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The Lead’s Rookie Power Rankings #3

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A lot has happened since the November rankings released just a few short weeks ago. Simmons still commands the top spot, but Donovan Mitchell has burst on to the scene in Utah with 5 straight 20+ point games. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox’s recent struggles have him slipping out of the list and leaving the Kings looking for answers.

This inconsistency is all part of the growing pains that plague the majority of rookies, and is also responsible for the great fluctuation that happens in these rankings. With that in mind, here are The Lead’s Rookie Power Rankings: Edition 3

 

  1. Ben Simmons- 76ers (No Change)

Sports Illustrated

Stats: 35.8 mpg, 18.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 7.1 apg, 56.7% fg

Barring injury, it is pretty safe to say Simmons has this top spot on lockdown. At this point, the ROY talk has developed into All-Star talk, as Simmons’ play level puts him in serious contention to be a rookie All-Star.

Having that said, the growing concern in Simmons’ game has been his free throw shooting, as the Hack-A-Simmons made its debut last week against the Wizards, who were able to mount a comeback behind Simmons charity stripe struggles. While he hasn’t sunk to the Shaq level of this treatment, his form is too good for his percentage to be marginally better than a coin flip.

2. Donovan Mitchell- Jazz (+5)

Stats: 29.2 mpg, 17.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 41.5% fg

ClutchPoints

 

After the first few weeks, it looked like Mitchell would serve the Jazz as a defensive specialist with a developing offensive game that looked far from complete. But as his usage rate skyrockets, the Louisville product is proving to be the best two way player in his draft class. While he struggled shooting the ball to start the year, he has been lights out since early November, hitting over 50% of his threes, which has propelled him into ROY talks.

Mitchell’s coming out party came in a 41-point extravaganza against the Pelicans– the first time since Blake Griffin’s 2011 rookie campaign that a rookie has scored 40 or more points in a single game. This outburst was part of a 5 game run with 20 or more points, in which Mitchell looked borderline unstoppable at times.

Every game now seems to bring about a new highlight of Mitchell catching a lob and levitating for a slam. His 7’0 wingspan allows for him to catch passes that the vast majority of NBA guards cannot, and his freakish bounce and athleticism spell out Top 10 plays for years to come.

3. Jayson Tatum- Celtics (-1)

Stats: 30.5 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 apg, 50.8% fg

Duke Basketball Report

Tatum at #3 speaks solely to the depth of this class, because his play for the Celtics has been nothing short of outstanding.

His defensive versatility continues to be one of the cornerstones for Boston’s #1 ranked D, and he has arguably assumed the secondary scoring role behind Kyrie.

Playing well beyond his years for a 22-4 team is very impressive.

But shooting over 50 percent from the field and commanding a sizable role among such a dominant team is the cherry on top. Tatum’s catch and shoot reliability is an absolute luxury to find in a rookie, and his 51.9% mark from 3 LEADS THE ENTIRE NBA. Not often does a rookie have such a pivotal role on a team, much less one of the best teams in the NBA. As long as Tatum maintains this play, expect the Celtics to keep rolling.

 

4. Kyle Kuzma- Lakers (-1)

Stats: 30.9 mpg, 16.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 49.8% fg

Los Angeles Times

Kuzma has officially become the fan favorite in L.A.

“KUUZZ” chants can be heard erupting from the Staples Center every time the Utah underdog makes his way to the scorers table halfway through the first quarter.

And this support is well warranted, as Kuzma continues to deliver outstanding production off of the bench as the Lakers’ leading scorer. From launching threes to finishing in traffic, Kuzma’s offensive skillset is so incredible its hard to believe he went under the radar of essentially every NBA scout.

The only thing keeping him from starting at this point is his defense, which hasn’t exactly been stellar. He often lacks discipline on the pick and roll, and fails to keep up in rotation situations. If he channel his offensive mentality to the opposite side of the ball, Kuzma could make a push up the list even higher.

 

5. John Collins- Hawks (+1)

Stats: 23.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.7 apg, 59.2% fg

Yahoo Sports

If Collins was playing the minutes Ben Simmons was getting, he would be averaging a little over 18 points and 11 boards a night. That would put him at 1st in both scoring and rebounding among rookies.

And it doesn’t make much sense as to why he isn’t playing more. Sure, his defense is pretty far below league average, but so is the majority of Atlanta’s players D. For a lottery-bound team like the Hawks, its becoming increasingly peculiar to see a first rounder play less than half the game, especially a player as talented as Collins.

