Post-draft predictions for the NBA All-Rookie First Team

Jacob Doole Roar Rookie

By Jacob Doole, Jacob Doole is a Roar Rookie

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    Lonzo Ball, one of the US' most promising college basketballers, has gone ahead to develop his own shoe before even making it to the NBA. Image: WikiCommons. By TonyTheTiger - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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    With the NBA Draft done for another year, now is the perfect time to make some way-too-early predictions for this class and their rookie performance.

    Looking at a combination of ability, team fit and opportunity, here are some early predictions for the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

    Markelle Fultz, 6’4”, Guard, Philadelphia 76ers
    2016/17 per-game stats: 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks

    Fultz in Philadelphia makes way too much sense for him to not thrive immediately.

    The two things the 76ers needed most were outside shooting and a secondary playmaker to help Ben Simmons.

    Check and check. Fultz shot 41.3 per cent from three in his lone season at Washington, and averaged a healthy 5.9 assists on a team where he was by far the best player.

    The main knock on Fultz is the same one that Simmons copped a year ago. He put up big numbers but didn’t actually help his team win, as Washington finished the season with a 9-22 record.

    However one look at a Washington game would be enough to tell you that his teammates didn’t exactly pull their weight, and that the attention on Fultz from opposition teams was immense.

    In Philly, Fultz won’t need to be ‘the guy’ assuming that Joel Embiid can stay healthy, and he should thrive in a lesser role on an up-and-coming team.

    Projected 2017/18 stats: 16.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals

    Lonzo Ball, 6’6”, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
    2016/17 per-game stats: 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.8 steals

    With D’Angelo Russell gone, the keys to the Lakers belong to Lonzo Ball.

    In a league where more and more teams are using multiple playmakers at once, a combination of Ball and Russell in the backcourt would have been intriguing.

    But Russell’s trade to the Nets means Ball can stick with what he knows.

    At UCLA he was the best passer in the country, completely transforming their offense into one of the best seen in the college game.

    He averaged 7.6 assists per game against only 2.5 turnovers, dictating the pace of games and finding seams in defences that no-one else could.

    His funky jump shot was good for 41.2 per cent shooting from three, and although there are concerns about his mid-range and pull-up shooting, he has the range to hit NBA threes consistently.

    While the Lakers may not have the shooting firepower of UCLA, their youngsters should benefit from more easy looks off of Ball’s passes.

    And in Brook Lopez, Ball has a potent pick-and-pop partner similar to Thomas Welsh at UCLA.

    It can be hard to see past his father Lavar, but if you do so you’ll see a potentially transformative talent who should immediately lift the Lakers offense.

    Projected 2017/18 stats: 14.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals

    De’Aaron Fox, 6’3”, Guard, Sacramento Kings
    2016/17 per-game stats: 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals

    There was talk of the Kings trading up to draft De’Aaron Fox, so they’ll be glad he got to them at pick five.

    Incumbent point guards Darren Collison and Ty Lawson are both out of contract, but even if they both return Fox should start ahead of both from the get go.

    He’s blindingly quick in transition and off the dribble, and he’ll get most of his points at the rim.

    The Kings have some capable pick-and-roll weapons, with Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere both showing good signs last season.

    Fox is also a capable passer, and he’ll be able to create for his teammates by drawing defensive attention in the paint and kicking it out.

    His speed will translate to solid defense at the next level, as he should be able to stay in front of most guards.

    His outside shooting is shaky at best, terrible at worst (24.6% from three), but his athleticism and playmaking should help offset it early on in his career.

    Projected 2017/18 stats: 13.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.1 steals

    Dennis Smith Jr, 6’3”, Guard, Dallas Mavericks
    2016/17 per-game stats: 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.9 steals

    Dennis Smith Jr is a rare prospect who can do everything at a reasonable level.

    He’s an athletic finisher around the rim and a capable mid-range shooter (50.9% on two-pointers), and he can hit the three at a decent clip (35.9%).

    He was also a good playmaker at NC State, averaging a healthy 6.2 assists per game.

    Dallas relied on undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell and veteran JJ Barea at the point guard last year, and Smith is an upgrade on both in the starting spot.

    Smith is another prospect who played on a subpar team, as NC State finished 15-17 and saw their coach fired.

    However the Mavericks won’t be looking to compete any time soon, and having solid shooters such as Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry should help ease the transition.

    Expect Dallas to give him a healthy dose of pick-and-roll plays as he enters the league.

    Projected 2017/18 stats: 11.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 steals

    Justin Jackson, 6’8”, Guard/Forward, Sacramento Kings
    2016/17 per-game stats: 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.5 steals

    The lone non-freshman on this list, Justin Jackson’s extra two years of college experience should serve him well.

    Jackson tested the waters in last year’s pre-draft process, but after low interest from teams he returned to North Carolina and worked tirelessly on his flaws.

    The result is a guard with forward size and endless mismatch potential on offense.

    He drastically increased his three point shooting volume last season (from 3.0 attempts per game to 7.1) while also improving his accuracy (37% last season).

