The 2017-2018 NBA rookie class is just as loaded as we all thought. It was the most loaded draft since LeBron entered the NBA, and the players are delivering already. The Rookie of the Year decision will be difficult, especially since Ben Simmons qualifies, even though he was drafted 1st in 2016. He sat out all last year injured.
But the All-Rookie 1st Team? That’s a super-fun discussion. Right now, here’s who I have:
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia
Only 21, he’s already averaging 16.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg and 7.5 apg and he can’t even shoot. No, seriously – he hasn’t made a 3-pointer this season. He’s shooting 55% on free throws. If he adds a jumper in the coming years, you’re looking at him being a Top 10 player in the NBA for a decade.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah
An absolute steal for the Jazz, he leads rookies with 18.4 ppg, and his shooting numbers are better than Russell Westbrook’s as a rookie: 43/34/84. If the Jazz can get healthy and sneak into the playoffs, Mitchell could steal ROY from Simmons.
Jayson Tatum, Boston
Remember all the questions about his 3-point shot? He’s 3rd in the NBA in 3-point shooting (46 percent). The silver lining to the Gordon Hayward injury is that Tatum has arrived far earlier than anyone expected: 31 minutes per game, 13.9 ppg and 5.5 rpg. He’s 5th in PER among rookies (16.68).
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago
And you scoffed when I briefly had him going #1 in my Mock Draft a year ago. On a bad Bulls team, Markkanen is playing 30 minutes a game, and averaging 15.4 ppg (4th among rookies). What’s most surprising is he’s shooting 42/36/84 and he’s only 20 years old. Those numbers are all far ahead of Dirk Nowitzki’s stats when he was a 20-year old rookie.
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
The biggest surprise of the rookie class was drafted 27th, and leads the Lakers in scoring (16.9 ppg). Kuzma is 22 years old, but still, nobody expected him to be at 46/37/73 shooting, and ahead of 2016 lottery pick Brandon Ingram in almost every offensive statistical category.
That group doesn’t even include the #1 overall pick in the draft, Markelle Fultz, who has been injured and only played four games, or the #2 pick, Lonzo Ball, who has commanded the most space in print, digitally, on the radio and on TV.
Thing is, it’s not even a lock those guys who missed the 1st team will make the 2nd team. That’s because rookies you’re probably not watching that closely like Bam Adebayo (14th to Miami) and John Collins (19th to Atlanta) are not getting national exposure. Adebayo is averaging 6.7 ppg and 5.1 rpg in 19 minutes a night playing behind Hassan Whiteside. Collins is averaging 10.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg in 22 minutes a game on the worst team in the NBA, and he leads all rookies in PER (20.98).
Heck, OG Anunoby of the Raptors may end up starting 60 games and he went 23rd in the 1st round. Second round pick Jordan Bell(38th to Golden State) is a rotation player on the best team in the NBA. Semi Ojeleye (37th to Boston) is playing 13 minutes a night on the #1 team in the East.