[OPINION] Who should win 2020 LCS Rookie of the Year award?

Image by Riot Games

 

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to play “eenie meenie minie moe” to determine which rookie gets… Wait, there’s how many options?

 

The LCS historically awards a “Rookie of the Split” award at the end of each split to whichever rookie showed the most promise either as an individual or for their team. This award is typically drowned out by the usual All-Pro category and especially the MVP vote, but this year is more exciting for two key reasons: 

 

  1. There are more rookies this year than any split since 2018 Spring
  2. Two of the rookies have arguments for being top 3 in their respective roles

 

Since only one rookie participated in 2020 Spring [Dignitas’ Johnsun — Ed.], Riot decided to leave the award open to the entire 2020 instead. It is my humble intention today to rank each potential candidate for Rookie of the Year in order of who should be considered.

 

Photo by 100 Thieves

 

No. 5: Philippe "Poome" Lavoie-Giguere, 100T

 

It’s hard for me not to be biased to Poome due to his incredible story. The guy’s only been playing League of Legends for a little over three years and has already made it all the way to the LCS. Back at the end of 2019 when 100Thieves announced their amateur program, few in the mainstream knew what exactly that meant. Clearly, PapaSmithy and the rest of 100T’s management had a vision. 

 

Poome went from amateur to academy, to LCS, all within a single year. There’s no denying that 100T looks better with Poome over Stunt: they even have a 50% win rate with him as their starting support. However, 100T’s major victories have been off of carry performances from top laner Ssumday, with Poome playing a major backseat role.

 

Poome stats (all LCS starting supports)
Category Rank Stat
Assists 8th 98
KDA 7th (tied) 3.1
Kill Participation 11th 68.2%
First Blood 12th 8%
% of team deaths 2nd 27.6%

 

 

At first glance, these stats are pretty abysmal. Poome is possibly the least impactful support in the early game in the LCS, and the numbers show it. Where his strength does lie is in playing a good weak side botlane and allowing 100T’s jungler Contractz to put his attention topside earlier on. This is also reflected in his respectably low death count (7th at 34), despite dying a lot compared to the rest of his team. Pair this with his lane partner in Cody Sun who can scale up and perform in late game teamfights, and you can see why 100T would still be happy with Poome as their starting support. He’s a better option for the Thieves over Stunt, but he just hasn’t shown an argument why he should be considered for Rookie of the Year.

 

Photo by Oshin Tudayan for Riot Games

No. 4: David "Insanity" Challe, IMT

 

How does a rookie on the last place team rank higher than one that made playoffs? One word: heart. Ever since Jiizuke was benched by Evil Geniuses, Insanity has been the most exciting midlaner to watch in the LCS. Truly living up to his name, he’s sporting one of the most unbalanced sets of stats of all mid laners.

 

Instanity stats (all LCS starting mid laners)
Category Rank Stat
Kill Share 1st 39.7%
DPM 1st 572
% of team damage 1st 32.3%
Kill Participation 3rd (tied) 72.4%
% of team deaths 3rd lowest 14.9%

 

Simply put, Insanity is doing the most fighting on Immortals while not inting as hard as the team around him. He’s got this killer’s mentality where he always wants to go in and make the big play. An argument can be made that this is a playstyle that doesn’t work in the LCS, but with the right coaching staff and an aggressive jungler alongside him, he could really turn some heads in the 2021 season. 

 

The major weakness that Insanity has shown is his incredibly poor laning phase. With the lowest GD@10 of any mid laner and the lowest first blood percentage, his early game is definitely where he’s most vulnerable. He’s got heart, he’s got mechanics, and he knows how to stay alive while outputting damage in a teamfight. With that being said, he still has a lot to learn about laning before he would be considered for Rookie of the Year.

 

Photo by Tina Jo for Riot Games

No. 3: Erik "Treatz" Wéssen, TSM

(Treatz is the only rookie who isn’t natively from NA, but still qualifies for LCS rookie of the split as he never competed in the LEC).

 

Treatz is the Rookie of the Year candidate with by far the least amount of games played, so in order to be in the conversation, he needed to do a DAMN good job in his eight games played.

 

Looking at his overall report card, this kid is pretty good. Granted, he’s just playing enchanters and enabling his team to carry, but take a moment to stop and think about how good that is for TSM’s current roster. Bjergsen with a support who enables him has suddenly joined the MVP conversation, and Treatz definitely deserves recognition for being the other half of that equation.

 

Despite only playing eight games in Summer, Treatz has already shown he’s possibly the best enchanter support player in the league. Along with recent promising performances from Doublelift, he has two players with proven records of being incredible hard carries around him. The concern here is what this does to TSM in the pick/ban phase. Until Treatz picks up some wins on engage champions (which we know he plays in Academy), he won’t be surpassing the likes of the CoreJJ for summer All-Pro support.

 

That being said, he’s not competing with CoreJJ’s performance for Rookie of the Year, he’s competing with the other rookies.

 

Treatz stats (all LCS starting supports)
Category Rank Stat
KDA 1st 11.7
Kill Participation 1st 79.5%
XPD@10 1st 141
First Blood % 9th 11%
Counter Pick Rate 10th 25%

 

The reason I highlight these stats is that it tells a story of how TSM use Treatz. He has the highest KDA and KP, which means he plays their version of the game very well, enabling the carries while not dying. He is also first in XPD@10 which means he stays around lane and doesn’t often roam early. With that, he’s not getting much for himself in lane alone. 

