NBA Rookie Watch

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 7:06am

It’s been over a month since I’ve last done my Rookie Rankings, and it’s evident that a ton has changed. Just to give you some perspective about the extent things have changed, here were my last Rookie Rankings, published on January 4th.

1. Luka Doncic, Dallas
2. DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix
3.Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis
4.Kevin Knox, New York
5.Trae Young, Atlanta
6.Collin Sexton, Cleveland
7.Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers
8.Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago
9.Rodion Kurucs, Brooklyn
10.Kevin Huerter, Atlanta

Wow. That’s all I have to say… So, let’s get to it.

1. Trae Young, PG, Atlanta Hawks
Season Stats: 30.8 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 7.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 41.6 FG%, 33.9 3PT%, 81.8 FT%

Trae Young / Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY SportsTrae Young / Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY SportsOutlook: Everyone please calm down… Luka Doncic is the Rookie of the Year. However, I treat these as rookie power rankings, and in that case, Trae Young is #1. Young is the hottest rookie in the league right now by a landslide, and it may not be a stretch to say he’s the hottest player in the league in general. From 2/22-3/1, Young was averaging 34.8 PPG and 10.4 APG on 48.9% from beyond the arc. This included a 49 point, 16 assist, and 8 rebound performance in the Hawks’ 4OT game against the Bulls on Friday night, He’s the only rookie ever to put up 45+ points and 15+ assists in a single game. That’s an insane stat. Not only has Trae Young improved since the beginning of the year, but he’s become efficient too. He’s no longer shooting terrible percentages like he was at the beginning of the year. He’s been doing it efficiently. It’s been amazing to see what Young has done, and that’s why he’s overtaken Luka Doncic in my rookie power rankings. Trae Young will be an all-star next season. Remember I said that.

2. Luka Doncic, G/F, Dallas Mavericks
Season Stats: 32.1 MPG, 21.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 43.5 FG%, 34.9 3PT%, 72.1 FT%

Outlook: As I said before, Luka Doncic is definitely still my Rookie of the Year despite ranking Trae Young at the #1 spot. Doncic has been unreal all season, compared Trae Young, who’s really escalated his level of play over the last 10-15 games. Doncic is averaging 21 PPG, over 7 RPG and over 5 APG which is absurd for a rookie. In addition, he’s been a very efficient player on both sides of the ball, ranking in the top-70 in defensive efficiency. His win shares are at 4.4, which are second among all rookies. Over Luka Doncic’s last 12 games, he’s averaging 25 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 7.0 APG. It’s clear to me that Luka Doncic is the Rookie of the Year, despite Trae Young having the hotter stretch as of late. I cannot wait to see Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis team up next season, as they’re very capable of leading the Mavericks to a 6-seed or higher in the West.

3. Marvin Bagley, PF, Sacramento Kings
Season Stats: 24.8 MPG, 13.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.6 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 50.9 FG%, 25.8 3PT%, 69.7 FT%

Outlook: It was a slow start for #2 overall pick Marvin Bagley this season, but he’s completely turned things around. In Bagley’s three full games following the all-star break, he averaged 24 PPG and 11.6 APG. In addition, he came off the bench in two of those games. He’s also shooting over 50% from the field this season. Unfortunately, Bagley went down with a knee injury this past Wednesday that’ll sideline him for at least a week or two. I expect Bagley to be back on the court for the Kings final playoff push, and he should play a crucial roll in that.

4. DeAndre Ayton, C, Phoenix Suns

Season Stats: 30.9 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 59.3 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 75.3 FT%

Outlook: No one’s hearing about him because he’s playing for the 13 win Phoenix Suns, but DeAndre Ayton has been a solid player for most of the season. He’s averaging a double-double in just over 30 minutes per game with 16 PPG and 10 RPG. He’s also had a double-double in three of his last four games. With his combination of size and athleticism, I’d love to see Ayton take a step up defensively next season. He ranks outside the top-130 in defensive efficiency, and averages under a block and under a steal per game. However, his win shares are up to 5.2, which ranks first among all rookies. There’s no doubt that Ayton has solidified himself as a top-5 rookie this season, and I think he’ll end up being a top-5 player in this class.

