option, so why not give the guy who you drafted No. 7 overall a shot to start? Tomas Satoransky has been the Bulls starting point guard all season, but when you put his numbers head-to-head against White, it's not like Satoransky is far and away a better player. Satoransky is the better passer, but White can create for himself and when he gets hot he's hard to stop. At some point this season the Bulls need to allow White to run the show just to see what he can do, because clearly what they're doing in Chicago isn't working.

Last week: No. 8

Highlight of the week: Herro's 23-point outing against the Magic exemplified the best qualities he brings to this Heat team. He can score off the bounce or in a catch-and-shoot situation, he's quick enough to turn the corner on slower defenders and get to the rim and he's constantly moving on the floor to get to open spots for Goran Dragic Jimmy Butler or Kendrick Nunn to find him. Defenders can't allow giving Herro any space otherwise he'll unload a 3-point shot with all the confidence in the world.     

Dropped out

Last week: No. 6

Last week: No. 4

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