Top-10 NBA Rookies – December 9th, 2018
Every NBA season, it’s always intriguing to see how the rookie class is doing. Who are going to be the players that dictate the future of the NBA? This season, we’ve been lucky enough to watch one of the best rookie classes in a while. There’s a ton of talent, and it’s not just one or two rookies that have been playing well, it’s more than ten. The class is deep, and has a chance to be one of those classes that we look back on for a long time. That being said, here are the top-10 NBA rookies so far this season.
1. Luka Doncic, G/F, Dallas Mavericks
Season Stats: 32.6 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 43.8 FG%, 38.2 3PT%, 78.7 FT%
Outlook: I know that it’s only a month and a half into the season, but it’d be shocking to me if Luka Doncic doesn’t win the Rookie of the Year award. The Suns and Kings (and sort of the Hawks) can’t possibly be happy that they passed on Doncic. Doncic is easily the best player on his team in addition to the best rookie in the league, and has led the Mavericks to a 12-11 start (currently 9th seed in Western Conference). These included wins over the Warriors, Celtics, and Rockets. Every time you turn around, Doncic is making another highlight play whether it’s draining shots from everywhere on the court, or blocking LeBron James twice on one possession. Dallas has also won ten of their last 14 games, and are beginning to establish themselves as a potential threat to steal a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Luka Doncic missed Sunday night’s game vs. the Clippers due to a minor hip injury, but as long as he’s healthy, expect the Mavericks to continue to exceed expectations.
2. Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies
Season Stats: 25.1 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 51.5 FG%, 33.9 3PT%, 77.9 FT%
Outlook: Jaren Jackson Jr. is a freak of nature with his ability to be a stretch four at 6’11” with a 7’5” wingspan. He’s only playing 25.1 minutes per game largely due to his average of 4.1 fouls per game. However, he’s averaging 19.3 PPG per 36 minutes. His efficiency has been off the charts, as he scored 36 points on 13/22 shooting vs. the Nets a little over a week ago. Not only has his offense been impressive, but his defense has too as he’s averaging two blocks and a steal. Jackson Jr. also ranks 14th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Jaren Jackson Jr. could be in a Donovan Mitchell situation where he gets a lot better as the season continues only to get beat out by Luka Donic right at the end. It’s hard not to love Jackson’s game though, and he’s a large reason for the Grizzlies success thus far, as they’re 15-9, only 1.5 games back of the first seed in the Western Conference. There’s no doubt that he’s trending upwards, a main reason why he’s ranked at two.
3. Deandre Ayton, C, Phoenix Suns
Season Stats: 31.0 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 59.5 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 77.4 FT%
Outlook: DeAndre Ayton being ranked third in my rankings isn’t a knock on him at all, but rather more of a testament to how good Doncic and Jackson are playing. The 7’1” center out of Arizona has been solid, averaging a double-double. He also carries an efficient field goal percentage, granted most of his shots are coming from around the basket. The few cons with Ayton as of now are that he’s on a team that’s 4-22, and has been rather lackluster on defense, as he’s only averaging 0.8 blocks per game. Ayton’s defensive efficiency is outside the top-125 in the NBA, which is a major issue. Despite these struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ayton defense get better as the season progresses.
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Stats: 27.6 MPG, 10.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 46.7 FG%, 36.1 3PT%, 81.4 FT%
Outlook: Although there’s only a small sample size, I think the Los Angeles Clippers definitely found their point guard of the future in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the most intriguing 2018 draft prospects due to his size and length, and it seems as though his ceiling is extremely high. He’s already in the starting lineup for a team that’s 0.5 GB of first in the Western Conference, and that’s very impressive. The offensive numbers for Gilegeous-Alexander as a 4th or 5th option are also solid, to go along with the one steal and nearly one block per game on the defense. He’s an important piece to this Clippers team, and it should be interestin to continue to watch his development this season.
