Sophomore Watch

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 5:35am

It's been approximately three months since my last sophomore rankings, and a lot has changed since then, as expected. Between the Lonzo Ball injury, the Dennis Smith Jr. trade, and the resurgence of Donovan Mitchell, there's a lot to review here. To put it into perspective, my last rankings (which came on January 13th) were:

1. Ben Simmons
2. Kyle Kuzma
3. DeAaron Fox
4. Jayson Tatum
5. Donovan Mitchell
6. John Collins
7. Lauri Markkanen
8, Jarrett Allen
9. Lonzo Ball
10. Josh Hart

Here are my updated sophomore rankings:

1. Ben Simmons , PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Season Stats: 34.3 MPG, 16.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 7.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 56.2
FG%,0.0 3PT%, 59.9 FT%

Outlook: There hasn’t been a change here since the beginning of last season. Despite being drafted in 2016, Ben Simmons still has sophomore status due to his injury during the 2016-17 season that kept him sidelined the whole year. Simmons followed this up by winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2017-18, and then by making his first all-star game appearance in 2018-19. He is the only one on this list who has made an all-star game. Simmons is the engine that makes everything go for the Sixers, as his role of a facilitator is crucial for the success of other Sixers such as Embiid, Butler, Harris, and Redick. Ranking in the top-50 in the NBA in defensive efficiency, Simmons has shown the ability to be more than capable on both sides of the ball. It’s not close between Simmons and the number two spot on this list as of now. He’s the clear number one sophomore in the NBA.

2. Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz
Season Stats: 33.7 MPG, 23.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 43.2 FG%,
35.9 3PT%, 80.4 FT%

Donovan MitchellDonovan MitchellOutlook: Donovan Mitchell was ranked fifth on my list in early January despite being the runner-up to Ben Simmons in the Rookie of the Year voting last season. The reason behind this was the fact that he was in a bit of a sophomore slump. In early January, he was averaging just over 20 PPG, the same as last year. Now, he’s averaging 23.5 PPG, and he seems to have figured things out. If Mitchell plays like he is right now for the entire 2019-2020 season, its going to be hard to keep him out of the all-star game. Furthermore, Mitchell has thrived on the defensive end this season as he ranks 34th in defensive efficiency, and is averaging 1.4 SPG. I truly believe Mitchell is good enough to attract free agent talent to Utah in the offseason, so don’t be surprised if the Jazz come
back next season with some more help for their best player. For now though, Utah will still prove to be a tough out in the postseason, and that all starts with Donovan Mitchell.

3. DeAaron Fox, PG, Sacramento Kings
Season Stats: 31.6 MPG, 17.2 PPG, 7.2 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 45.3 FG%,
36.8 3PT%, 72.5 FT%

Outlook: What a season it was for the Sacramento Kings, as they’ve secured the 9 seed in the Western Conference after most expected them to finish near the bottom of the NBA. That all starts with their best player, De’Aaron Fox. Fox drastically improved from last year, increasing his scoring total from 11.6 PPG to 17.2 PPG and from 4.4 APG to 7.2 APG. Fox also shot over 45% from the field and over 36% from downtown, both huge improvements from last season. Skies the limit for Fox, who’s quickness and athleticism is off the charts.

4. [Player: Jayson Tatum[, SF, Boston Celtics
Season Stats: 31.4 MPG, 15.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 45.1 FG%,
37.3 3PT%, 85.5 FT%

Outlook: After a phenomenal playoffs last season, everyone seemed to think Jayson Tatum had a chance to be an all-star this season. He definitely didn’t have a bad season, but Tatum’s year wasn’t exactly what everyone expect. His field goal percentage dropped from 47.5% to 45.1% from last season to this season, and his three-point percentage dropped from 43.4% to 37.3%. However, Tatum still averaged 15.9 PPG and 6.1 RPG in his second season on what’s a pretty stacked Boston team. Tatum also ranks in the top-40 in defensive efficiency this season, a pretty big accomplishment for a second year player. It’s safe to say that Tatum still has one of the brightest futures of any young player in the NBA.

