Rookie Ranks

A look at the top 5 Rookies from the 2018 NBA Draft class.

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The 2018 NBA Draft was loaded with top level talent, there have been numerous Rookies to make a significant impact for their teams this season, but there have been 5 Rookies that have separated themselves from the rest.

#3-5:  The Big Men

These three big men were the first, second, and fourth overall picks in the 2018 NBA draft and all have made their presence felt in their Rookie season.

Jackson

5. Jaren Jackson, Jr, Memphis Grizzlies

Season Stats
Age G MP FG% 3PA 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
19 58 26.1 51% 2.4 36% 77% 4.7 1.1 0.9 1.4 1.7 13.8

Aside from Luka this is my favorite rookie this year, and I hate it because he plays for the Mavs Southwest Division rival, Memphis Grizzlies.

His shot blocking is already elite.  We are only a quarter of the way through the season and Jackson Jr has already recorded a 7 block game.  To go along with that, JJJ has such a smooth 3-point stroke for a big man that we are going to have to start calling him quadruple J.  He would make any team in the NBA better, given his skill set of shooting and shot blocking.

I knew Jackson would contribute greatly to the Memphis defense as a Rookie but I was really expecting minimal offensive game from the 19 year old who played just 20 minutes per game in his one season at Michigan State.  The fact that JJJ was able to post nearly 14 points per game in 26 minutes per game is a pleasant surprise.

One thing that Jackson is really going to have to improve upon is playing defense without fouling.  His 3.8 fouls per game is what keeps him from playing more than 26 minutes per game.  You love that aggressiveness going for steals and blocks but he doesn’t do you much good when he can’t stay on the floor.

Top Games
Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK PTS GmSc
11/30 BRK 59% 3 43% 100% 8 2 0 0 36 28.2
11/16 SAC 69% 1 100% 67% 6 0 4 2 27 24.4
1/2 DET 73% 2 100% 100% 10 2 0 0 26 22.7
11/25 NYK 100% 4 100% 6 3 0 7 16 20
10/19 ATL 67% 2 50% 67% 7 2 1 2 24 19.9
Historical Rookie Comparison

Criteria:  Rookies with averages per game of at least 13.8 points, 1.4 blocks, 35% on threes.

Player Age Season Tm G PTS REB BLK 3P%
Joe Smith 20 1995-96 GSW 82 15.3 8.7 1.6 35.7%
Jaren Jackson 19 2018-19 MEM 58 13.8 4.7 1.4 35.9%
Joel Embiid 22 2016-17 PHI 31 20.2 7.8 2.5 36.7%
Raef LaFrentz 22 1998-99 DEN 12 13.8 7.6 1.4 38.7%

Only a handful of players have Jackson, Jr’s combination of shot blocking ability and 3 point shooting.  When looking at this list, keep in mind that Embiid and LaFrentz may have hit the criteria but only played in a very limited number of games.  For Embiid in particular, we have seen that his 37% three point shooting in his limited rookie year is an outlier.

Highlight Videos

*Warning:  there may be explicit language in highlight videos.

 

Ayton

4. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

Season Stats
Age G MP FG% 3PA 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
20 70 30.8 58% 0.1 0% 75% 10.2 1.8 0.9 0.9 1.7 16.3

Deandre Ayton has all the tools to be a great NBA player. He has size, length, post up skills that veteran NBA players would kill for.  As far as back-to-the-basket big men go, Ayton is quickly rising the ranks, only 11 players in the NBA matched his 16 points and 10 rebounds per game this season and only 3 did it while shooting 58% (Antetokounmpo, Ayton, and Capela).

Beyond just his size and skill around the rim, Ayton was drafted #1 overall because it also appeared that he had the jump shot to keep defenders honest on the perimeter.  The fact that Ayton shot just 40% between 10 and 16 feet this season is a bit concerning.  He has good enough shooting form to improve upon this mark but only time will tell if he will put in the work.

