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The Lead’s Rookie Power Rankings #2

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This rookie class is legit.

And although it is way too early to be passing judgments, the depth this class has shown so far is unparalleled over the last decade. Even with the absence of Markelle Fultz, there are still 11 players averaging double figures in scoring, compared to just 5 from last year’s dismal class. With such a profusion of skill, it is only natural that these rankings will fluctuate greatly as the season continues to unfold. But for now, here are The Lead’s 2nd rookie power rankings:

  1. Ben Simmons- 76ers (no change)

Stats: 35.2 mpg, 18.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 7.9 apg, 53% fg

Sporting News

While everyone and their brother attempts to make the case for Lonzo’s ROY campaign, there is just no denying that Ben Simmons is the clear frontrunner of the race right now. Simmons play so far hasn’t just been great–it’s been historically great. His triple double against the Pistons marked the first time a player has recorded a triple-double in their first 4 career games in 50 years. And to top things off, Simmons is currently leading all rookies in points, assists, and rebounds per game.

To put Simmons’ value in perspective, the 76ers have a 102.7 Offensive Rating when Simmons is on the court compared to a just a 90.5 rating when he is on the bench, an over 12 point differential. Furthermore, Simmons’ 25.6 efficiency rating is the highest we’ve seen out of a rookie since Blake Griffin’s phenomenal rookie season in 2010.

Simmons’ Achilles Heel right now is his free throw shooting, hitting only 55% from the charity stripe. For someone attempting more FT’s than any other rookie, you’d like to see the number crawl up a little bit. But if that’s all there is to complain about, Simmons is doing a lot right, and is the clear frontrunner to take home the trophy.

2. Jayson Tatum- Celtics (+2)

Stats: 32.0 mpg, 13.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 49.3% fg

The Boston Globe

Sure, Jayson Tatum’s stat line isn’t as inflated as a few of the players below him.

But he is playing very well–for a WINNING team. And that in itself is more invaluable to a ROY campaign that any statistic, as last year proved with Malcolm Brogdon taking home the award for a Bucks team that made the playoffs. And much like Brogdon, Tatum’s season thus far has consisted of very consistent play with no part of his game sticking out especially.

If you watched Tatum on defense through the first eight games, you could’ve mistaken him for a 10-year vet. He utilizes his athleticism and extremely high basketball IQ to punish smaller wings on the perimeter, providing key contribution for the Celtics’ defense that is currently ranked first in the league.

3. Kyle Kuzma- Lakers (+3)

Stats: 28.1 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 56.3% fg

Bleacher Report

To put in perspective how deep this class is, if Kuzma keeps the stat line he possesses right now, he would’ve been the unanimous ROY winner last year.

And although the media will tell you otherwise, Kuzma has looked like the superior Laker rookie thus far (sorry Big Ballers). His confidence is something unparalleled for a 27th pick rookie, and he carries himself with a swagger that is showcased in every part of his game. Whether it is a pull up jumper from the elbow, a menacing drive to the basket, or a catch and shoot three, Kuzma’s offensive game is unbelievably fluid and diverse. He isn’t afraid to shy away from the big moments either, as he called his own number the whole fourth quarter against Portland in a 22-point effort. And while he might be LA’s best kept secret for now, it is only a matter of time before Kuzma is the household name everyone is talking about.

4. Lauri Markkanen- Bulls (previously honorable mention)

Stats: 33.o 17.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 0.5 apg, 44.7% fg

MTV

Springing his way into the ROY conversation is Lauri Markkanen, who has been perhaps the biggest surprise of any rookie after many predicted an uneventful rookie year for him. After critics questioned how well his three ball would translate to the NBA arc, Markkanen has answered these doubts with a remarkable 39.5% mark on 7.2 threes launched a game. He’s been aggressive on the boards night in and night out, showing a surprising ability to fight with vets and come down strong with the ball. While the Bulls might not see success behind Markkanen’s play, they at least have something to look forward to in the Finnish 20-year-old.

 

5. De’Aaron Fox: Kings (no change) 

Stats: 27.0 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.0 apg, 41.2% fg

Basketball Insiders

If George Hill had not come to Sacramento in free agency, Fox would most likely be a few spots up on this list. But nonetheless, Fox’s play off the bench has been pretty electric, burning other teams bench units on a nightly basis. His three-pointer is still pretty far from being effective, but his free throw shooting so far (81.3% in 8 games) could provide an indicator that his numbers will eventually increase. As the John Wall comparisons will begin to pour in, Fox will attempt to solidify a spot on the starting lineup later this year and push to be the best point guard in his draft class.