    Listed on draft day as a shooting guard, he’s big enough to give most NBA guards problems both going to the basket and shooting over defenders.

    He’s not a top-level athlete, but his size should offset some of the issues that that brings.

    In Sacramento he’ll be able to play spot minutes at both shooting guard and small forward, and a lineup featuring Jackson at the three and Buddy Hield at the two could be a good complement to fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox.

    With Demarcus Cousins gone, the Kings are in full rebuild mode, and Jackson should have plenty of opportunities to shine.

    Projected 2017/18 stats: 10.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.3 steals

    Honourable mentions: Malik Monk (Charlotte Hornets), Josh Jackson (Phoenix Suns), Lauri Markkanen (Chicago Bulls)

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • Roar Rookie

      June 24th 2017 @ 11:23am
      Hamish Hutton said | June 24th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

      All of these guys have fantastic potential to be instant contributors, now I might be alittle bias but don’t rule out Frank Nitilikina from the Knicks his game perfectly suits the triangle offence and I feel they’ll look to have him involved early. Has the highest star potential of the class but also the highest bust potential according to espn analytics

      • June 24th 2017 @ 4:36pm
        Mushi said | June 24th 2017 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

        It’s a lot to ask him to be instant contributor learning the triangle and stepping up to the NBA at the same time.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 24th 2017 @ 5:06pm
        Jacob Doole said | June 24th 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

        I definitely think Ntilikina is a good chance to be a star, haven’t seen much of him but from all reports he’ll be great! Part of the reason I left him off is that I have no idea what the direction of the Knicks is, it would be typical if they buried him on the bench or somehow stunted his growth. Outside of that though he should be a good long-term prospect!

    • June 24th 2017 @ 11:25am
      Swampy said | June 24th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

      Good luck with this one – make sure you check back in with a review at the end of the season.

      I like you threw Justin Jackson in there – his big game defence in the tourney really impressed me. Counter to that – his offence suffered with the exertion from putting in at the other end. Still gotta like a guy who jumps at the chance to defend the opposition’s best player and takes them out.

      My favourite player in the draft was De’aaron Fox. Guy is a gamer. Love guys who play with a chip on their shoulder. Good spot he went to for his game as well.

      His Kentucky team mate will be my pick for guy who went 5 spots too low. Malik Monk is made for today’s NBA. And if Charlotte manage to off load Walker, there should be plenty of opportunity for monk to get shots.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 24th 2017 @ 5:15pm
        Jacob Doole said | June 24th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

        I only saw Jackson in a couple of games last season but he was really impressive, I love the way he can create shots off the dribble at his size. The reports of how he tested the waters before the draft last year, then went back to UNC and worked really hard on his flaws are also promising- I think that work ethic is often the key to adapting in the NBA.

        Monk is definitely the steal of the draft, I’m still not sure how he dropped so far! I almost had him in the first team but the weird mix in Charlotte is what stopped me. I’m not sure if he’ll get big minutes straight away unless they blow it up and trade guys like Batum, Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist. He’ll be a great player for them though!

    • June 28th 2017 @ 2:48pm
      Lachie Abbott said | June 28th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

      “Dennis Smith Jr is a rare prospect who can do everything at a reasonable level.”
      Except play defence and take care of the ball. I mean the guy simply doesn’t try on the defensive end! Although he may put up crazy numbers and throw down amazing dunks with his 40-inch vertical, it’s very rare for a guy with a low work ethic to succeed at the highest level in the NBA. The Steve Francis comparison is one of the only comparisons that are actually somewhat relatable. Although Francis was a cool player to watch it seems, he played on bad teams and had great stats. Smith Jr. seems to me like a point guard on a 30 win team. We do see bad defenders in the point guard spot in the NBA, but I don’t think any could be accused of not trying like Smith Jr. does. Curry, Thomas, Lillard, Wall, Paul…there are so many amazing point guards today that although Smith might slam down a mean dunk on one end, back the other way he’ll lose sight of his man on a backdoor cut from the weak side and give up those points again. But apart from that…yeah I like him too and his upside. At pick 9, you take him everyday.

      • June 29th 2017 @ 3:24pm
        mushi said | June 29th 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

        Francis isn’t really a comparission either better scorer, better shooter, better rebounder and better steal rate.

        Francis didn’t maximise his talent but it wasn’t like he didn’t work at all.

    • Roar Guru

      June 29th 2017 @ 12:30pm
      Chris Kettlewell said | June 29th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

      I don’t know how this could be an NBA All-Rookie First team. You’ve picked 4 guards and a guard/forward. That’s hardly a team. You need 2 guards, 2 forwards and a centre surely.

      • June 29th 2017 @ 3:19pm
        mushi said | June 29th 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

        Not for the all rookie teams. Each team gets to list 5 guys for first team (2 votes), and five guys for seocnd team (1 vote) with no positional designations, and the 5 players with the most votes get the first tema selection

      • June 29th 2017 @ 11:15pm
        Jake said | June 29th 2017 @ 11:15pm | ! Report

        Chris – stick to sports you have knowledge in.

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