At the NBA Summer League, some rookies took the opportunity to shine. After our first look at the upcoming rookie class, here are my top Rookie of the Year candidates.
Ben Simmons, Donavan Mitchell, and Luke Kennard
*Stats are only from Las Vegas Summer League
6. Jayson Tatum
For those of you angry that Tatum is this low, save your anger for later in the article because I’m sure there is much more triggering content. Jayson Tatum showed good scoring ability, putting up 17.7 ppg on 42.2 fg% in 32 mpg. This is fairly efficient scoring, though I would like to see a bit more volume and efficiency from Tatum. Tatum also averaged a very solid 8.0 rpg which should help him not be a one-dimensional player. The main thing that holds Tatum down this list is where he fits in on the Celtics’ roster. After the signing of Gordon Hayward, the only feasible starting position for Tatum would be at Power Forward, but he would have to beat out Jae Crowder, who is a very good player for Boston. Tatum will likely be facing very limited minutes and will be sharing the floor with other volume scorers such as Isaiah Thomas and Gordon Hayward. This limits his statistical ceiling, making it less likely for him to earn Rookie of the Year honors.
5. Josh Jackson
Josh Jackson came into the draft considered one of the top defensive prospects in the draft. As we all know, however, defensive prowess does not win you individual awards such as Rookie of the Year. Josh Jackson also has good slashing ability, as well as decent rebounding. Jackson put up a solid 17.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg in 35 mpg. Jackson also scored with surprising efficiency considering questions about his jump shot, shooting 42.5% from the field. Jackson should have a decent amount of playing time and opportunity in Pheonix to put up decent numbers in both points and rebounds. Jackson will have to be impressive defensively and improve his offensive game if he is to beat out the top 4 candidates, however.
4. Markelle Fultz
Markelle Fultz only played two Summer League games before going down with an ankle injury, but he showed enough in college and in those two games to land him here. Fultz averaged 20 ppg shooting 46.9% from the field. Fultz also put up 3.5 rpg and 3 apg as well as 1.5 bpg all on only 24.5 mpg. (Orlando Summer League) Fultz should be in a position to receive major minutes at guard for the 76ers this year, and with the pieces around him to get him assists and allow him to score, Fultz could put up big numbers this year. If we had been able to see more of Fultz in the Summer League, he might be higher up this list.
3. Dennis Smith Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. was considered a high upside prospect coming into the draft, but he showed NBA ready skills at the Las Vegas Summer League. Smith showed a surprisingly polished all around game, putting up 17.3 ppg 4.8 rpg and 4.2 apg while shooting an efficient 45.7 fg% on only 25.8 mpg. These are very impressive stats, especially considering the amount of minutes that he played, which was significantly less than those of Tatum, Jackson, and Ball. Smith should also have a great opportunity to fill up the stat sheet in Dallas where he is expected to run the floor from the beginning since Dallas has needed a point guard for a while now. Smith shouldn’t have much competition for points in Dallas as well, with Harrison Barnes and an aging Dirk Nowitzki as his main competitors.
2. Lonzo Ball
Image courtesy of Bleacher Report
Hold your horses Laker fans, this was a toss-up between Lonzo and the top candidate, but the top candidate’s efficiency just edged Lonzo’s all around prowess. Lonzo is just that though, an all around player who struggles with somewhat inefficient and uncreative scoring. This doesn’t take away from the highly impressive Summer League that “Zo” had, as I’m sure you will have seen from the numerous other articles on SFE. Ball averaged 16.3 ppg 7.7 rpg and 9.3 apg on 32.5 mpg. Lonzo’s biggest red flag was his unconvincing 38.2 fg%. Lonzo will likely get good minutes in LA, but not quite as many as he did in Summer League. Ball’s biggest ally in winning Rookie of the Year will be his increased media coverage due to the infamously idiotic antics of his father, Lavar, leading up to the draft, as well as the massive Laker fan base and market. Lonzo has a great chance to take home Rookie of the Year honors if he can put up the great all around numbers that he is expected to and increase his scoring efficiency.
1. John Collins
Before you lose your mind and start commenting angry messages, let me make my case. Let’s start in Collins’ second and final season at Wake Forest, where Collins put up the fourth highest single season PER of ALL TIME in college. Collins enters the league very polished and still only 19 years old, with loads of upside and athleticism. Unlike the one and done prospects, Collins has also proved an ability to significantly improve his game and be coached. Collins used his combination of polish and athleticism to take the Summer league by storm by putting up 15.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg. Now you must be thinking: “Those stats aren’t that impressive. I’m gonna go back to screaming for newly hatched Lonzo.”, but this is where the stats begin to become insane. Collins put up these numbers on merely 23 mpg, while shooting an utterly absurd 59.3% from the field. As if this weren’t enough, Collins could have scored even more if his teammates DeAndre Bembry and Taurean Prince hadn’t spent the entirety of Collins’ first game trying to play hero ball and allowed Collins more than 4 shots. Collins also made some insane dunks, including an incredibly rude posterizing dunk over Cheick Diallo. The dunks are relevant because they will gain him media and fan hype, which always helps when voting for Rookie of the Year comes around. Collins also landed in a great scenario with a team known to have good player development. The Hawks roster features a nice point guard in Dennis Schroder, who also isn’t known for being a volume scorer. After unloading big men Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap this offseason, Collins should be in for playing big minutes this season, and won’t have many other scorers to share with. All of this sets Collins up for a monster rookie year and a good chance at Rookie of the Year.