NBA Rookie of the Year ladder: Big rise from Jaime Jaquez Jr. in Week 6

The landscape of rookie performances in the NBA continues to shift. Let's rank 'em.

Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat
Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
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. Wing. player. Jaime Jaquez Jr.. 4. 4. Heat. Jaime Jaquez Jr.. 110.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been essential to the Miami Heat second unit. He's in the Sixth Man of the Year race, too, which is simply not common for a rookie. Even a four-year college vet like Jaquez, who the Heat selected with hopes he could be ready to contribute straight away. Those hopes were evidently well founded.

The 22-year-old is averaging 12.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on .525/.393/.793 shooting in 26.7 minutes. He's playing winning basketball for a winning team, supplementing the reigning conference champs with timely spot-up 3s, quick processing speed, and a mid-post game that Erik Spoelstra has leaned all the way into.

With Jaquez, there were valid concerns about how his unique play style at UCLA would translate to the pros. He earned Jimmy Butler comparisons with his heady in-between game, but it's not terribly wise to project Jimmy Butler upside from four-year college players with limited athleticism and far less defensive upside. In today's game, when spacing and speed are at such a premium, it's easy to reject the idea of a plodding halfcourt player who shot below 32 percent from deep in three of four college seasons.

Well, the 3-point shot is very much real. That has been the most important sign of growth from Jaquez. But, perhaps more importantly, he's another shining example of why we should value feel above other indicators. Jaquez always knew how to play the game and he has adjusted his approach to fit the NBA and his complementary role, all while the Heat are embracing his individual tricks of the trade. Jaquez is playing rock-solid team defense and doing everything the Heat ask of him. He's a potential draft night steal.