The 2017-18 NBA season has not disappointed as far as the incoming young talent is concerned. Here’s a run down of the 10 best rookie players in the NBA. To conclude the article, I will give my pick for midseason Rookie of the Year.
Just for Starters
10.) Dillon Brooks, F/G. Memphis Grizzlies
2017 stats: 42 games played. 27.2 mpg., 7.9 ppg., 2.8 rpg., 1.1 apg., 45.5% FG, 38.5% 3PTFG, 72.5% FT, 0.7 spg., 0.3 bpg., 1.1 topg
A rockstar at the University of Oregon, Dillon Brooks has turned into a bit of a crooner since entering the NBA as the 45th overall pick in the draft this past June.
He has adapted well to the Grit and Grind mantra that exist with the Memphis Grizzlies and has become yet another one of the NBA’s quintessential 3 and D guys. He has blossomed as a starter in the midst of injuries to Mike Conley Jr. and Chandler Parsons and looks to be a key player in the Grizzlies’ rotation.
9.) De’Aaron Fox, G. Sacramento Kings
2017 stats: 36 games played. 26.4 mpg., 10.3 ppg., 4.3 apg., 2.7 rpg., 40.6% FG, 30% 3PTFG, 69.3% FT, 1.0 spg., 0.2 bpg., 2.4 topg
De’Aaron Fox, in my humble opinion was the best player to enter the draft this season. Despite a rocky start to the season, the former Kentucky Wildcat and No. 5 overall pick in the draft now seems to be even keeled and making steady progress.
He’s started 23 games for the Kings so far this year despite being slated as George Hill’s backup and at times, has shared the floor with Hill. Fox is an absolute menace on both ends of the floor. He is an absolute ball hawk with track speed and loves coast to coast action.
8.) Bogdan Bogdanovic, G. Sacramento Kings
2017 stats: 41 games played. 26.6.mpg., 11.5 ppg., 2.7 rpg., 2.8 apg., 48.1% FG, 41.1% 3PTFG, 82.1% FT, 1.0 spg., 0.3 bpg., 1.7 topg
Bogdan Bogdanovic has been a pleasant surprise in the Kings’ backcourt this season. Formally the 27th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns, The 6’6″ Serbian swingsman has shown off a sweet stroke from beyond the arc, drilling 62 triples and displaying some of the defensive ability most scouts were afraid he didn’t necessarily have coming over from the Fenerbahçe SK Men’s basketball team (residing in Istanbul, Turkey) in his 1st season as an official NBAer. He’s tied for 4th among rookies in steals.
Bogdanovic looks to be a foundational piece for Sacramento moving forward and could form a menacing backcourt with De’Aaron Fox very soon.
Middle of the Pack
7.) Jayson Tatum, F. Boston Celtics
2017 stats: 45 games played. 31.0 mpg., 13.8 ppg., 5.4 rpg., 1.4 apg., 49.9% FG, 46.0% 3PTFG, 82.4% FT, 0.9 spg., 0.8 bpg., 1.3 topg
Jayson Tatum has been absolutely rock solid for the Boston Celtics in relief of Gordon Hayward who suffered an egregious ankle injury Opening day against Cleveland. He is 4th among rookies in minutes per game and has shown marked improvement in his defense from his college ball days. Of course, it helps when you play on the best defensive team in the NBA and your head coach is defensive maestro and philosopher Brad Stevens.
The 6’8″ swingsman from Duke has also been terrific from the perimeter. He’s quickly developed into an elite shooter. He’s hit 63 3 point field goals, 4th among rookies and leads all rookies in 3 point field goal percentage. Also included in his game is a very savvy, veteran like post game. Tatum enjoys being down on the block and is outstanding with his back to the basket.
6.) Lonzo Ball, G. Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 stats: 36 games played. 33.9 mpg., 10.2 ppg., 7.1 apg., 7.1 rpg., 35.6% FG, 30.3% 3PTFG, 48.1% FT, 1.5 spg., 0.9 bpg., 2.7 topg
It hasn’t been the smoothest transition for the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft out of UCLA. However, he has continued to battle and improve despite being a media darling (involuntary by the way) and target for opposing teams. He’s come a long way from Patrick Beverly’s attempt to punk him on Opening Day and is the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple double. He has 3 this season to his credit.