5. Trae Young, PG, Atlanta Hawks
Season Stats: 29.2 MPG, 15.7 PPG, 7.3 APG, 2.8 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 37.7 FG%, 23.9 3PT%, 78.4 FT%
Outlook: Within the first few games of the season, I thought that Trae Young would definitely have a good chance to be Rookie of the Year. However, things haven’t panned out for Young lately, as he’s been brutally inefficient, a main concern for him when he declared for the NBA Draft. Young’s shooting percentages are extremely low, especially since his whole game is predicated on shooting. A telling stat is also his win shares are -0.9, which certainly isn’t good. As the Hawks’ first scoring option, Young’s going to put up numbers no matter how inefficient he is, making his stats per game deceiving. The main reason that Young remains at five in these rankings is that he’s shown flashes of what he can be this season, with a game where he scored 35 points and had 11 assists, and another game where he scored 25 points, and had 17 assists. Trae Young has a tremendous amount of potential, but it all depends on if he could become a more efficient player.
6. Wendell Carter Jr, C, Chicago Bulls
Season Stats: 25.7 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 46.9 FG%, 20.8 3PT%, 80.8 FT%
Outlook: Wendell Carter Jr. has started in all 26 games for the Bulls this season, and he has played exactly as we’ve expected. Carter Jr. is Al Horford 2.0. He’s an anchor in the paint, and a future double-double machine. My one concern for Carter Jr. early into the season is that he’s only shooting 46.9% from the field, which is low for a center. However, the Bulls are 6-20, so expect Carter Jr. to continue to get the opportunity to play a lot of minutes this season, which will tremendously help his development. I have a feeling that Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen (who’s only played in three games this season due to injury) will be integral parts of a frontcourt to be reckoned with in the future.
7. Collin Sexton, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Season Stats: 29.4 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 45.0 FG%, 43.9 3PT%, 88.6 FT%
Outlook: Collin Sexton got off to a bit of a shaky start this season, but has picked it up tremendously as the season has progressed. Sexton has scored in double figures in his last 15 games, and is now third on the Cavs in points per game if you include Kevin Love, who’s only played in four games this season. Sexton is certainly a player on this list that’s trending upwards as he’s the first or second scoring option on his team right now. He’s shooting the ball very well, and plays with competitive fire similar to that of Russell Westbrook’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if Collin sexton ends the season in the top three or four for Rookie of the Year voting.
8. Marvin Bagley III, PF, Sacramento Kings
Season Stats: 24.2 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 52.6 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 64.8 FT%
Outlook: Marvin Bagley III has been very inconsistent throughout the season, but seasons to have found his groove scoring in double figures in his last seven games. In three of those seven games, Bagley had a double-double. What’s more impressive about this is that Bagley has yet to start a single game for the Kings yet. It’s working so far, as the Kings are 13-11 to start the season, far exceeding expectations. However, there were rumors about rift between the front office and head coach Dave Joerger over the playing time of Bagley. Expect this to result in Bagley eventually getting a starting role on the team this season.
9. Allonzo Trier, SG, New York Knicks
Season Stats: 23.1 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 47.1 FG%, 40.9 3PT%, 81.5 FT%
Outlook: Allonzo Trier is the best story of this rookie class, as he went undrafted, but is still outplaying the other rookies on his team, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. Trier’s athleticism is off the charts, and he’s displayed it with several highlight dunks this year. In addition, Trier also has been shooting well, with field goal, three-point, and free-throw percentages all in a range they need to be at. The question going forward with Trier is whether or not the Knicks will be able to retain him long-term, as he is on a two-way contract.
10. Mohamed Bamba, C, Orlando
Season Stats: 17.0 MPG, 6.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 49.0 FG%, 34.0 3PT%, 60.0 FT%
Outlook: Mo Bamba came into this season already a fan favorite, but has not yet gotten, a lot of playing time. However, Bamba has played decently in his limited time, averaging 14.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 2.8 BPG per 36 minutes. Going into the draft, there were so many similarities between Bamba and players like Capela/Gobert, and I think it’s just a matter of time until Bamba begins to unlock his full potential. Orlando is currently in a playoff spot in the East at 12-14 right now, so I’m not sure how soon that time is coming, but it should be interesting to monitor Bamba for the rest of the season.
Next Up: Miles Bridges, Kevin Knox, Omari Spellman, Aaron Holiday, Josh Okogie
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