 

With one of the lowest first bloods in the league, TSM put their attention elsewhere in the early game to try and enable Bjergsen while Treatz is just a safe laning support who allows the carries to go beast mode in teamfights. Again, the problem is teams like C9 and TL will eventually learn how to outdraft TSM. Treatz has the lowest counter pick rate, so first rotation just ban out his pool. All you have to do is force Treatz onto something that isn’t an enchanter and play heavily around shutting down bot lane early. 

 

In short, he’s got a fairly one-dimensional playstyle over the few games he’s played and his insane stats have less to do with his individual performance and more with how TSM uses him.

 

Photo by Tina Jo for Riot Games

 

No. 2: Johnson "Johnsun" Nguyen, DIG

 

This one makes me sad because Johnsun is absolutely deserving of Rookie of the Split for spring. Due to being the ONLY rookie in Spring, the awards were delayed and now he’s got way more competition. Where this works in his favor is just how many games we have to judge his performance on. Where this falls apart is how he’s also on the 8th place team for Summer...

 

One of the graduates from the TSM junior program to academy, he joined Dignitas when they needed a consistent performer which would, in turn, increase the chances of Dardoch and Aphromoo’s shotcalling to sync up. Even in Dignitas’ poor performances, Johnsun has managed to show that he is at least doing his job.

 

Looking at his stats, it’s impossible to not mention Tactical as well so I will just offer this comparison now:

 

Johnsun VS Tactical
Stat Position Category Position Stat
71.6% 3rd Kill Participation 5th 70.9%
33.5% 2nd Kill Share 3rd 30.5%
59 4th Kills 2nd 67
26% 3rd First Blood 2nd 33%
9.8 3rd CSPM 1st 9.9
30.4% 3rd DMG 1st 31.7%

 

After reviewing these numbers, you realize that Johnsun is a very stable plug-and-play ADC. Close to perfect CSing shows evidence of a strong laning phase, but this is also because Dignitas often puts him on side/mid lane Ashe duty. When he’s not on Ashe though, he has shown a remarkably wide champ pool with incredible performances on the likes of Aphelios, Kalista, and Varus (just don’t put him on Kaisa). 

 

Still, he’s doing a decent job when compared to the rest of his team. He’s not overcompensating to carry harder, but instead, he’s an ADC who plays to the level of those around him. He also sports a high first blood percentage, showing that Dignitas like to play around him in the early game. 

 

Yet, this early focus on getting Johnsun ahead rarely guarantees Dignitas wins. The primary problem with his argument for rookie of the year is that he hasn’t had an opportunity to perform at the level of another in the running. When comparing other stats of his to Tactical, it’s just not as favorable.

 

Jonhsun VS Tactical
Stat Position Category Position Category
32 7th (tied) Deaths 5th 22
67 8th Assists 2nd 89
483 7th DPM 3rd 566
3.9 8th KDA 3rd 7.1
32% 9th Winrate 1st 83%

 

Johnsun is just not doing enough damage, mostly because he dies significantly more compared to top ADC’s. It’s always hard to perform individually on a team that’s struggling together, but because we couldn’t see him with better performing players around him he is unfortunately doomed to fail in this reward. Overall, he’s a rock-solid performer with incredibly stiff competition for Rookie of the Year.

 

Photo by Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games

No. 1: Edward "Tactical" Ra, TL

 

It should be no surprise, even just comparing stat-for-stat with Johnsun, just how good of a player Tactical is. This guy’s career began initially developing on Supernova, historically one of the top amateur organizations. He moved up the ranks through TSM academy (alongside Treatz) before some big-brained scouts at Team Liquid picked him up for the academy roster going into 2020 Spring. Who could have predicted this would be the end result? 

 

It’s been said time and again: on paper, Team Liquid’s roster in the Spring looked insane. It didn’t work, we won’t get into it, but the point is Tactical stepped the hell up. Put him on facilitators like Ashe or Varus, put him on safe picks like Ezreal, or put him on hyper carries like Aphelios... 

 

Tactical. Will. Deliver. 

 

To the average viewer, this guy comes out of nowhere and just starts carrying Team Liquid to another potential championship title. Yes, they’ve looked shaky. Yes, the hype around them isn’t the same as last year. But Team Liquid just ended the regular season with their highest ever win/loss ratio. Truth is, Tactical is a key carry on the best team in the LCS and he absolutely deserves to be Rookie of the Year.

 

Editor's take

 

The major takeaway that I learned from diving into the stats and the stories of these rookies is this: young NA talent exists. Not only that, but they are hungry to prove that they are worth the attention and investment of professional orgs. When Academy was announced at the beginning of franchising, it brought a hope of opportunities for young players to prove themselves. Over time, it turned into the meme of “NA retirement home”. These players are proof to every org that investing in young talent and working to develop them has incredible value. Proof that teams shouldn’t just sign five known quantities as backups in case the main LCS roster fails. Proof that NA isn’t a dead region quite yet. 

 

These five players radiate a great sense of hope for the LCS. Each of them has the potential for incredible careers, locally and internationally.

 

Now is it too soon to predict TL makes it out of World’s groups? Yeah, too soon…

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