It seems like every NBA season is “the best rookie class we have seen” or “the young guns that have a future.” Many would argue that the 2003 class, which included players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, was the best. But it is quite hard to predict which class was the best, especially since the last few draft classes have not even reached their full potential yet.
However, many would argue that this year’s rookie class really could be one of the best, and why not? It is absolutely loaded with raw talent, some expected and some not so much. And with such talent comes a tight race for the Rookie of the Year Award, which will be given out later this summer.
Let’s break down some of the top rookies from this season, their performance and some ROTY possibilities.
Season averages: 15.9 points on 45 percent shooting, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 3-pointers
Taken 27th overall, Kuzma has been the steal of the draft by a long shot. He has shown flashes of greatness and already has a lot of weapons in his arsenal right now.
He really does not look like a rookie this year, and he could be one of those Brandon Ingram-esque guys both in terms of playing style and in the sense that the Lakers will absolutely do anything they can to hold onto him for the future.
While he won’t win the award, he has had some amazing moments in Los Angeles, including an impressive 38-point performance against the Houston Rockets back in December. He has also had some ample opportunities lately without Brandon Ingram, averaging about 21 points and eight boards over the past two weeks. And it is just the beginning.
Season averages: 10.2 points on 35.9 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals
The other rookie in Los Angeles was taken second overall and has had some moments to say the least. He missed a good chunk of time due to injury, but despite inconsistency and the weirdest looking shot, has all the potential in the world to bring to this team. The numbers are already there, and as soon as he gets used to the NBA style of play and boosts his efficiency, he could be very good.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Season averages: 15.2 points on 39.3 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.0 steal
Similar to Ball, Smith’s main issue is efficiency, and there is almost no doubt that this will improve over time as he gets more time under his belt. There was a lot of hype surrounding him before the start of the season, and while he has not really lived up to it, the numbers are not bad at all for such a young guy. The sky is the limit for this kid.
Season averages: 14.9 points on 42.8 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 3-pointers
Finally, we get to evaluate a big, but Markkanen is not your average big man. He is known more so as a shooter than a post-threat, and very quickly proved how effective he is from behind the arc. He was the fastest player in history to hit 100 3-pointers, which is even more impressive considering he is a big.
Like the others before, there is too much potential in this rookie class for him to win the award, but he could be a really important piece to a franchise’s puzzle.
Season averages: 13.7 points on 47.8 percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 3-pointers
Tatum has something that most other rookies this year do not have: efficiency. He has been shooting it well all season from all spots on the floor, including a 3-point percentage over 42 percent.
The numbers do not stand out, but playing with established veterans like Kyrie Irving and Al Horford has helped Tatum make a name for himself. Just watching him is impressive in itself, as some of the things he has done make him look like a seasoned veteran.
Most years he would probably win this award, but the next two players are realistically the only two who could win the award.
Donovan Mitchell vs. Ben Simmons
Mitchell season averages: 20.3 points on 43.5 percent shooting, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.4 3-pointers
Simmons season averages: 15.8 points on 53.6 percent shooting, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks
Here are the only two contenders for this year’s ROTY award, and they could not be much more different.
Donovan Mitchell is a pure scorer with not much else going on, but boy is his gameplay impressive. He has taken the Utah Jazz and turned them into a playoff team, often being labeled as that one team no one wants to face in the first round of the playoffs. He has had plenty of highlights, insane dunks and clutch moments when it mattered most for the team.
A huge plus for the rook is that he actually plays defense as well, which is so important to a team like Utah. He might be one of the best scorers the league has seen taking age into consideration, and it can only go up from here.
While there is much to love about Mitchell, Ben Simmons is this season’s Rookie of the Year. He is a 6-foot-10 point guard and a triple-double threat, notching 10 already at 21 years old. Simmons and Joel Embiid have led this very young Sixers team to a playoff berth, and they are another team that could go further than anyone thinks.
In a league where shooting has been the only thing that matters since Steph Curry has been playing, Simmons is a breath of fresh air for old-school fans. He drives, drives and then drives some more. It is a rare occurrence for Simmons to get into the paint and not get some points on the board by the end of the possession.
He is truly a special talent. Simmons is your ROTY, and his potential is actually terrifying. Watch out, NBA.
Featured image from www.hardwoodhoudini.com
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