It’s safe to say this year’s class isn’t lacking in talent, but who are the five best rookies so far?
Firstly, the honourable mentions.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Collin Sexton, Wendell Carter Jr and Kevin Knox have all shown talent in the league so far.
Fifth – Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)
Ayton is a big dude who has proven he can rebound and score, but he can’t do much else.
The pre-draft defensive concerns about the #1 pick coming into the draft have not been evident and he hasn’t contributed to winning whatsoever.
Don’t get me wrong this kid has a high ceiling and has the chance to have a great career, but you’d think to pair a top pick with Devin Booker and veterans such as Trevor Ariza (before being acquired by Washington) and Jamal Crawford would grant you more than 11 wins and the worse record in the league up to this point.
Ayton kind of reminds me of Andrew Wiggins, all the talent in the world, semi-attractive box score numbers but doesn’t care about winning, which he showed in college at Arizona.
Fourth – Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings)
This guy has really impressed me since returning from injury after having a poor start.
A bench role hasn’t shifted the young forward’s attention from straight balling out, he is a proven rebounder and has the versatile game to play him at either power forward or centre.
He’s a below average shooter but is at least a threat, but his post skills and ability to be a tenacious rebounder is what impresses me.
He has been a big contributor to the culture that Sacramento has created and brings a lot of effort and energy each game – and they’re a winning team.
Now that’s not saying Bagley is the sole reason for the Kings success, but he certainly is one of the larger pieces to the puzzle. I like what Bagley brings to the table however I still believe he has huge room to improve and become a force in this league.
Third – Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
Despite having extremely high expectations leading into the draft, Young has managed to have a successful rookie campaign up to this point silencing most of his critics.
We saw Lonzo Ball put under a similar scope last season which shows that hype and expectations is something hard to manage.
However the Atlanta guard has had a completely opposite first year than Ball, Young struggled in Summer League (which was surprising) whereas Ball won the MVP. But Young will most likely finish second in voting for ‘rookie of the year’ – and Ball didn’t come close.
He has shown to have great passing vision but has been a streaky shooter, which I believe will fade after he gets a few miles under his belt.
The Hawks were also expected to have the worst record in the league, but have played good basketball and won some big games, most recently against LeBron and the Lakers. The sky’s the limit for this dude.
Second – Jaren Jackson Jr (Memphis Grizzlies)
Although not being the flashiest of players, or one who fills up a box score, Jackson has proven to be one of the top rising stars in the NBA.
He has shown the ability to score when called upon and fits the mould of the ideal modern-day big man. He can shoot, post up, get his teammates involved and guard multiple positions – similar to Al Horford who was arguably the most important player on the Celtics during their conference finals run last season.
Being around students of the game such as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol (before being acquired by Toronto) has certainly aided Jackson’s development.
Something interesting to mention is that the #4 pick is currently the youngest player in the NBA which makes his rookie performance all the more impressive. It’s a shame he recently got ruled out for the season.
First – Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
No surprise here but Doncic has taken the league by storm, with ‘Luka Magic’ looking like an all-star rather than a first-year player.
However, this shouldn’t surprise anyone as the man won a Euroleague MVP, championship and the finals MVP – but most of us let it blow past our shoulder, including the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings.
This kid is literally putting up better numbers than LeBron James did in his rookie season!
Now that is crazy and it’s no surprise he is a $1.01 chance with Sportsbet to win the ‘rookie of the year’ trophy. Future MVP and all-time great is not out of the question for Donicic.