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Top 5 sophomores in the 2020-21 NBA season

The 2019 NBA draft was full of exceptional talents who have continued to blossom in their sophomore season. These talents have continued to produce for their respective teams despite facing some of the league’s most experienced players on a regular basis.

The 2020-21 NBA season was not the easiest to navigate, as players had to go through major adjustments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, these players made the necessary adjustments and stayed disciplined to help their teams stay competitive.

Top five second-year players in the 2020-21 NBA season

Several prospects in NBA history fell off the wagon after a sensational rookie season. However, some of those prospects have bettered their intensity and marked their place in the league through the course of their second year.

On that note, here are the top five sophomores in the 2020-21 NBA season.

#5 Keldon Johnson

Keldon Johnson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs
Keldon Johnson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs

Keldon Johnson was the 29th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft. He started only one game for the San Antonio Spurs as a rookie, but has made major adjustments in his sophomore season, leading to 67 game starts in his second year.

Although Johnson’s numbers are not as impressive as other sophomores on this list, he is the most improved player in terms of player usage percentage. He finished the 2020-21 NBA regular season with an average of 12.8 points, 1.8 assists and 6 rebounds.

#4 RJ Barrett

RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks
RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks

RJ Barrett was a critical part of the New York Knicks’ resurgence post-NBA All-Star weekend. Although he had a sensational rookie season, he is putting up better numbers across all stat lines in his second year.

The third overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft started all 72 regular season games for the Knicks this season. He recorded an average of 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3 assists per game. The guard shot 40% from beyond the arc and an overall field goal percentage of .441.

#3 Ja Morant

Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant has struggled for consistency this season but has been the standout player for the Memphis Grizzlies. He won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2020, pipping Zion Williamson to the crown.

When it mattered most, Morant was the go-to for the Grizzlies as he put the final nail in the coffin that helped defeat the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament. He joins Barrett and Porter on the list of second-year players to make the NBA playoffs. He finished the regular season with 19.1 points and 7.4 assists per game.

#2 Michael Porter Jr

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. #1
Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. #1

Michael Porter Jr. missed out on his entire first season in the NBA but has come back stronger this year. He is playing the best basketball of his life with the Denver Nuggets as he is the benefactor of a majority of Nikola Jokic’s dimes.

Porter Jr. is perhaps the best scorer on the list, shooting 62.8% from 2-point and 44.5% from beyond the arc. He is a very dynamic player and can hurt teams on offense.

Although his defense and passing need improvement, he is on the path to becoming one of the NBA’s most efficient scorers.

#1 Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson is the future of the NBA, closely behind Luka Doncic, provided he can stay healthy. The forward played only 24 games in his rookie season but averaged 22.5 points, 2.1 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Although the New Orleans Pelicans missed out on postseason action, Williamson finished the 2020-21 regular season with the highest points per game in the paint (20.3). Giannis Antetokounmpo is in second with an average of 16.7 points per game.

The 20-year-old was impactful on the court for the Pelicans. It became clear after the Pelicans lost 5-of-6 without the forward to close out the season. He concluded the 2020-21 NBA regular season with career-high averages in points (27), rebounds (7.2), and assists (3.7) while shooting 61% from the field.

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