NBA Rookie Power Rankings Week 9

With the holidays coming to a close you have to be wondering if you have received all of your gifts for this holiday season. While the holiday pushed the ninth installment back a couple of days, I am happy to report that this holiday season has one more gift for you in the form of another Hoop Group Insider Rookie Power Rankings. This exceptional crop of rookies did not allow the holidays to dismantle the incredible start that they are on. In fact a few rookies are starting to really find their grooves. Lert’s get to the rankings.

1. Ben Simmons – Sixers

A month ago the Rookie of the Year race looked all but over. Kyle Kuzma had a couple week stretch with more ups than downs, and Donovan Mitchell had a couple of great outings, but struggled to find a ton of consistency. Ben Simmons has been great, but he has some competition creeping on a come up in a big way in Mitchell and Kuzma. In his last ten game he is only (compared to his blazing start) averaging 14.2 points, 8.6 assists and 7.7 rebounds a game. He has struggled at times without Joel Embiid on the floor alongside him. Simmons has been phenomenal, and the best rookie thus far, but this class is loaded and a few guys are making the Rookie of the Year race, an actual, for lack of a better term, race.

2. Kyle Kuzma – Lakers

Kuzma had far and away the best week of any rookie during Week 9, as he showed that it is time to start taking him extremely seriously in the Rookie of the Year race. In five games last week Kuzma averaged 27.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3 assists per game, all while shooting 52.9% from the field, 56.4% from the 3 point line and 73% from the line. The highlight was a 38 point, 7 rebound, 4 assist performance against the Houston Rockets in an upset win. Simmons holds onto the top spot due to consistency, but if Kuzma keeps this up he will soon take place on the top of the rankings.

3. Donovan Mitchell – Jazz

Mitchell was injured on Monday (Dec. 18th) against the Rockets and missed the following two games against the Spurs and Thunder, which caused him to drop one spot to number three in our rankings this week. Mitchell returned to the lineup on Saturday against the Thunder and poured in 29 points and 5 rebounds. Mitchell and Kuzma continue to get better with each passing week and are beginning to present a huge threat to Ben Simmons run for Rookie of the Year. It will be interesting to see these two develop and which one will gain the inside track on Simmons in the ROY race. Mitchell will be a mainstay in highlight reels throughout the season, and may be the first player in this class to score 50 in a game. If you do not normally watch the Jazz, do yourself a favor and tune in, even if just to see the rookie out of Louisville.

4. Jayson Tatum – Celtics

Tatum is one of the most polished rookie scorers the league has seen in quite sometime. Mid-range pull-up? Check. Catch and Shoot from beyond the arc? He’s been nearly automatic this season. Finishing around the rim after beating defenders off the dribble? He is seemingly getting better every week. His averages remained steady at 14 points and 5 rebounds per contest. He has also started hitting big time shots in close games in the 4th quarter, which is a tall task for a veteran, much less a 19 year old rookie. Tatum plays with game beyond his years, and once he becomes a bigger focal point in the offense his numbers will begin to take off. Whether that is this season or in the near future remains to be seen. Either way it says a lot about this rookie class that Tatum is only the 4th best rookie in the league thus far.

5. Lauri Markkanen – Bulls

Lauri has been very good two months into his rookie campaign. He has showed the versatility that made him such a highly regarded prospect coming out of Arizona, and has even looked surprisingly athletic compared to what he looked like at times at Arizona. His steal leading into a coast-to-coast dunk against the Cavs was an incredible play to make for someone with Markkanen’s height and further flashes the long term potential the Finnish prospect has. His shooting has slumped a little over the past few games as a whole, but he has helped contribute to a Bulls team that has been on a relatively hot streak in other ways. While Markkanen is not Michael Jordan, Bulls fans have to be enthused with how Lauri has looked so far this season.

6. John Collins – Hawks

While Collins officially returned on December 14th against the Pistons, the rookie made his return back to our Power Rankings in Week 9. The Wake Forest product has been shooting over 70% from the floor since returning from injury and his 21.81 PER is off the charts for a rookie. He is averaging 11.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a game and was 13-15 in a two game stretch against the Pacers and Thunder in the middle of last week. Collins has been one of the few bright spots in the Atlanta winter, and will be a huge part of the foundation in turning the Hawks around over the coming years. A major key for him is getting and handling bigger minutes/work loads and staying healthy. If he can do those two things he will only rise up the list in the coming weeks.

7. Lonzo Ball – Lakers

Ball has taken as big of a leap as any rookie over the past few weeks. He spent the first five to six weeks of the season struggling to score, and now he has beginning shots at a higher clip and his performances have taken off. Does he still have a ways to go? Absolutely. Have the criticisms of him so far this season been overblown? Just a little bit. He is young, he is living under an extra zoomed in microscope and he keeps getting better every week. Continuing to become a better shooter, and monitoring his turnovers are going to be keys for him as he continues to adjust to life in the NBA. If he can keep improving at the same clip he has over the past couple of weeks Magic Johnson is going to be extremely happy with the second overall pick in the draft.

8. Dennis Smith Jr. – Mavericks

Smith Jr. has had an up and down rookie season, as coach Rick Carlisle has handed the rookie the keys to the offense from day one. While playing for one of the worst teams in the league does not help, Smith developing consistency in his play will be a huge building block for him to take his game to the next level. While Smith did not have one of his best weeks in week 9, he is playing for and learning from one of the best coaches in the league and one of the all-time greats in Dirk Nowitzki. He is going to figure it out, and it is going to be a scary sight for the NBA once he does. Look for Smith to continue to flash his talent and put himself in a position to move himself up the rankings throughout the rest of the season.

9. OG Anunoby – Raptors

The Toronto Raptors currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings (not a drill), and owe a huge chunk of their recent success to the increase in minutes for OG. He is already a plus-NBA defender, a rather impressive feat for a rookie, and has been shooting extremely well (44%) from the three-point line. While he did go scoreless against Philadelphia late last week, he has shown a knack for making winning plays that do not show up in the score book. With Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan, the Indiana product will get a chance to develop his offense as the season and the first few years of his career progress, since he does not have much pressure to produce right away. Will Anunoby develop into a star? Only time will tell, but he is already showing the looks of a solid D and 3 player, which has become an invaluable piece in today’s NBA.

10. Jordan Bell – Warriors

While the Oregon product largely sat the bench in the first month or so of his career, he has come into his own during the month of December and bolsters an already lethal Golden State small ball lineup. He notched his first career double-double (20 points and 10 rebounds) against the Lakers and has proven to be every bit the versatile defender that he showed during his three years in Oregon. His passing, rebounding and defense are awesome compliments to the offensive firepower provided by Curry, Durant and Thompson. Bell may never be a franchise player, a la OG Anunoby, but in today’s NBA he has a skill-set that is going to make him a lot of money over the next 10-12 years.

Honorable Mention:

Bogdan Bogdanovic – Kings
De’Aaron Fox – Kings
Frank Mason – Kings
Josh Jackson – Suns
Dillon Brooks – Grizzlies
Bam Adebayo – Heat

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