For the minutes he is playing, he has been playing great basketball. He ranks third among rookies in Player Efficiency Ranking (PER), and his 3.1 Offensive rebounds per game rank first in the rookie class. His 59.2% field goal percentage also ranks first in the rookie class, and 12th in the entire NBA.

Keep doing your thing John Collins. The minutes will (hopefully) come.

6. Dennis Smith Jr.- Mavericks (+3)

Stats: 28.1 mpg, 14.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, 39.4% fg

NBC Sports

Nothing new here for the most part.

Just a high usage rate that inherently brings about inefficient play for rookies with a rough supporting cast.

Smith’s struggles continue to persist in the consistency department, and he will have a hard time cracking the top 5 until he can hit 40% from the field and turn the ball over.

Negatives aside, Smith Jr.’s confidence appears to be increasing on a nightly basis, and his shot selection has improved somewhat. His thrilling athleticism has been on display as well as he continues to remind everyone of the potential he possesses.

He unfortunately cannot change his teammates, which is a root cause of the inefficiency on both ends of the ball.

7. Lonzo Ball- Lakers (+1)

Stats: 32.9 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 7.1 apg, 32.1% fg

ClutchPoints

With the pandemonium that Zo’s family has underwent the last month, it’s miraculous his play level hasn’t dropped.

Not that there was much room for his field goal percentage drop.

But with all the shade being thrown in Lonzo’s direction, he has been playing better basketball as of late. He finally is starting to play within the confines of the Lakers offense, and utilizing more gifted scorers like Ingram, Kuzma and Lopez by distributing them the ball for high percentage looks. This is beginning to translate to wins as well, most notably a nice dub in Philadelphia in which Ball had 10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and four blocks.

As the game continue to slow down for him, Lonzo will only become more efficient and hopefully start to find some sort of a rhythm with his joke of a shot.

8. Lauri Markkanen- Bulls (-3)

Stats: 30.6 mpg, 14.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.4 apg, 39.0% fg

Sporting News

Markkanen’s shooting has taken somewhat of a nosedive over the last few weeks.

His 39% mark from the field is a drop off of over 5% from last month, when he was shooting a respectable 45% from the field. He continues to take less and less shots inside of the paint, and is settling for contested three balls frequently.

This is not all his fault, though.

The Bulls are very, very bad. And with a lack of teammates who can create, Markkanen often finds himself in situations where he has to fire up low percentage looks. Hopefully Kris Dunn at full health will help distract the defense somewhat for Markkanen so he can be the efficient 17 ppg scorer he was for the first month of the season. Lauri has a bright future, but the dimness of Chicago’s roster is going to make it hard for him to shine.

 

9. Mike James- Suns (No Change)

Stats: 21.8 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 38.4% fg

ClutchPoints

The 27-year-old rookie continues to outplay his much younger counterpart Josh Jackson, and has earned himself a season-long contract instead of the two-way contract he held previously.

A 25-point display against the Spurs showed his impressive strength and ability to push out in transition and draw fouls. He makes a living at the free throw line, and acts like a veteran in the way that he takes whatever the defense gives him and doesn’t try to force anything.

If Tyler Ulis continues to struggle, don’t be shocked if the rookie-vet is placed in the starting lineup.

10. OG Anunoby (PREVIOUSLY UNRANKED)

Stats: 19.0 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.9 apg, 50.5% fg

ESPN.com

Quietly leaping into the rankings is OG Anunoby, whose numbers don’t exactly jump off the page.

While he isn’t a stat sheet stuffer yet, his freakishly long limbs touch every part of the game for the better. The Raptors’ original starting lineup had a net rating of minus-7.2 this season. With Anunoby instead of Powell, they have a net rating of plus-2.7 in 124 minutes. OG has been assigned with the task of guarding the oppositions best player every night, which has included James Harden (who he held to 8-25 from the field), Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo.

His deadly combination of a muscular frame, ultra-long arms, and quick feet make him a nightmare for wings, and his feel for the game is something you don’t see in many 20-year-olds. From not being ranked a top 250 high school prospect to making the starting lineup of an NBA team after tearing his ACL at Indiana, OG continues to overcome adversity and develop into a hawk on the defensive end.

 

Honorable Mention:

Frank Mason III- Kings

Bogdan Bogdanovic- Kings

Jonathan Isaac- Magic

 

Dropped Out:

De’Aaron Fox- Kings

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