 6. John Collins- Hawks (+3)

Stats: 20.3 mpg, 10.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, 50% fg

SI.com

In a league that is pushing towards the stretch 4/5, Collins does not exactly fit into the prototype for the future.

But that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the most dominant forces of this rookie class. Despite playing only 20 minutes a game, Collins has been able to put together multiple double doubles, and his per-36 minute totals lead the rookie class in points (20.2) and rebounds (13.5).

Right now, Collin’s main setback is his defensive play, which is so dreadful that not even a lottery bound Hawks team can keep him on the floor. As long as he continues finishing in the paint and dominating the boards, he will prove to be a subtle sleeper that more than a few teams will regret passing up on.

7. Donovan Mitchell- Jazz (+1)

Stats: 24.7 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 36.8% fg

TSN

Mitchell was going to drop the honorable mention list for the 2nd edition.

That is until he dropped 28 points to lead the Jazz to a 112-103 victory over a tough Blazers team. Mitchell’s shooting hasn’t been fantastic by any means, but his free throw shooting has made up for the inconsistently from the field. His 89.5% mark from the line leads all qualified rookies, and his natural athleticism will allow him to draw a fair amount of fouls as he progresses. While Hayward’s departure was a punch in the face for Jazz fans, Mitchell is a pretty good bandage, and will continue to lessen the pain as long as the Jazz are winning games.

8. Lonzo Ball- Lakers (-6)

Stats: 32.8 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 30.8% fg

CBS Sports

Lonzo at #8 is not as outlandish as it may appear at first glance.

Aside from a dominant performance against a dreadful Suns team, Lonzo hasn’t been overly impressive, and his -50 plus minus through his first 238 minutes is downright abysmal. His goose egg (0-point) effort against the Blazers is just the most recent example of Zo’s struggles on the offensive end.

Sure, Lonzo’s passing has been a thing of beauty.

But he’s also third in all rookies with 2.4 turnovers per game, is only shooting an atrocious 30.8% from the field and 25.6% from three, not to mention his defense has been subpar at best. His aggressiveness on the offensive end is worrisome to say the least, and his advanced stats show the Lakers would have at least one more win with him off the court. For playing a whopping 35 minutes a game, the Lakers cannot afford this kind of inefficiency out of Lonzo.

If he cuts down on studio time and generic SoundCloud rap and starts hitting that unorthodox three ball, he just might crack the top 5 in the next rankings.

9. Dennis Smith Jr.-Mavericks (-6)

Stats: 27.9 mpg, 13.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, 39.8% fg

NBC Sports

Dennis Smith will be an incredible basketball player in this league.

But his play so far has been clouded by inconsistency, especially in the turnover department, where he leads all rookies with 3.7 per game. And although he doesn’t have much to work with on the Mavericks feeble roster, Smith Jr. has not been helping the cause with his sloppy passing and poor shooting (30% from 3). He is looking to shoot contested threes in isolation a bit too much and is making the common rookie mistake of trying to force plays instead of letting there game develop in front of him. The ultra-athletic guard has time on his side, but its going to be tough to keep Dallas from slipping into the lottery again.

10. Mike James- Suns (previously unranked)

Stats: 23.9 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.7 rpg, 36.3% fg

NBA Greece

Eric Bledsoe’s tweet single-handedly landed Mike James a spot on this list, and perhaps landed James a spot in the NBA for good. The 27-year-old rookie has taken the unconventional path to the league, playing overseas the last three years before signing with the Suns this offseason. But in taking the path less traveled, James has been able to prepare himself for a rookie season that has so far looked better than Josh Jackson’s. Despite playing for an awful team, James had managed to amass a +1.6 net rating, which is incredible considering how poor the Sun’s defense has been. To further emphasize Mike James’ impact on Phoenix, the Suns have an offensive rating of 112.6 with James on the floor and 94.2 with him off. While this success may not be enough to put him in the ROY conversation, it is one of the best underdog stories we have seen since “Linsanity”.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Malik Monk- Hornets

Bogdan Bogdanovic- Kings

Dillon Brooks- Grizzlies

 

Dropped Out:

Josh Jackson- Suns

Markelle Fultz- 76ers

About Logan Collien

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