Ayton loses a lot of points in these rankings because of how awful the Phoenix Suns are. They have an elite level scorer and playmaker in Devin Booker, about 5 years of lottery picks, and veterans such as Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford. With these players, paired with the #1 overall pick as highly touted as Ayton, myself and Suns fans expected more. He may need to focus less on his own numbers and focus more on getting wins.

Top Games
Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK PTS GmSc
12/29 DEN 80% 0 33% 14 1 4 0 33 36.7
12/23 BRK 81% 0 18 1 2 3 26 28.2
3/18 CHI 71% 0 100% 12 3 3 3 25 27.7
3/2 LAL 73% 0 71% 10 3 2 1 26 26.7
10/27 MEM 92% 0 8 5 1 0 24 26.6
Historical Rookie Comparison

Criteria:  Rookies with averages per game of at least 16 points, 10 rebounds, on 56% shooting.

Player Age Season Tm PTS REB BLK FG% FT%
Shaquille O’Neal 20 1992-93 ORL 23.4 13.9 3.5 56% 59%
Deandre Ayton 20 2018-19 PHO 16.3 10.2 0.9 58% 75%

To be in a class alone with Shaq is right where you should want to be as a big man.  Shaq may have done it on a much larger scale but to be able to score so efficiently and rebound with grown men when you are just 20 years old is pretty amazing for Ayton.  His efforts have not helped produce much winning in Phoenix this season but the Suns organization does not need to be second guessing their decision to take Ayton #1 overall.

Highlight Videos

*Warning:  there may be explicit language in highlight videos.

 

Bagley

3. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings

Season Stats
Age G MP FG% 3PA 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
19 56 25 52% 1.4 30% 70% 7.3 1 0.6 1 1.6 14.6

Bagley is the most athletic guy we have seen out of this draft, his leaping ability on first and second jumps stands out in a league of incredible athletes.  His soft touch around the hoop paired with his vicious dunks keeps defenders guessing in the paint.

He has the athleticism to rack up blocks but he will have to improve his individual defense below the rim if he is going to be near the top of this list. One area of Bagley’s game that has been nice to see is his ability to knock down perimeter shots.  Me may only be shooting 3’s at 30% but that is certainly a number you can build on as a 19 year old Rookie.  It is hard to tell if shooting will be a strength or weakness in Bagley’s career but for now he is a really good player on a team that expects to compete for a playoff spot again next season.  De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, with their speed, athleticism, and skill are going to be a fastbreak nightmare for years to come.

Top Games
Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK PTS GmSc
2/10 PHO 67% 1 50% 85% 7 1 1 1 32 27.8
2/4 SAS 59% 1 25% 75% 12 4 1 3 24 26.8
2/25 MIN 64% 1 100% 100% 11 2 1 2 25 24.1
3/19 BRK 80% 2 100% 100% 7 2 0 0 28 24
2/21 GSW 42% 1 50% 79% 14 0 1 0 28 21.5
Historical Rookie Comparison

Criteria:  Rookies with averages per game of at least 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1 block, 46% FG, and 30% on threes.

Player Age Season Tm PTS REB BLK FG% 3P% MP
K. – A. Towns 20 2015-16 MIN 18.3 10.5 1.7 54% 34% 32
Derrick Coleman 23 1990-91 NJN 18.4 10.3 1.3 47% 34% 35.2
Marvin Bagley 19 2018-19 SAC 14.6 7.3 1 52% 30% 25
Joel Embiid 22 2016-17 PHI 20.2 7.8 2.5 47% 37% 25.4

Marvin Bagley III is one of the youngest rookies in this class and the youngest ever to put up the kind of numbers he has produced this year.  His combination of size, athleticism, and skill at this age is matched by few others who have ever played in the NBA.  The Kings may have passed on Luka but that have every reason to be happy about what Bagley has done with his minutes as a rookie.  This looks like a perennial All Star for years to come.

Highlight Videos

*Warning:  there may be explicit language in highlight videos.