5. Mitchell Robinson, C, New York Knicks
Season Stats: 18.7 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 70.3 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 57.8 FT%

Outlook: Mitchell Robinson hasn’t been anywhere near this list all season, but his playing time has skyrocketed since the departure of Enes Kanter, and then the injury to DeAndre Jordan. In his limited opportunity Robinson has showed that he has the potential to become one of the league’s next great centers. Yes, I think his ceiling is that high. The Knicks are 3-0 when Mitchell Robinson plays over 30 minutes per game, which is impressive because the Knicks only have 13 wins. In addition, Robinson is shooting nearly 70% from the field (granted most of them are dunks) and he averages 2.3 BPG in less than 19 MPG. In Robinson’s last four games, he’s averaging 15 PPG, 12 RPG, and 4.3 BPG. He’s also had a positive +/- in six of his last nine games. Robinson has been incredible as of late, and if he can fix his foul troubles and develop a lot more, he has a chance to be an all-star one day. Remember, Mitchell Robinson didn’t play college basketball, so he’s a very raw talent. Some thought Robinson would spend the year in the G-League, but he’s already playing significant NBA minutes. Robinson is way ahead of where every thought he’d be at this point and because of that, he’s made my top-5 rookies and is the only second round pick on this list.

6. Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies
Season Stats: 26.1 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 50.6 FG%, 35.9 3PT%, 76.6 FT%

Outlook: If Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t get hurt, he’d possibly be ahead of Mitchell Robinson. Jackson has missed the five games with quad soreness and there’s no reason for the Grizzlies to rush him back given what their record is. I fully expect him to be on the All-Rookie First Team as he’s been a solid player all season. Jackson is a guy who has that unicorn type skillset. He’s lengthy, athletic, a shooter, and can also play in the paint. Jackson has shown his ability to score with ease, as he’s scored 20+ points in two of his last five games, but I’d like to see his rebounding improve for next season. Jackson only has two double-doubles this season, and at his size, he should be pulling down at least 7-8. On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson ranks 25th in the league in defensive efficiency, and is averaging 0.9 SPG and 1.4 BPG. I think Jackson is capable of developing into a first team all-defensive player, and Grizzlies fans should be very happy with his performance this season.

7. Shai Gilgeous Alexander, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Stats: 25.6 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 46.3 FG%, 34.3 3PT%, 80.9 FT%

Outlook: I’ve been really impressed with the play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this season, as he’s started 55/64 games for a playoff-caliber team. The long, athletic point guard from Kentucky has shown brilliance at times this year in terms of his playmaking ability. He’s averaging nearly 10 PPG and scored in double figures in six of his last nine games. He’s also shooting a solid 46.3% from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander should be a shoe-in for All-Rookie Second Team.

8. Collin Sexton, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Season Stats: 30.6 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 40.3 FG%, 38.6 3PT%, 83.6 FT%

Outlook: It’s been an up-and-down season for Collin Sexton, as he’s averaging 15.1 PPG but has -1.5 win shares. That shows the potential, but also shows how bad he’s been at times. In addition, he’s barely shooting 40% from the field, which is not what you want to see. On the bright side, he has scored over 20 points in six of his last ten games. The scoring ability to go along with the fiery mentality of Sexton has always been there, but the efficiency isn’t and that’s what needs to change. In addition, Sexton ranks 200th in defensive efficiency, which is obviously something that needs to improve, but Sexton is here right now for his scoring ability.

9. Kevin Knox, SF, New York Knicks
Season Stats: 28.2 MPG, 12.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 35.8 FG%, 32.8 3PT%, 72.8 FT%

Outlook: Kevin Knox was fourth on my last list because he was showing a ton of promise earlier in the season. However, the long NBA season has taken a major toll on him. Knox has cooled off tremendously. He’s only shooting 35.8% from the field this season, a number that’s inexcusable. It definitely doesn’t help him that the Knicks are so bad because he’s probably getting more minutes and more shots than he should. Knox has shown spurts to make me think he could be a good player in this league, as his athleticism and scoring abilities have been showed off at times. However, efficiency is the main concern with Knox and the main reason he’s moved down to nine on this list.

10. Landry Shamet, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

Season Stats: 21.6 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 44.1 FG%, 41.6 3PT%, 83.1 FT%

Outlook: Landry Shamet is a guy that I think can skyrocket up this list within the next two weeks. He’s benefited tremendously from the trade that sent him to the Clippers from the 76ers. Shamet is averaging nearly 7.6 MPG more on the Clippers, and he’s taken advantage of it by averaging 12.4 PPG since the trade. He’s also shooting 46.6% from downtown with the Clippers. He’s had 20 points or over in his last two games, including seven three-pointers against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon. Expect Landry Shamet to continue to benefit from playing on a new team.

Next Up: Kevin Huerter, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson

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].

Evan_Milberg
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Bagley

Bagley averaging 11.6 APG since the all-star break? That’s got to be a typo. Maybe you meant RPG?

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