The NBA Rookie of the Year race was a two man race for much of the season between Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves and LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets. Tyrese Haliburton of the Sacramento Kings came into focus for awhile, but it was clear at the end that it would come down to Edwards or Ball.
LaMelo Ball won the award over Anthony Edwards, as the league announced on Wednesday that the Hornets sensational guard took home the honors. While Edwards had his own thoughts, though indirectly, it wasn’t surprising to see LaMelo win it. Yet, there’s a more than validated case that can be made for the Wolves No. 1 overall pick.
Here are two reasons why Anthony Edwards should have won Rookie of the Year over LaMelo Ball.
Anthony Edwards didn’t miss a game, LaMelo Ball missed 25% of the season
The best ability often times is availability.
Anthony Edwards played in every single game for the Timberwolves this past season (72 games) and he started in most of them (55 games).
When Minnesota went through a rough patch with both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell being sidelined, it was Edwards who became the No. 1 option for the Wolves to try and keep things afloat. That’s correct, Minnesota was relying on a 19-year old rookie to carry the brunt of the weight with their two other stars sidelined.
What Anthony Edwards showed the league during that stretch was that he can be a future superstar in this league. There’s no doubt there’s room for growth and he needs to become more consistent from three-point range, but the rookie out of Georgia put the franchise on his shoulders when they were missing their two best players. Now, Ant has blossomed into one of the best players on the team.
LaMelo Ball missed 25% of the season and still won NBA Rookie of the Year. He had the viral moments with his crisp passing, he played magnificently for the Hornets for much of the year when he was healthy, but how can you miss 25% of the season and still win the award?
Nobody has a direct answer or the right answer but there should be a threshold at least kept in mind for such awards that voters take into account. A number of games that a player has to be healthy and have played in to qualify, of sorts.
Maybe some would argue missing 21 games like Ball did is fine and that he was still deserving. There’s a case for that. But it’s not as though he missed a week or five or six games. Ball missed one-fourth of the entire season. Had Anthony Edwards missed some time the compare and contrast game could’ve begun. But the fact is Edwards played in every single game for Minnesota.
Charlotte finished the year 33-39 and went .500 with LaMelo Ball
There’s not a soul in the world that would argue that Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves had a good year. They were awful for much of the season. Minnesota started to piece it together at the end of the year once Russell and Towns were healthy and rejoined the lineup alongside Edwards, but it was still a disaster of a year.
While the Hornets made the play-in tournament, nobody is going to brag about going 33-39 like Charlotte did. And at the end of the road they had the same fate as Minnesota; no playoff berth.
Missing 21 of a possible 82 games is a large enough sample size to draw some conclusions. In those 21 games that Ball missed for Charlotte, the Hornets went 10-11. They are better with their floor general healthy and playing but they showed they can stay right around their season marks with him out of the lineup.
A massive part of that is the talent around Ball which includes Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Gordon Hayward (when healthy) and others. It’s a nice blend of youth and veteran players for the Hornets and they were able to stay afloat in the games that Ball missed.
Anthony Edwards didn’t have that luxury in Minnesota. Once Towns and Russell went down, it became what appeared to be more of a G-League lineup around Edwards in Minnesota.
Injuries can’t be predicted and in most cases can’t be blamed on a player but, the Hornets did just fine without Ball in the lineup during the season. They are better with him, okay without him.
It was clear the NBA Rookie of the Year Award was a two-man race. Both Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball were more than deserving. If anything, the voting should’ve been closer but nonetheless, Edwards can use this as motivation going forward. A tip of the cap to both Ball and Edwards on phenomenal seasons.
Ball gets rookie of the year. Deservedly so – and as expected Edwards is second and Haliburton third. A little surprising that Quickley didn’t get a single vote even for third. pic.twitter.com/Uh1Zvdqhvq
— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) June 16, 2021