 

 

Big Man Comparison:  Per 36 Minutes Production

Per 36 Age G FG% 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK PF PTS
Bagley 19 56 51.7% 30.4% 69.8% 10.5 1.5 0.8 1.4 2.9 21
Ayton 20 70 58.4% 0.0% 74.6% 12 2.1 1 1.1 3.5 19.1
Jackson 19 58 50.6% 35.9% 76.6% 6.5 1.5 1.2 1.9 5.2 19

Re-drafting the big men from this class would be just as difficult now as it was before the 2018 draft.  Each of these players were able to really able to highlight their strengths and be extremely productive on a nightly basis, something most Rookies cannot do.  There are great reasons to take each player over the next one and all three are unique in their style of play.  Bagley, Ayton, and Jackson all still have the potential to be the best big man from this loaded draft, but year one goes to Marvin Bagley III due to his all around productive play for a competitive team in the West.

 

The Ball Handlers:  #1-2

 

Young

2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

Season Stats
Age G MP FG% 3PA 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
20 75 30.8 42% 5.9 34% 82% 3.6 7.9 0.8 0.2 3.9 18.9

Steph Curry says he is getting sick of the comparison of him to Trae Young, but he better get used to it. Aside from Steph, nobody else in the league is will to pull up for a 40 foot 3 pointer on his way down the court.

His shooting percentages are not ideal but that seems more to do with shot selection and a poor team than it does actual shooting skills. It’s pretty rare for rookies to shoot efficiently from downtown so I am not too concerned as of today.  If he is still shooting at this rate 1 or 2 years from now Hawks fans may be tearing their hair out.

Trae Young was the first player to lead the NCAA in points and assists for a reason. His vision and passing skills mixed with his ability to shoot and stretch the floor separate him from a lot of other young prospects. His 7.9 assists per game ranks 7th in the entire NBA this season.  I think this Rookie performance is more than anyone expected out of Trae Young, there is a ton of potential to build on here.

Top Games
Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
3/1 CHI 52% 6 46% 82% 8 16 1 1 9 49 37.8
10/21 CLE 57% 6 43% 100% 2 11 1 0 1 35 31.6
2/27 MIN 41% 2 40% 94% 8 10 0 0 3 36 29.8
3/26 NOP 50% 5 39% 80% 1 12 1 0 1 33 28.9
1/26 POR 73% 3 50% 83% 2 8 1 1 4 30 25.8
Historical Rookie Comparison

Criteria:  Rookies with averages per game of at least 18 points and 7 assists.

Player Age Season Tm G MP PTS AST TO FG% 3P%
Oscar Robertson 22 1960-61 CIN 71 42.7 30.5 9.7 47%
Magic Johnson 20 1979-80 LAL 77 36.3 18 7.3 4 53% 23%
D. Stoudamire 22 1995-96 TOR 70 40.9 19 9.3 3.8 43% 40%
Allen Iverson 21 1996-97 PHI 76 40.1 23.5 7.5 4.4 42% 34%
Trae Young 20 2018-19 ATL 75 30.8 18.9 7.9 3.9 42% 34%

I did not have to do much stat manipulation to get Trae Young into an elite class of NBA rookies.  His combination of scoring and assisting are match only by some of best best point guards and scorers there have ever been or will be.

Highlight Videos

*Warning:  there may be explicit language in highlight videos.

 

Doncic

1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Season Stats
Age G MP FG% 3PA 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
19 70 32.2 43% 7.2 33% 71% 7.6 5.9 1.1 0.3 3.4 21.1

Luka Doncic has been better than advertised, very high praise for a guy that was drafted as the most accomplished 19 year old prospect of all time.

Not only does Luka have the best overall numbers but he has the best NBA moments of any rookie. His step-backs against superstars like Harden and Kyrie, his blocks against LeBron, and buzzer beaters left and right show that all of the clutch rumors we heard about Doncic are true. Flip through Mavs or NBA social media and you are bound to see some sort of list that places Luka Doncic among some of the greatest players to ever suit up, my list of the greatest teenagers of all time is no different.

