This year’s rookie class has been one of the best in recent years. Many players have made an immediate impact not only on their teams but around the league as well. And with the first half of the season almost complete here’s a look as some of the top candidates for Rookie of the Year:
Although some don’t consider Simmons a rookie because he was drafted in 2016, this is the first time he has touched the NBA floor during the regular season. It was well worth the wait for the Philadelphia faithful as Simmons has wowed just about everyone in the league. Simmons burst out the gate at the start of the season racking up his first career triple double in the 4th game of the season. He scored his 2nd career triple double 5 games later and has totaled 5 total triple-doubles on the year which leads all rookies and is 3rd amongst all players in the league so far. Ben is a stat sheet stuffer and shows he has the ability to obtain a triple-double each game. On the year he’s averaging 16.6ppg, 7.2 apg and 7.8 rpg. Simmons will definitely play a big role in the Sixers playoffs hopes and is one of the pillars for the franchise’s budding future.
The 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft, Jayson Tatum has fit in very nicely in the Celtics system. He serves as a secondary scoring option at times as well as another athletic wing on the defensive end. His athleticism and ball handling ability also makes him a tough matchup especially in transition. He’s averaging 13.7 ppg 1.4 apg and just over 5 rebounds per game. On the year he is shooting about 48% from the field including an above 40% shooting percentage from 3 point range. Tatum will play a huge role for the Celtics in their title run this year.
Going into the season there was probably no one that expected Donovan Mitchell to be in ROTY conversation except perhaps Donovan Mitchell. However Mitchell has exploded onto the scene and has even impressed some of the league’s top stars. Mitchell, drafted 13th by Denver but ultimately traded to Utah leads all rookies in scoring at just over 19 point per game. He’s the only rookie this year with multiple 40 point games including a 40 point performance against the Suns a few games ago. Mitchell can flat out score the ball as he uses his athletic ability and smooth stroke from behind the arc to get buckets. He will also be competing in this year’s slam dunk contest. Really the only knock on his game is his lack of playmaking as he only averages about 3 assists per game. However, the 6’3 guard from Greenwich, Connecticut is poised to help lead the Jazz back to the postseason.
With all the hype that surrounded Lonzo Ball entering this season, Kyle Kuzma flew under the radar for a good bit of the beginning of the season. However he quickly got the attention of the basketball world as he put up some impressive scoring outings for the Lakers. Kuzma is 2nd among rookies in scoring at 15.7 ppg and has developed very good chemistry with fellow rookie Lonzo. Kuzma scored a career high 38 points against the Rockets in a shocking win. Kyle always provides great energy for his team while on the floor and is active on the boards averaging just under 6 per game
To the causal basketball fan most won’t recognize who Lauri Markkanen is. But for the true NBA fans they know just how good the 7 footer from Finland is. Markkanen was drafted 7th overall by the Timberwolves but was sent to Chicago in the draft night blockbuster trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. Markkanen is now a part of a rebuilding Chicago franchise trying to get back to where they were when they had Derrick Rose. Lauri is 4th among rookies in scoring at 15.3 ppg and is 2nd in rebounds at 7.7 per game. Markkanen is also 2nd among rookies in double-doubles with 12 on the year so far. Markkanen’s ability to stretch the floor is apparent as he’s shooting 43% from the field including 36% from 3 point range. Although an extreme dark horse to win the award, Bulls fans should be happy with what they have to look forward to in Lauri.
Under the Radar Rookies to Watch
Dennis Smith Jr
Dennis Smith had a very fast start to the season wowing crowds with his explosive dunks. However the 9th overall pick by Dallas has since cooled off. Although he’s still averaging a solid 14.6 ppg his field goal percentage is below 40% and his 3 point percentage is barely above 30%. With Devin Harris being traded at the deadline, look for DSJ to have more of a work load put upon him.
Arguably one of the most publicized rookies in recent history, Lonzo came into the league with more storylines and media around him than all the other rookies combined. Although he hasn’t had the ROTY season his father promised us he would have at the beginning of the season, he is still having a solid year by rookie standards. He’s averaging 10.2 ppg but is also averaging 7.1 assists which is 2nd amongst rookies. Lately he has missed a few games due to injury but if he can keep working on that jump shot he’ll be just fine.
Unknown to many outside of Brooklyn, Jarrett Allen has really impressed quite a few people. So much so that he has been inserted into the Nets starting lineup. Although still very raw, the 19 year old and former Texas Longhorn has shown some impressive play. His long frame allows him to block shots at the rim and has displayed surprising athleticism around the basket. He still needs to get stronger and develop a post game but for now, Nets fans should be excited about this young kid’s future.
Probably the second fastest player in the league behind Russell Westbrook, Fox has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Kings. Fox has put up about 11 ppg and just over 4 assists but has really struggled to stay on the court at times. He is currently day to day right now with an ankle injury and has already missed 7 games so far.