While his shooting still needs a ton of work, he continues to make his presence felt in every other facet of the game. His ability to get his teammates invloved has always been noted, but he leads his team in rebounding as well. He is also an underrated defensive player, tied for 2nd among rookies in steals and 3rd in blocks per game. Not bad for a scrawny 20-year old from Chino Hills.
Not to mention, the Lakers are winless this season without him being on the active roster (0-8). The future of Showtime is in good hands with No. 2 at the helm.
5.) Dennis Smith Jr., G. Dallas Mavericks
2017-18 stats: 37 games played. 28.3 mpg., 14.5 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 4.5 apg., 40.3% FG, 32.7% 3PTFG, 70.3% FT, 0.9 spg., 0.3 bpg., 2.7 topg
Some have referred to him as the best athlete and most NBA ready player to enter the 2017 NBA draft, despite having concerns about his character. The Mavericks took Dennis Smith Jr. with the 9th overall pick and he has slowly but surely started to come around in his inaugural season with the Dallas Mavericks.
He has flourished as a starter under seasoned head coach Rick Carlisle. Smith is an explosive combo guard with unbelievable bounce and a constant knack for getting to the rim. He is also becoming a leader on this team. Ranking 5th amongst rookies in scoring and 2nd on his team, the future is extremely bright for the 20-year old from North Carolina State.
Cream of the Crop
4.) Lauri Markkanen, F. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 stats: 42 games played. 30.1 mpg., 15.4 ppg., 7.6 rpg., 1.3 apg., 42.8% FG, 37.3% 3PTFG, 85.3% FT, 0.6 spg., 0.5 bpg., 1.2 topg
Thought of as a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki coming out of college, this guy is the sole reason as to why I feel the Chicago Bulls won the draft day trade that sent embattled swingsman Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 7’0″, 235 lb. Finnish product from Arizona was the 7th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft and has been absolutely dynamite, being 2nd amongst rookies in rebounds, 4th in scoring, and has shot the lights out, leading rookies in 3 point field goals made per game (2.5) and total makes with 103.
In his Madison Square Garden debut on January 10th, he turned in a Nowitzki-esque performance with 33 points and 10 rebounds in 46 minutes of action. Markkanen showed off his sweet post moves and stroke from beyond the arc, hitting 8/15 three’s. He is an excellent handler of the ball for a player his size and has been the Bulls most consistent player during a gloomy rebuilding season that is halfway done.
3.) Kyle Kuzma, F. Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 stats: 43 games played. 31.2 mpg., 16.5 ppg., 6.2 rpg., 1.9 apg., 45.8% FG, 37.1% 3PTFG, 73.8% FT, 0.6 spg, 0.4 bpg., 1.9 topg
Kyle Kuzma is easily the 2nd biggest steal of the 2017 NBA draft behind Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. The 6’9″ tweener forward from Utah is 3rd in scoring amongst rookies, however he is the Los Angeles Lakers leader in scoring.
He has displayed a beautiful array of moves and a offensive repertoire that makes him a tough guard. He’s even managed to make the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar patented sky hook apart of his bag of offensive tricks.
In last night’s blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kuzma left the game in the 3rd quarter with a hand injury. Even though he’s hit the proverbial ‘rookie wall’ so to speak these last few games, this guy is an extreme talent and a foundational piece for the Los Angeles Lakers moving forward.
2.) Ben Simmons, G/F. Philadelphia 76ers
2017-18 stats: 39 games played. 35.2 mpg., 16.8 ppg., 8.0 rpg., 7.3 apg., 51.3% FG, 55.6% FT, 1.9 spg., 1.0 bpg., 4.0 topg
For the last time, people. This young man is a point guard. POINT. GUARD! He has the ability to defend other positions, however.
The 6’10”, 230 lb. Aussie who made child’s play out of college basketball in his only season at Louisiana State University, proved to be well worth the wait after breaking his foot in what would have been his inaugural NBA season.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft leads all rookies in assists, steals per game, rebounds, AND minutes played per night. It is safe to say that head coach Brett Brown’s experiment to play Simmons at the point has paid massive dividends. He is everything that the Philadelphia 76ers hoped he would be and he has quickly become one of the league’s best at his position.
