So far… the NBA’s 6 best rookies of the 2017-18 season

It’s still rather early in the NBA season, but from the first quarter of the season, this year’s rookie crop already looks to be one of the best draft classes in NBA history. Yes, this is despite the first two picks, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, not playing very well (or at all). Even though this rookie class has been bolstered by Ben Simmons presence, it would still be an impressive group with the likes of Dennis Smith Jr., Jayson Tatum and Lauri Markkanen. Let’s take a look at the top rookies this season.

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This Season’s Best Rookies

1. Ben Simmons Simmons already looks like a seasoned NBA veteran with his uncanny ability to read the defense. Even without a solid jump shot, Simmons has proven to be enough of a threat to draw the defenses to him. On any given night, Simmons flirts with a triple double. How league-ready is Simmons? He hasn’t suffered ups and downs as most rookies have trouble with. Season Averages: 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.9 steals and 52% from the field.

2. Jayson Taytum The third pick in the draft, he numbers might not be as gaudy, but Tatum isn’t just playing well, he’s doing so for the top team (record-wise) in the NBA – the Boston Celtics. Could you imagine what Taytum’s numbers would be on the Hawks or Suns? Season Averages: 13.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steal, 49.4% from the field and 48% from three!

3. Kyle Kuzma – A Summer League rookie standout, Kuzma continues to make a huge splash and outshining his fellow rookie Lonzo Ball. Initially coming off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kuzma’s play has forced Head Coach Luke Walton to insert the dynamic Kuzma into the Lakers starting lineup. Outside of Simmons, Kuzma seems to have the most mature game of all the rookies. He doesn’t have off-games like many of the other rookies on this list. The fact that he’s averaging 16.7 points on over 50% shooting! Season Averages: 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 50.4% from the field and 37.9% from three.

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4. Dennis Smith Jr. The young point guard with the confidence and the hops reminds us a lot of Damian Lillard. Despite some inconsistency (which is to be expected) Smith Jr. is high on this list because he’s been basically given the steering wheel for the Dallas Mavericks. Unlike some rookies, he’ll get to play through the good times and bad times. Season Averages: 14.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 39% from the field and 30% from three.

5. Lauri Markkanen Hovering around 15 points and 8 rebounds, the Finnish center from Arizona has surprised everyone with how quickly his game has adapted to the NBA. What we’re most impressed with? His ability and knack for rebounding despite being a player that often finds himself away from the basket and his decent post game — this all from a 20 year old seven-footer. Nothing gets us more excited than another potential unicorn. Season Averages: 15.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 44.7% from the field and 36.7% from three.

6. Donavon Mitchell Though Mitchell isn’t shooting very well from the field for the Utah Jazz, that’s not unusual. It’s typical of rookies adjusting to the size and speed of the game to slowly improve their shooting percentages as they gain experience. What’s impressive is Mitchell’s scoring prowess, even at 38%, his ability to not only look for his shot but get his shot off in his rookie year shows his long-term potential. It confirms that his Summer League performance wasn’t a fluke. Season Averages: 14.9 points, 3.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 38% from the field and 34% from three.

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Of course, a day after we post this, Mitchell dropped 41 points, including 17 points in the fourth quarter comeback, on the Pelicans in a flurry of three-pointers, dunks and drives to the hoop. Mitchell’s performance in itself would have easily placed him two spots up than where we initially pegged him. Take a look at the work he put in last night:

His 41 points is a Utah Jazz rookie record surpassing Darrell Grifftih’s 38 points as a first year player.

All that’s not to mention the play of Ball, D’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason III, John Collins, Mike James, Jordan Bell and others. If this group can keep it up this season, and continue to improve through their careers, this class will go in NBA history as one of the best.

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