NBA Rookie Watch

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 8:40pm

Within the last three weeks, we’ve seen movement within the current NBA rookie class. Some players have gotten better, some have gotten worse, some got injured, and others returned from injury. We ranked the top-10 rookies in the NBA up to date, and analyzed how they’ve moved since my first rookie rankings three weeks ago. Here they are:

1. Luka Doncic, G/F, Dallas Mavericks (Last Rank: 1)
Season Stats: 32.2 MPG, 19.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 43.6 FG%, 37.4 3PT%, 76.2 FT%

Outlook: Luka Doncic has held the top spot for Rookie of the Year for a long-time, but now he’s even taken another step in his progression. I’d consider him a candidate for the all-star game at this point. Doncic hit a buzzer beater to tie the game at the end of regulation last week in Portland, and became the youngest player in NBA history to have seven threes in a game when the Mavericks played the Pelicans on Friday. According to NBA.com, Doncic is also shooting 55.3% in clutch time (as of 12/30/18), which is when the Mavericks have been ahead or behind by five points or less in the last five minutes. Luka Doncic is one of the best rookies we’ve seen in a long time, and single-handedly makes the Mavericks a fun team to watch.

2. DeAndre Ayton, C Phoenix Suns (Last Rank: 3)
Season Stats: 31.3 MPG, 17.0 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.9 BPG, 0.7 SPG, 60.5 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 76.5 FT%

DeAndre AytonDeAndre AytonOutlook: DeAndre Ayton has certainly improved since my last rookie rankings. In Ayton’s last eight games, he’s averaging 21.3 PPG and 14.1 RPG, which is extremely impressive. The Suns are also 5-4 in their last nine games after starting the season 4-24, largely due to the performance of Ayton. I expect Ayton to continue to improve throughout the season, his defense being the aspect of his game he needs to work on the most.

3. Jaren Jackson, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies (Last Rank: 2)
Season Stats: 25.1 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.7 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 51.0 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 75.9 FT%

Outlook: It’s became clear than Jaren Jackson’s ceiling is just as high as Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton. Jackson’s shooting abilities to go along with his crazy size and athleticism is something you don’t see to often. Jackson also ranks 21st in the NBA in defensive efficiency, which is unheard of for a rookie. In his last five games, the Grizzlies forward scored in double figures, including 27 against the Lakers where he hit a dagger three-pointer over LeBron James. The Grizzlies will probably miss the playoffs, but Jackson is a reason why they’re competitive.

4. Kevin Knox, SF, New York Knicks (Last Rank: Not Ranked)
Season Stats: 25.9 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 37.4 FG%, 36.2 3PT%, 66.3 FT%

Outlook: Kevin Knox got off to a slow start this season, and had an early injury that had him sidelined for a few weeks. However, he’s been going off as of late. In his last 10 games, Knox has scored in double figures. Knox is also shooting the three ball at a good percentage this season at 36.2%. I’m definitely looking for Knox to be more efficient late in the season, as his field goal percentage is quite low, but he’s off to a good start to his career.

5. Trae Young, PG, Atlanta Hawks (Last Rank: 5)
Season Stats: 29.4 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 7.4 APG, 2.9 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 39.6 FG%, 27.5 3PT%, 78.2 FT%

Outlook:
I’ve been impressed to see some adjustments that have been made to Trae Young’s game as the season has gone on. Young is taking better quality shots, as he’s realized he can’t get away with what he did in college. His shooting percentages have improved in recent games, and he’s taking a lot less three pointers than he did at the beginning of the season. In eight of Young’s last nine games, he’s scored in double figures. In four of them, he’s had a double-double. Trae Young’s passing is extremely underrated, and something that not many NBA fans know about, so don’t think he’s a one dimensional player. Averaging 7.4 assists per game in your rookie year is impressive.

6. Collin Sexton, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (Last Rank: 7)
Season Stats: 29.7 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 42.4 FG%, 36.1 3PT%, 86.6 FT%

Outlook: Collin Sexton has slowed down a bit from when he had 18 straight games in double-figures a few weeks ago. His minutes have slightly decreased, and he’s not scoring as much as he did. However, I love Sexton’s game. He’s a natural scorer, and for someone who everyone said couldn’t shoot from three-point range, he’s shooting it pretty well. I fully expect Sexton to turn into franchise cornerstone for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

7. Shai Gilgeous Alexander, PG, Los Angeles Clippers (Last Rank: 4)
Season Stats: 26.9 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 48.6 FG%, 38.9 3PT%, 80.7 FT%

Outlook: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the starting point guard for a team that’s probably going to make the playoffs. That’s an impressive feat for a rookie. Gilgeous-Alexander’s efficiency is what has stood out to me so far this season. He's averaging 10.3 PPG on 8.1 shots per game, which is solid. He’s also shooting at efficient percentages. I only expect Gilgeous-Alexander to get better as the season goes on, making him an important piece to this Clippers team.

8. Wendell Carter Jr, C, Chicago Bulls (Last Rank: 6)
Season Stats: 25.1 MPG, 10.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 49.1 FG%, 18.5 3PT%, 78.4 FT%

Outlook:
The Bulls are an awful team right now, but Wendell Carter Jr. has been a bright spot at times. The center out of Duke is living up to his hype as a defensive anchor, as he ranks 58th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and is averaging 1.5 blocks per game. Carter has had a double double in his past two games, and will look to continue the streak in the Bulls’ next game vs. the Magic.

9. Rodion Kurucs, SF, Brooklyn Nets (Last Rank: Not Ranked)
Season Stats: 19.2 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 48.6 FG%, 29.4 3PT%, 89.2 FT%

Outlook: Rodions Kurucs is the unknown rookie from this class. The second round pick out of Latvia is playing extremely well for the Brooklyn Nets, as he’s scored in double figures six of his last 12 games. He’s also made his way into the starting lineup on a Nets team that has a real chance to make the playoffs with a weak Eastern Conference. Look for Kurucs to continue to impress in his rookie season.

10. Kevin Huerter, SG, Atlanta Hawks (Last Rank: Not Ranked)

Season Stats: 24.7 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 41.6 FG%, 40.0 3PT%, 73.1 FT%

Outlook:
I love the opportunity that Kevin Huerter has been getting on this terrible Atlanta Hawks team. He’s making the most of it too, as Huerter is shooting lights out from three-point range. In the Hawks’ last game vs. the Pacers, Huerter had 22 points, shooting 6/9 from downtown. Expect Huerter to be a late-riser on this rookies list as the season progresses.

Next Up:
Mikal Bridges, Mo Bamba, Landry Shamet
Injury Exception: Marvin Bagley III (out, knee), Allonzo Trier (just returned)

You can follow Dylan on Twitter @sports_burd. In addition you can check out his website sportsburd.com for more NBA Draft and College Basketball content. To contact Dylan, email him at [email protected].

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