Before the season began, this draft class was being compared to all-time greats such as the 1984, 1996 and 2003 versions which gave the league some of its finest players. It may be early in the season, yet we’ve seen some amazing performances from various rookies, including several low-profile players who are ready to make their mark in the league.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
While not a 2017 draftee, Ben Simmons classifies as a rookie, and he’s been incredible. He has not only proven to be a premier point forward that will function beautifully in the modern NBA; he has shown a poise which usually comes with several years experience.
For all intents and purposes, Simmons is the leader of the Sixers’ young squad and at the head of the pack of rookies. He’s posting averages of 16.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists and is shooting an efficient 47.8% from the field. He’s basically what we all thought Lonzo Ball would be.
Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
Speaking of the prodigal son, Ball has struggled mightily trying to score the ball. While his numbers should trend toward the mean eventually, it’s still a shocking development considering his style of play gets him a lot of attempts at the rim. Through five games, Ball is averaging an astoundingly putrid 31.3% from the field, 23.1% from three, and 55.6% from the line. Those are unsustainable numbers and while he’ll never be a Steve Nash 50/40/90 shooter, he should at least eclipse 40% from the field by season’s end.
Other than his shooting woes, Ball has been as advertised, including three near-miss triple-double games in a row, including eight rebounds and ten assists versus the Wizards, and an eight-rebound and 13 assist performance versus the Pelicans.
When Ball is on the floor, he’s everywhere.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
I’m sure there will be a few who expected Jayson Tatum to have the impact he’s had this early in the season, but color me one of the many who didn’t foresee it happening this quickly. Due to the unfortunate injury to star forward Gordon Hayward just minutes into his Boston career, Tatum adopted the duties of making plays from the perimeter. So far, he’s been exceptional.
Like Ball, Tatum exists everywhere on the floor during any play. He’s active on defense, the glass and as mentioned, scoring the basketball. His shooting splits are on fire, sitting at 47.6% from the field, 45.5% from deep (on 2.8 attempts per game to boot) and 82% from the line.
Yes, it’s early and yes, he has a group of veterans around him that help with the transition into the NBA. So, for what it’s worth, these shooting numbers will probably drop a little, but it’s a great glimpse into exactly the type of player the Celtics have. Hint: he retired from the team this summer.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
The last highlight here will be the play of John Collins, playing forward for the Atlanta Hawks. During the draft, he was the player everyone liked but had just a few too many issues regarding his play. He established himself as a talented scorer, but many feared his jump shot would never develop and his short wingspan would keep him nailed to the bench in crunch time, not able to defend effectively.
Fast forward four months and Collins is destroying opponents when he is on the floor. While coming off the bench, Collins is playing just over 20 minutes per game, while posting ridiculous averages of 12 points and 7.2 rebounds. If we extend those numbers over 36 minutes, they balloon to over 20 points per game, 12 rebounds and around 2 each of steals and blocks. Phenomenal.
So why isn’t he playing more? In five games, he’s amassed too many personal fouls. That includes fouling out of one contest before racking up five on the next night. What this means is he’s still getting up to speed on the defensive end – the exact worry most scouts had on draft night. However, so far, he’s looking like a great piece for the rebuilding Hawks.
Who’s your pick for the most impactful rookie so far? Comment below!
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