Best NBA Rookies so far: 4 surprisingly confident players

Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks
NBA rookies (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Tyrese Maxey joins these three first-year players as the four most surprisingly confident rookies. Are these some of the best NBA rookies so far?

Starting a career as a pro athlete can’t be easy. For some of the best NBA rookies so far, their success is tied to their confidence. When you believe you can succeed, quite often, you do.

So far we’ve seen some great rookie performances and careers starting to take shape. LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman are all finding substantial roles on their respective teams and doing quite well with their opportunities.

I wanted to take a look at some rookies that were getting less press, though, that are exuding a level of confidence that is disproportionate to what you might expect from a typical first-year, not-yet-household-name type player, yet still producing respectable results (confidence is not necessarily a good thing if the results don’t follow).

For that reason, most of the players here are not the Balls, Edwards, and Wisemans of the 2021 rookie class, we know they’re confident and performing at a high level. Instead, we’ll look at the lesser mentioned, but still talented and most importantly, confident players of the 2021 class so far.

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Best NBA Rookies so far: Immanuel Quickley’s confidence

Maybe it’s helpful that there is no pressure of fans at Madison Square Garden, but I’m not sure it would matter for Immanuel Quickley. Kentucky Wildcats seem to have a swagger to them from day one in the NBA.

Obviously you’d expect eighth overall pick Obi Toppin would be the Knicks’ best rookie thus far, but Quickley, taken 25th, bests him in points, rebounds, and assists per game (with about four extra minutes of playing time per game).

Quickley making this list is by far the greatest reach, as he’s been wildly inconsistent and had some dud games throughout the year already. But when he’s on, his swagger and confidence in his game is palpable.

Though possession-adjusted stats can be a bit misleading this early in the season and for players with minimal playing time, Quickley scores more points per 100 possessions than RJ Barrett and Austin Rivers.

Quickley, when he’s at his best, is not yet the snappiest decision maker, but when he remains poised and upright, allowing the play to unfold around him, he often makes great decisions.

Quickley’s confidence, in the vacuum of a single game, can sometimes start low, but increases as the game goes on and he continues to make the right choices, something we saw in the Knicks’ noble effort but eventual loss to the Brooklyn Nets on January 13.

In that game, Quickley put up 19 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists. He ended the game getting to the rim on plays like this, an example of his confidence:

Once Quickley can come in straightaway with the same confidence he allows to build throughout the game, he’ll be a real problem.