What separates Luka is that he can control the game in every way. He is an elite iso-scorer, playmaker, rebounder, and ball handler. Not only has Luka had the largest workload, leading all Rookies in usage percentage, but he has done the most with those minutes as well.

Top Games
Date Opp FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS GmSc
1/27 TOR 58% 3 33% 67% 12 10 0 0 3 35 30.2
1/11 MIN 44% 2 22% 70% 8 12 2 0 1 29 27.5
1/25 DET 47% 3 33% 85% 8 8 2 1 4 32 27.4
2/2 CLE 52% 4 36% 71% 11 6 1 0 2 35 27.2
3/6 WAS 42% 2 25% 78% 11 7 4 0 2 31 26.6
Historical Rookie Comparison

Criteria:  Rookies with averages per game of at least 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Player Age Season Tm G MP PTS REB AST TO eFG%
Michael Jordan 21 1984-85 CHI 82 38.3 28.2 6.5 5.9 3.5 52%
Oscar Robertson 22 1960-61 CIN 71 42.7 30.5 10.1 9.7 47%
Luka Doncic 19 2018-19 DAL 70 32.2 21.1 7.6 5.9 3.4 50%

Luka Dončić is one of the greatest Rookies of All-Time and he played a majority of the season as a teenager.  Luka often gets compared to players like LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird but none of them were able to accomplish what Luka has produced as a Rookie.  His ability to control ALL aspects of a game at such a young age is nearly unmatched in the history of professional basketball.  This has proven to be a pretty loaded draft class but nobody can touch Luka when it comes to 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year.

Highlight Videos

*Warning:  there may be explicit language in highlight videos.

Luka vs Trae

Per 36 Minutes Comparison

At first glance it seems like a fairly close race for 2019 Rookie of the Year between Luka and Trae.  On a per 36 minute basis they are both putting up ridiculous stats for any NBA player, not just Rookies.

Age G FG% 3P 3P% FT% REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
Luka 19 70 43% 2.6 33% 71% 8.5 6.6 1.2 0.4 3.8 23.6
Trae 20 75 42% 2.3 34% 82% 4.2 9.3 1 0.2 4.6 22.1
Advanced Stats

The advanced statistics are where Luka REALLY separates himself from Trae Young.  Although they are both incredible, all-time great Rookies, it is Luka Doncic who stands in a class alone.

PER TS% FTr TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG%
Luka 19.3 54.4% 0.412 12.8 31.3 1.6 0.9 15 30.5
Trae 16.5 54.1% 0.331 6.1 40 1.2 0.6 18.3 28.3
OWS DWS WS WS/48 OBPM DBPM BPM VORP
Luka 2 2.6 4.6 0.098 2.7 1 3.7 3.2
Trae 2.1 0.7 2.8 0.058 1.4 -2.9 -1.5 0.3

Trae is known for his offensive game, which is excellent, but when you look at Offensive Box Plus/Minus (offensive impact per 100 possessions over replacement level) it is Luka Doncic who is the far superior offensive Rookie, ranking 27th in the NBA compared to 60th for Trae Young.  On the defensive end Young is just woeful, ranking 187th in the league in Defensive Box Plus/Minus compared to 58th for Luka.

One of the largest discrepancies can be seen in the Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) rating of 23rd in the NBA for Luka and 204th league wide for Trae.  Trae Young’s VORP of 0.3 stands to say that his production on court is not considered much above league average when it is all said and done.  Trae has phenomenal numbers and highlights but there are more aspects to basketball than points, assists, and 40 footers.  Trae is a great talent but Luka is just a better basketball player.

NBA Rank
Stat Luka Trae
PER 44th 80th
VORP 23rd 204th
OBPM 27th 60th
DBPM 58th 187th
BPM 26th 148th
WS 85th 157th

All Mavericks fans across the World, sing it with me…HALLELUKA!

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