5. Kyle Kuzma, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
Season Stats: 33.1 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 45.6 FG%,
30.3 3PT%, 75.2 FT%

Outlook: Kyle Kuzma really had an up and down year for the Lakers. There were times where he played like an all-star, and other times that he didn’t look great along with the rest of the Lakers team this season. What I took away from this season though, is that Kuzma’s still so gifted offensively, and has a future as a second or third scoring option on a very good NBA team. Scoring 18.7 PPG on 45.6% shooting from the field is pretty impressive for a second year player. Kuzma’s development as a player going forward is going to come down to whether or not he can shoot the 3 (only 30.3% this season) and improve his defense.

6. John Collins, PF, Atlanta Hawks
Season Stats: 29.9 MPG, 19.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.6 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 56.0 FG%,
34.6 3PT%, 76.3 FT%

Outlook: John Collins is someone who gets no respect compared to the five rookies ahead of him, but definitely deserves to be in the same category as them. Collins had a a phenomenal year, averaging 19.5 PPG and 9.5 RPG on 56% from the field. He’s the perfect piece to fit next to Trae Young, who looks like he has a real chance to be an all-star next season. Collins also developed a three-point shot this season, as he shot 34.6% from the beyond the arc. The only thing holding me back from putting Collins’ name further up on this list is his defense. Collins had 0.9 defensive win shares this season, compared to 4.9 on offense. That pretty much says it all about his defense. However, if Collins can improve defensively, he has a shot to become an all-star within the next couple of seasons.

7. Lauri Markkanen, PF, Chicago Bulls
Season Stats: 32.3 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 43.0 FG%,
36.1 3PT%, 87.2 FT%

Outlook: I think it’s neck and neck between Collins and Markkanen for that sixth spot, but I gave Collins the benefit of the doubt since he played more this season, was on a better team, and had a much higher player efficiency rating. It was a strange year for Markkanen, as he missed time at the beginning of the season due to injury, and then is currently missing the last couple of weeks of the season with an illness. However, when Markkanen was on the floor, he was extremely good, scoring over 18 PPG and also averaging 9 rebounds per game. We barely got to see Markkanen play with Wendell Carter at all due to the injuries of both players, and that’s something the Bulls have to be excited about going forward. Markkanen’s scoring and ability to stretch the floor next to Carter’s defensive skills could be a scary combination for the rest of the NBA.

8. Jarrett Allen, C, Brooklyn Nets
Season Stats: 26.2 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 59.4 FG%,
13.6 3PT%, 71.0 FT%

Outlook: Jarrett Allen has gained a reputation as a rim protector this year, as we’ve seen him block LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Anthony Davis this season. He’s a defensive anchor, as he ranks top-40 in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and a huge reason why the Nets clinched the playoffs. His 7.5 win shares this season is also extremely impressive for someone who’s only 20 years old. It should be exciting to see Allen grow with this young Brooklyn team throughout the next few seasons.

9. Bogdan Bogdanovic, SF, Sacramento Kings
Season Stats: 27.8 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 42.1 FG%,
36.1 3PT%, 82.5 FT%

Outlook: Bogdan Bogdanovic is a 26-year old sophomore, as he played overseas for a few years after being drafted in 2014. However, he’s turned into a very solid player for the Kings, and someone who is definitely part of their future plans. Bogdanovic can score, as he averaged just over 14 PPG this season, and also shoot as his three-point percentage was just over 36%.

10. Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat
Season Stats: 23.3 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 57.7 FG%,
15.4 3PT%, 73.6 FT%

Outlook: Bam Adebayo is a guy that just needs to be unleashed. He needs to be starting every single game next season. Adebayo has started in his last 20 games and has 6 double-doubles in those games. If given the opportunity to start every game, he’ll be a double-double machine for Miami next season. He’s also a great defender, as he’s averaging nearly a steal and a block per game, and ranks 14th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.

Next Up: Dennis Smith Jr., Monte Morris, Derrick White, Josh Hart, Josh Jackson

Injury Exception: Lonzo Ball

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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