NBA Rookie Power Rankings Week 8

We are back with the 8th version of our NBA Rookie Power Rankings here at HG Insider. As we move into 2018 we continue to see some rookies separate themselves from the pack, while others have shown flashes that further highlight the depth that made the 2017 draft class so highly regarded. Injuries and sporadic playing time have sidelined others, but with some big names returning in the near future we could see some more shakeups in the not too distant future. Before we crack into the rankings this week, let’s take a look back at Week 7:

1. Ben Simmons – Sixers
2. Donovan Mitchell – Jazz
3. Jayson Tatum – Celtics
4. Lauri Markkanen – Bulls
5. Kyle Kuzma – Lakers
6. Dennis Smith Jr. – Mavericks
7. John Collins – Hawks
8. Lonzo Ball – Lakers
9. De’Aaron Fox – Kings
10. Frank Mason – Kings

 

1. Ben Simmons – Sixers

Simmons may have had his “worst” week as a rookie thus far, and his seat at the top of the rankings is warmer than ever. He remains on top of our list for the 8th time in as many weeks though. Simmons contributed just 7 points and 8 assists in a W against Minnesota, and then finished a rebound shy of a triple-double on Friday night. He is still averaging 17.4 points, 9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game on 50% shooting from the field. The number one spot is no longer as safe as it once looked, but Simmons remains the head of the class through the first two months of the NBA season.

2. Donovan Mitchell – Jazz

Mitchell has been closing quick as of late on the top spot in our rankings, and no rookie has been playing better than the Louisville product over the past month. He had 32 points and 6 assists against the Bulls, 17 points and 9 assists in a win against the Celtics. Mitchell capped the week with 26 points on the road against Cleveland. He is now leading all rookies in scoring at 17.7 points per game and is seemingly improving every week. While he must improve his jumper and ability to make others better, Mitchell is far ahead of schedule for the Utah Jazz.

3. Jayson Tatum – Celtics

Tatum’s numbers are modest (13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game), but if you have watched him at any point this season you know that he deserves praise in the same breath as Simmons and Mitchell. He has shown the ability to score from all 3 levels and has looked more athletic than he did during his one season stop at Duke. While he struggled to the tune of 2-13 from the floor in losses against the Bulls and Jazz, his shooting numbers remain elite. Tatum is currently shooting 50.8% from the field, 51.5% from three and 83.6% from the foul line. Ignore the numbers and do yourself a favor and watch Tatum as often as you can, he is as good as any rookie in this class.

4. Kyle Kuzma – Lakers

While the Lakers went 0-2 last week, Kuzma had a good effort rebounding (no pun) from one of his lesser weeks as a rookie. Kuzma chipped in 19 points and 6 rebounds against the Knicks and 20 points and 7 rebounds against the Cavs on Saturday night. His averages remain steady at 16.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game on 49.7% from the floor, 38% from 3 and 77.6% from the foul line. While he is learning to adjusting to coming off of the bench, it will not be long until Kuzma makes himself a must start in the Lakers lineup. Kuzma is a shining example of someone who has ignored the rankings and let his play do the talking throughout his basketball career, which ironically has allowed him to climb up to the number four spot in our rookie power rankings this week.

5. Lonzo Ball – Lakers

While his brothers made waves for signing to professional deals with a club in Lithuania (give yourself a pat on the back if you did not have to Google where that country is), ‘Zo had his best all-around week to date as a rookie. While he would have liked to win more, Lonzo averaged 15 points, 8.5 assists and 8 rebounds per game against the Knicks and Cavs. Most importantly he has been shooting 46.2% from the floor and 38% from three over his last five games, which shows marked improvement from the first six plus weeks of his NBA career. Once Ball can get his shot to consistently drop, the sky is the limit for him. It is important for him to continue to work on getting stronger and becoming a more consistent shooter.

6. Lauri Markkanen – Bulls

While Markkanen missed all of this past week, he is slated to return this week and remains in the top 10 of our rookie power rankings. Markkanen has averaged 14.5 points and 8 rebounds a game for the Bulls and has been one of the very lone bright spots for Chicago thus far. It will be interesting to see how Fred Hoiberg handles his minutes moving forward with Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis both healthy (playing good minutes together despite a preseason scuffle between the two). Hopefully Markkanen can remain healthy the rest of the season, but regardless he has been one of the top 10 rookies of the first two months.

7. Dennis Smith Jr. – Mavericks

While Smith Jr. has missed his last six games, it is important to note that when healthy he has been among the top 5-6 rookies in the league this season. Smith could return as early as Wednesday night in a home showdown against the Pistons, but I would assume Rick Carlisle is going to wait until his rookie lead guard is 100% ready to go before thrusting him back into action. The North Carolina State product is holding steady with averages of 14.4 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Continuing to master the point guard position and becoming a better shooter are two important things to improve if Smith wants to continue taking his game to the next level over the next few months/seasons.

8. OG Anunoby – Raptors

While injuries to other more prominent rookies have allowed OG to slip back into the top ten rankings, the Indiana alum has been nothing short of spectacular for the Raptors. While his numbers are far from impressive, the rookie has impacted the Raptors in ways that go far beyond the stat sheet. He is the best defender in the rookie class, by a rather lengthy margin and has showed signs of rapid development on the other side of the ball. Anunoby may have as much long term potential as anyone in the entire rookie class, and his +25.9 +/- show that he plays a major role in effecting positive outcomes for the Raptors already in the short term.

9. Jordan Bell – Warriors

Bell makes his first appearance in these very rankings, but he has been nothing short of spectacular for the Warriors so far in his young career. While Kyle Kuzma was the steal of the 2017 draft overall, Bell falling all the way to the Warriors has been such a match made in heaven that he deserves mention as the second biggest steal of draft night 2K17. His athletic ability serves him well in the versatile and aggressive switching defensive style of Golden State, and he has been an efficient offensive threat shooting 65% from the floor over his last five games. He also dished out 8 assists against the Mavericks last Thursday. Bell is going to turn the tide of at least a couple of games in May/June when the Warriors need it most to get over the hump to try and win their third title in four years.

10. Frank Ntilikina – Knicks

Ntilikina has been the most photogenic rookie by far, with several photo-ops close to being meme worthy before Christmas of his rookie season, but it is his play of late that has garnered him a spot at the number 10 spot in our rankings. The French rookie has been averaging 8 points and 3.4 assists per game over his last five games, while shooting 50% from 3 point range. He also has owned a near 3:1 Assist to Turnover ratio, which is great for a rookie. He has been playing a bigger factor in recent gameplans for the Knicks, and looks like he is just starting to scratch the surface of his massive potential. Will Ntilikina stick in the top 10? It is hard to say, but he has been fun to watch and will be a good long term piece for the Knicks.

Honorable Mention:

De’Aaron Fox – Kings
John Collins – Hawks
Dillon Brooks – Grizzlies
Frank Mason – Kings
Josh Jackson – Suns
Mike James – Suns
Bam Adebayo – Heat

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