It has been an absolute delight to watch Simmons run the show along with the emergence of prized center Joel Embiid, who I believe is a top 5 player at HIS position. Originally, I had him as my top rookie. I didn’t think anyone in this rookie class could compete with him, but along came…
1.) Donovan Mitchell, G. Utah Jazz
2017-18 stats: 42 games played. 31.4 mpg., 19.3 ppg., 3.3 rpg., 3.3 apg., 44.8% FG, 34.8% 3PTFG, 85.2% FT, 1.5 spg., 0.4 bpg., 2.5 topg
The explosive 6’4″ guard from Louisville was stunned to be drafted as a lottery pick. He admitted later on that he genuinely believed that he would go undrafted. Strange because he has absolutely dazzled in the first half of his rookie season. He has flourished as a starter with injuries suffered to fellow backcourt mates Rodney Hood and Alec Burks earlier in the season.
The 13th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft has not looked back since and leads all rookies in scoring, is tied for 2nd in steals per game behind Sixers guard Ben Simmons, and has nailed 95 triples. Also 2nd amongst rookies. Mitchell made himself a household name with a career performance against the New Orleans Pelicans on December 2nd. He ripped through the Pelicans defense and scored 41 points on 13/25 shooting. He was also money from deep, nailing 6/12 three’s in the process.
This young man has surprised us all with his tenacity and mature all around game. He is clearly the best rookie in the NBA without question. Donovan Mitchell has quickly become the NBA’s worst kept secret and is my pick for Midseason Rookie of the Year.
Young bucks that just missed the cut
Josh Jackson, F/G. Phoenix Suns
2017-18 stats: 43 games played. 22.1 mpg., 9.6 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 1.3 apg., 38.8% FG, 26.2% 3PTFG, 57.8% FT, 0.9 spg., 0.3 bpg., 1.7 topg
The Phoenix Suns hit the jackpot when they selected Josh Jackson with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. The rookie is an elite on-ball defender with great hands, solid lateral quickness, great range, and a relentless attitide. His offensive game still needs some tutelage, but it will come in time most definitely. On the other hand, he looks to have just about everything covered as a defender.
John Collins, F/C. Atlanta Hawks
2017-18 stats: 38 games played. 22.1 mpg., 10.9 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 1.1 apg., 59.4% FG, 14.3% 3PTFG, 74.3% FT, 0.7 spg., 1.1 bpg., 1.4 topg
The high flying rookie big man out of Wake Forest has wasted no time collecting his share of posters in the NBA. He also has a great penchant for challenging shots and grabbing offensive rebounds, leading all rookies in both categories, respectively.
Mike James, G. New Orleans Pelicans
2017-18 stats: 32 games played. 26.2 mpg., 10.4 ppg., 3.8 apg., 2.8 rpg., 38.8% FG, 26.8% 3PTFG, 76.2% FT, 0.8 spg., 0.2 bpg., 1.5 topg
By far the most unconventional rookie in this year’s class of rookies, the 27-year old point guard spent a majority of his professional basketball career playing in Greece and retooling the fundamentals of his game. The Phoenix Suns took a chance on him and instantly became a solid player before his untimely release. He has since been signed by the Pelicans to a two-way contract and will look to continue his solid play and become a regular within the rotation.
OG Anunoby, F/G. Toronto Raptors
2017-18 stats: 43 games played. 21.6 mpg., 6.3 ppg., 2.3 rpg., 0.8 apg., 46.0% FG, 37.0% 3PTFG, 71.8% FT, 0.8 spg., 0.1 bpg., 0.7 topg
The Toronto Raptors have FINALLY found their perfect replacement for Demarre Carroll in OG Anunoby. He is a 3 and D guy and has been rock solid since being inserted into the starting in early December. He’s another rookie who doesn’t play like one. He values the little things that happen on the floor. The former Indiana standout is making a name for himself in a very admirable way.
Frank Ntilikina, G. New York Knicks
2017-18 stats: 42 games played. 21.6 mpg., 5.4 ppg., 3.6 apg., 2.4 rpg., 34.8% FG, 30.9% 3PTFG, 71.1% FT, 1.1 spg., 0.2 bpg., 1.9 topg
The 6’5″ combo guard from France has been a steady and improving commodity coming off the bench for the New York Knicks. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft has dazzled fans with his above average court vision and elite defense. Despite limited action, the French Prince has accumulated 13 games with 5 or more assists and 28 games with less than 2 turnovers. He is incredibly efficient and is long overdue to be a starter in the Big Apple.