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Power Rankings: The top 10 rookies to watch during the NBA restart

The rookies will be front and centre come July 30 when the NBA resumes in Orlando with Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans playing in the very first game of the restart.

Plenty of standout rookies will have opportunities to shine in the Disney World bubble. Of course, the word "shine" is entirely contextual based on the role that's being asked.

Williamson and Ja Morant will receive their fair share of headlines as central actors in the pivotal race for the eighth in the Western Conference.

Others like Kendrick Nunn and Brandon Clarke could put up big numbers as key starters with sizable loads.

Terence Davis, Michael Porter Jr., Luguentz Dort and Matisse Thybulle could see meaningful burn on teams looking to make it out of the first round and beyond.

Injuries have opened up a massive chance for Rui Hachimura to end his season on a positive note.

Regardless of the situation, opportunity knocks for rookies down in Orlando and taking everything into account, here's our top 10 rookies to watch out for once the season restarts.

10. Matisse Thybulle

I love watching Thybulle play defence more than any other rookie and it's not particularly close. And while there's a chance he gets squeezed out of the rotation once the playoffs get underway, Thybulle could just as easily be thrown into massive 76ers lineups in which they go all-in on making life as miserable as humanly possible. With that seven foot wingspan, Thybulle gets his tentacles on everything as he's already an elite disruptor, averaging 2.5 deflections per game despite playing just 19.5 minutes a night.

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

9. Terence Davis

The only player to feature in all Raptor games this season, Terence Davis has been a pleasant surprise for Nick Nurse and his staff. Davis' per 36 averages of 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and 39.6 from 3-point range gives Raptors fans hope that they may have found another Fred VanVleet-like hidden gem. With the Raptors all but locked into the two seed in the East, the final eight games might provide Davis a chance to earn himself more minutes in the playoffs with a strong close to the season.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

8. Luguentz Dort

It's not often that you see a two-way player serve as a rotational player for a playoff team, let alone a regular in the starting lineup. Clearly, Dort was not a typical two-way player, as evidenced by OKC's signing him to a multi-year deal ahead of the season's restart.

This season, Dort has started in 21 games and the Thunder have posted a 16-5 (.762) record in those games, with nine of the 16 wins coming over teams that will be participating in the season's restart. Dort's defensive toughness and chemistry with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander make him an X-factor for the Thunder in the postseason.

- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

7. Tyler Herro

Herro's first game back from injury just so happened to be Miami's final game before the season shut down. Prior to going down with an ankle injury, Herro had established himself as one of Miami's best shooters with a fear factor of precisely zero. He will not back down from anyone and if the Heat are going to make a surprise run in the East, don't be surprised if it's accompanied by shots of Herro jawing endlessly while backpedaling after draining another dagger from downtown.

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

6. Michael Porter Jr.

The Nuggets have taken the cautious approach with Porter, who sat the entirety of the 2018-19 season after being selected No. 12 overall. This year, Porter's role has varied - he's picked up 12 DNPs and been inactive for an additional five. Even in the 48 games that he's suited up in, Porter is only averaging 14.0 minutes per game, thus introducing another important figure. Denver is 15-4 when Porter plays more than 14 minutes in a game, and while that might seem like an indicator that the game was already out of hand, it isn't:

  • Dec. 29 - 19 PTS, 6 REB in 120-115 win over Kings
  • Jan. 2 - 25 PTS, 5 REB in 124-116 win over Pacers
  • Jan. 26 - 17 PTS, 9 REB in 117-110 win over Rockets
  • Jan. 30 - 12 PTS, 12 REB in 106-100 win over Jazz

There's a reason Porter was viewed as a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in 2018 before injuries derailed his lone college season. If the Nuggets can rely on him for extended time, their legitimacy as a sleeper is validated.

- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

5. Kendrick Nunn

Kendrick Nunn is second among all qualifying rookies this season with his average of 15.6 points through 62 games. It's also the second-best scoring season ever from a Miami Heat rookie. Who was first? Some guy by the name of Dwyane Wade.

Yes, the undrafted Nunn is also one of the oldest members of this rookie class, but the fact that he is a diamond in the rough is undeniable. The 6-foot-4 guard is hard-nosed and fits the trademark Heat identity. Oh, and when he's scored 17 or more points this season, Miami is 19-7; in many ways, his scoring unlocks the full potential of this team.

- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

4. Brandon Clarke

Brandon Clarke has been a net positive every time he's been on the floor this season for the Grizz. He ranks second in PER among rookies (21.8) only trailing Zion Williamson. He ranks third in true shooting amongst rookies at 67.1 percent. He's second on the team in win shares only trailing Jonas Valanciunas, who's having a career year. Clarke is so far the steal of the draft and might have earned a spot on the all-rookie team with his play this year.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

3. Rui Hachimura

Perhaps more than any other rookie, the Wizards forward has an opportunity to really take off during the restart. With both Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans not suiting up for the Wizards, there are suddenly 34 more shots per game to go around. That's good news for Hachimura who ranks third on the team in scoring behind only Beal and Bertans.

There's really not much to go on given that the rookie only played a grand total of 16 minutes the entire season without at least one of Washington's two leading scorers beside him. Although Williamson and Morant figure to put up big numbers, Hachimura is a potential darkhorse to lead all rookies in scoring in the bubble.

- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

2. Ja Morant

Let's face it, if the Grizzlies are going to hold onto the eighth seed in the West, it's going to be because of Ja Morant. Morant has been the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year all season long and even with a late push from the phenom that is Zion Williamson, Morant is still in the driver's seat. The world will be watching Morant and the Grizzlies closely in the final eight games of the season, but he's used to that. In fact, Morant has been a primetime player all season long. The rookie ranks amongst the league leaders in clutch production this season - yeah, that's league leaders, not just rookie leaders. Morant is averaging 3.3 points per game shooting 53.8 percent from the field. That's on par with the likes of Chris Paul and James Harden. Morant is a stone-cold closer, and Memphis might need him to be to secure their playoff berth.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

1. Zion Williamson

What is there to say about Zion that hasn't been said already? One thing is for certain, he's been as good as advertised to start his career, if not better. Considering the hype surrounding him following his lone season at Duke, that's saying something.

Through his first 19 career games, Williamson is averaging an impressive 17.3 points in the paint per game, good for second in the league behind reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. While Zion is a few inches shorter than Giannis, his athleticism and feel around the rim has made him one of the most efficient post scorers in the league at just 20 years old. Expect Williamson to get plenty of paint touches for the Pelicans, who enter Orlando with a heightened sense of urgency in order to make their playoff push.

And if that's not enough, look at how he's transformed his body over the past four months… Scary.

Let's Dance

A post shared by Zion Williamson (@zionwilliamson) on

- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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