A tremendous rookie class.
The NBA season might only be a month old. That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen trends around the Association when it comes to what looks to be a tremendous rookie class.
Top picks Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic are likely vying for Rookie of the Year honors. Meanwhile, former Duke standouts Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. are playing good basketball for their teams.
Here, we check in on the 10-best rookies in the NBA thus far on the young season.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
There’s a reason Ayton was the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. His ability in the paint is unmatched in the class, and it’s shown big time thus far this season. The 20-year-old center is averaging 16.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and a surprising 2.9 assists per game. He’s also shooting at a stellar 61 percent from the field in north of 32 minutes of action per outing.
Even with the Suns boasting a 3-11 record, they have proven to be more competitive this season. That’s not nothing when it comes to one of the youngest rosters in recent NBA history. As the face of the rebuild with Devin Booker, Ayton is one of the primary reasons for this.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Given that he just recently earned EuroLeague MVP honors, it’s not a surprise that this teenager’s game has transitioned well to the NBA. Through the first month of the season, Doncic leads the Mavericks in scoring at 19.1 points per game. He’s also averaging 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting at a splendid 39 percent from distance.
The only hold up here is that he’s also averaging 4.0 turnovers per outing. Such is the nature of the beast when an offense runs through a teenager. Outside of that, what we’ve seen from the Slovenian has been nothing short of extraordinary this season.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Pure volume. That’s pretty much defined Young’s first month in the NBA with one of the least-talented teams in the league. The basic numbers are great. Young is averaging 17.5 points and 8.2 assists per game. In fact, he boasts a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. Not bad for a guy being tasked to run the offense in the mold of a Stephen Curry.
The bad news here is that Young’s volume has not translated to stellar all-around play. He’s shooting just 41 percent from the field and a surprisingly low 27 percent mark from distance. As one of the top sharpshooters to enter the NBA in some time, the hope here is that this changes soon.
Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls
Chicago has been beset by injuries pretty much more than any other team in the Association. That’s one of the primary reasons why the team has relied so much on this rookie No. 7 pick. Carter is averaging north of 26 minutes per game, putting in 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in the process. He’s also shooting at a solid 48 percent from the field.
For the Bulls, this has been one of the few net positives. Once the likes of Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis return from injury, Carter will fit into a better role for this talented young squad. But as of now, it’s not a bad thing that he’s been relied on so much this season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Los Angeles Clippers
With the Clippers’ starting backcourt struggling from both a shooting a scoring standpoint, this Kentucky product continues to provide a nice jolt off the bench. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging a solid 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He’s also shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
At 6-foot-6, Gilgeous-Alexander is a matchup nightmare of opposing teams on both offense and defense. He’s perfected the intermediate shot, having success taking advantage of smaller defenders. On the other end of the court, it sure looks like this youngster will be an All-NBA Defensive Team performer at some point soon. That’s how good he’s been.
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Brought on a bit slower than other rookie top-five picks, Bagley has yet to start a single game for the surprising Kings this season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He played just one season with Duke and is still as raw as they come. The good news here is that he’s performed well when on the court.
The forward is averaging 11.9 points in less than 23 minutes of action per game. He’s also hauling in nearly six rebounds per game and shooting at a 50 percent mark from the field. Bagley looks to have star written all over him. Sacramento is certainly in a good position with him and De’Aaron Fox leading the charge in its rebuild attempt.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Pretty much one of the most-talented raw players to enter the Association in some time, Jackson has surprised by his ability to make an immediate impact. Given that he just turned 19 and played one season at Michigan State, it’s shocking that the forward is averaging north of 11 points to go with 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
Given Memphis’ surprising early-season success, it’s equally surprising that Jackson has started all but two games. While he’s also averaging just north of 24 minutes, the upside appears to be unlimited here. And once Jackson’s perimeter game comes along as we expect, he’ll likely be an All-Star performer.
Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets
Regardless of whether Kemba Walker is in Charlotte long term, it appears that this team has a solid young core to build with. Obviously, that includes a second-year guard in Malik Monk who has improved leaps and bounds from his rookie season. But Bridges’ early-career performance is the biggest storyline thus far.
In just north of 20 minutes per game, Bridges is averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per outing. He’s also shooting a stellar 54 percent from the field. We’d like to see Bridges show more of a take-control mentality on offense. But that will come in time. For now, he’s been a pleasant surprise in Charlotte.
Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves
Now that Jimmy Butler is hooping up in Philadelphia, the expectation here is that this rookie will take on a larger role moving forward. If his performance thus far this season is any indication, Minnesota is in good hands. Selected No. 20 overall in June, no one really expected the 20-year-old guard to pay immediate dividends. But here we are.
Okogie enters Thursday’s action averaging 8.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. Sure he’s shooting only 37 percent from the field, but the rookie’s defense has been stellar for a team that struggles big time on that end of the court. This is no small thing for a defensive-minded head coach in Tom Thibodeau.
Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavaliers veterans might not be happy with how Sexton has performed this season. That’s fine. He’s pretty much the only member of this talent-stricken roster that will be with the team over the long haul. It’s now all about head coach Larry Drew making sure to help the Alabama product progress as the season moves forward.
For now, he’s playing some pretty good basketball. Sexton is averaging 12.9 points on 44 percent shooting from the field. He’s also averaging 20 points per over the past three games, a clear indication that Sexton has improved recently. It will be fun to see him grow into a larger role for a team that’s pretty much already irrelevant this season.