Top Five NBA Rookies
The NBA Regular season has just finished up and Playoffs are just around the corner. But with all the talent in the 2017 draft class (or 2016 if you are Ben Simmons), who were the most talented Rookies this season?
I would like to first state that I do not believe that Ben Simmons is a rookie, I didn’t think Joel Embiid was either when he was in the running last season.
Drafted 9th overall to the Dallas Mavericks, Dennis Smith Jr. has taken the league by storm and his pure athleticism makes every drive more exciting. Smith has showcased his athleticism during the dunk contest where he was outed by fellow rookie, Donovan Mitchell. Smith Jr. averaged 15.2 points, 5.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 29.7 minutes, shot 39.5 percent from the field and shot 31.3 percent from three-point range. Smith Jr’s. athleticism and his ability to create highlight reel plays make him a star of the future in the NBA.
Markkanen was drafted 7th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves 7th overall but was part of the Jimmy Butler trade that sent Markkanen to the Bulls. The rookie has been compared to the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis. Markkanen averages 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.6 blocks, 29.7 minutes, shot 43.4 percent from the field and shot 36.2 percent from three-point range. Markkanen stands at 7’0 tall and weighs 230 pounds, his size allows him to get mismatches on the perimeter with slower big men and dominate in the post when a smaller guard is defending him.
The Celtics already had a star-studded roster before they realized what the third overall selection in the 2017 draft could do. Tatum can expect a heavy workload in the playoffs as his Point Guard, Kyrie Irving is out for the entire postseason. Tatum played in 80 games, averaged 30.5 minutes, 13.9 points, 5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.7 blocks, shot 47.5 percent from the field and shot 43.4 percent from three-point range. Tatum is a streaky shooter and when he becomes hot he is hard to slow down, he is athletic and has handles that create enough open space for him to get his shot off. Tatum can help build on his legacy early if he can dominate the postseason without Kyrie Irving.
The 27th overall pick in the draft originally was sent to Brooklyn before being shipped to Los Angeles where he would team up with 2 other first round draft picks, one #2 Lonzo Ball and the other #30 Josh Hart. Kuzma and Ball’s connection on the court is going to help restore the Laker legacy. Kuzma played in 77 games, averaging 31.2 minutes, 16.1 points,6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, shot 45 percent from the field, shot 36.6 percent from three-point range, and recorded a Laker Rookie Record for threes. Kuzma can do it all; score, pass and defend. This could be attributed to his 4 years in college, the only 4-year player mentioned on this list. We will see if Kuzma’s dominance this season and the growth the Lakers look to have from Ball this coming summer will lead to a resurgence this coming season in Los Angeles.
You knew that I was not going to put Ben Simmons here because in my mind he is not a rookie. But either way, the Rookie of the Year should go to Donovan Mitchell. The 13th pick was originally drafted by the Denver Nuggets but traded to Utah. Mitchell led all rookies in scoring this season at 20.5 points per game. Mitchell played in 79 games, secured the 5 seed in the west, averaged 33.4 minutes, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals, shot 43.7 percent from the field and shot 34 percent from behind the three-point line. Mitchell played 2 seasons at Louisville before he entered the draft. He is athletic, dominant, has handles, and is a complete player. Mitchell’s explosiveness is hard to guard and even won him the NBA Dunk Contest. Mitchell has led the pack with the true rookies this season and will look forward to a playoff push as the Jazz try to knock-off the Thunder in the First Round NBA Western Playoffs.