NBA Sophomore Watch

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 10:26pm

The 2017 NBA Draft class received a lot of criticism during last season, as many thought it was a weak, shallow class. Fast forward a year later, and it looks like the 2017 NBA Draft class may end up producing a number of future all-stars, along with 2016 #1 pick Ben Simmons, who is a lock to make the All Star Game this season unless he gets injured. Aside from the five best players in this class, there are several other solid players, making it a deep draft class as well. Let’s take a look at my top-10 NBA sophomores.

1. Ben Simmons, PG, Philadelphia 76ers (Last Rank: 1)
Season Stats: 33.3 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 57.4 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 58.1 FT%

Outlook: Like I said above, Ben Simmons is going to follow up his Rookie of the Year campaign with an All-Star Game appearance. Simmons is the engine that makes things go for this 76ers team, as he does almost everything, including scoring, rebounding, and most importantly making his teammates better with his insane passing abilities. It doesn’t stop there for Simmons though. He’s ranked top-50 in the NBA in defensive efficiency, averaging 1.3 SPG and 0.8 BPG. Although everyone would love Simmons to develop a jump shot, which he doesn’t have, he’s still by far the best sophomore in the NBA.

2. Kyle Kuzma, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers (Last Rank: 3)
Season Stats: 32.7 MPG, 18.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 47.1 FG%, 30.6 3PT%, 76.8 FT%

Kyle KuzmaKyle KuzmaOutlook: I legitimately put Kyle Kuzma at three on this list until Wednesday’s game vs. the Pistons. Kuzma played absolutely out of his mind, carrying the Lakers without LeBron James scoring 41 points in three quarters. It was a performance that was good enough to move him over De’Aaron Fox, at least for the time being. His natural ability to score is special, and has made him the second option on this Lakers team. Everyone expected Ingram to be that guy, but Kuzma has really stepped up, scoring just over 18 points per game. There’s no doubt that Kuzma’s three-point percentage and defense need to improve, but Kuzma is still only in his second season, which makes me think he can get so much better, especially when he’s playing alongside and learning from LeBron James.

3. DeAaron Fox, PG, Sacramento Kings (Last Rank: 2)
Season Stats: 31.7 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 7.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 47.4 FG%, 37.9 3PT%, 72.4 FT%

Outlook: As I said before, De’Aaron Fox was second on this list until that ridiculous performance from Kyle Kuzma. In terms of De’Aaron Fox though, he’s been ridiculous this season as well, as he’s been the best player on an overachieving Kings team. I expected the Kings to finish last in the Western Conference by far. However, Sacramento is 20-21, only two games out of a playoff spot. Fox as fast as anyone I’ve seen, and his shooting numbers are very good, as he’s shooting in the high 40s from the field and high 30s from downtown. Skies the limit for De’Aaron Fox. The Kings have a future all-star on their roster.

4. Jayson Tatum, SF, Boston Celtics (Last Rank: 4)
Season Stats: 31.2 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 44.4 FG%, 36.6 3PT%, 85.3 FT%

Outlook: If this list were based on potential, Tatum would probably be one or two on this list. However, it’s much more based on the season each player is having. Tatum has been inconsistent scoring the ball as of late, as he’s scored in single digits in three of his last six games. However, this cold spell for Tatum doesn’t worry me, as he scored in double figures in his 22 games prior to this stretch. If Tatum is cold on offense, he makes up for it with his defense, as he ranks 30th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. There’s no doubt that Tatum Is an extremely valuable piece to the Celtics going forward, especially if he plays like his did in the 2018 playoffs.

5. Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz
Season Stats: 32.7 MPG, 20.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 40.9 FG%, 30.9 3PT%, 79.5 FT%

Outlook: I’m a bit worried about Donovan Mitchell, as he’s regressed a bit this season. Yes, he’s still averaging over 20 points per game, but he’s been brutally inefficient while doing so. His shooting percentages are significantly down from last season, and the Jazz are a much worse team this season because of it. Mitchell’s win shares are at 0.7 this season compared to 5.2 last season, and that pretty much tells the whole story. However, Mitchell is still having a good defensive year, ranking 51st in defensive efficiency. Remember, a sophomore slump is a legitimately thing for some players. I expect Mitchell to fix whatever is going on.

6. John Collins, PF, Atlanta Hawks
Season Stats: 29.6 MPG, 18.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.5 BPG, 0.2 SPG, 58.3 FG%, 33.9 3PT%, 70.5 FT%

Outlook: John Collins is the least talked about good player in the NBA and it’s not even close. This guy’s having a heck of a year for the Hawks, averaging 22.4 PPG and 12.7 RPG per 36 minutes. He’s a terror offensively, but the main aspect of his game that’s holding him back is his defensive, which isn’t good at all. Collins ranks outside the top 200 in defensive efficiency, and only averages a combined 0.7 steals and blocks per game. In order for Collins to take the next step, he needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

7. Lauri Markkanen, PF, Chicago Bulls
Season Stats: 31.2 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 43.8 FG%, 40.4 3PT%, 80.0 FT%

Outlook: Markkanen missed the first portion of the season with an injury, but since he’s been back, he’s been an offensive force. A seven-footer shooting over 40% from downtown is always impressive to see. In addition, Markkanen has scored in double figures for ten of his last 11 games. However, Markkanen is much like Collins, in the sense that he’s not ranked in the top-200 in defensive efficiency. He needs to work on that half of his game before I move him up this list.

8. Jarrett Allen, C, Brooklyn Nets
Season Stats: 26.6 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 57.9 FG%, 16.0 3PT%, 73.6 FT%

Outlook: I absolutely love Jarrett Allen. Plenty of people have been comparing him to a guy like Clint Capela, and that may not be much of a stretch. Allen has block Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis all in the last month, which is insane. He’s the definition of a defensive anchor, and certainly the Nets’ center of the future. If Allen can develop his offensive game a bit more, he could be special.

9. Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Season Stats: 30.0 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 40.7 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 41.3 FT%

Outlook: Lonzo Ball might be the strangest player in the NBA. When I watch a game, I’m usually impressed and feel like he’s playing great. However, it’s not too often that Lonzo wows on the stat sheet. I think Ball is just one of those players. He does so many different things that are so helpful to the Lakers that won’t show up in the box score. Also, Ball is ranked 50th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and he’s only going to keep climbing on that list with the way he’s playing right now. Lonzo Ball gets a lot of hate, but he’s a really good basketball player and everyone needs to start recognizing that.

10. Josh Hart, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
Season Stats: 27.1 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 41.7 FG%, 35.7 3PT%, 68.9 FT%

Outlook: I have to give Josh Hart a ton of credit because he has scored in double figures in six of the eight games that LeBron has missed. He’s done a nice job filling the void for that Lakers team. Hart is your prototypical 3-and-D player, as he ranks 53rd in the NBA in defensive efficiency while also shooting over 35% from downtown. Hart is the third Laker on this list, showing how well the Lakers drafted in 2017.

Next Up: Dennis Smith Jr., Derrick White, Bam Adebayo, Josh Jackson

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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You forgot Bogdan

You forgot Bogdan

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