This year’s NBA rookie talent is at an all-time high chock full of new prospects and promising futures. While most people were focused on Lonzo Ball and the phenomena that was created around him, new faces like Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, and Ben Simmons are all proving that they are worth the hype. The NBA offseason was insane this year due to the amount of offseason trades and new acquisitions which created only more anticipation for opening night.
Knowingly, the teams with the worst seasons of the previous year have the highest chance of gaining new talent in hopes to revitalize their franchise. This season, may have the most potential of turning the dominant tide in both the Western and Eastern Conferences. Let look at the top 5 NBA rookies and see how they fared in their debuts.
First, since the days of Andre Iguodala and Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers have struggled to make the playoffs. Finishing in last place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-72, change was a mandatory option if anything was going to change for this team. This shows a need of leadership and requires a deeper evaluation of what they need to accomplish in order to achieve another playoff berth. It’s not ironic that Iverson’s nickname was “The Answer.” In this case, however, the answer was Markelle Fultz. The 19 year old, 6’4 point guard from Washington seems to be the most viable option for Philadelphia and his stats have backed that up averaging 23.2 points a game, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists.
It’s clear that Fultz has a dynamic talent and would be a perfect fit for this team. Joining the likes of big man Joel Embiid, this team has the potential to restore this franchise to its former glory. Lately, he hasn’t lived up to the hype. Soreness in his right shoulder has inhibited him from performing as well as he would like to. He is likely to miss at least three games and shooting 9-27 doesn’t help. Another concern is his free throw shooting form. Fultz has adopted an awkward looking shot with an almost spastic flick of the wrist that produced a 6-12 stat from the line. A rocky 3-4 start for the 76ers shouldn’t worry Philadelphia fans; all they have to do is “Trust the Process.”
Secondly, the craze surrounding the Ball family came full circle when hometown hero Lonzo Ball was drafted as the number two pick for the Los Angeles Lakers. Much like Philadelphia, the playoffs seem to be a distant memory for this team. The last time L.A. was in they got swept by the San Antonio Spurs back in 2012. Magic Johnson becoming the acting president of the Lakers became the turning point for this team, and more wins may swing their direction, following the build-up of a solid rookie line-up.
Aside from LaVar soaking up the limelight, Lonzo proved during the Gatorade Summer League that he could be a valuable asset to this team, if he was wearing the right shoes. As weird as it may seem, when Lonzo wasn’t wearing his Kobe’s, he would significantly underperform. Not to say it’s gotta be the shoes, but there are reasons to investigate. Now that the regular season is here, Lonzo has already put up a double double and tossing up lobs to teammate Kyle Kuzma. This has people thinking what the future of this franchise could look like. Being a big baller isn’t so bad after all.
Next, Boston lucked out when they drafted Duke phenom Jayson Tatum. This lanky, small forward, in the absence of Isaiah Thomas, is the perfect guy for the Celtics. Finishing with a record of 48-34 last year, this team is going to a dominant force in a weak conference. The unevenness of these conferences is a different discussion. Struggling teams in the Eastern Conference isn’t a new thing. The Cavaliers have had targets on their backs for a while and Boston isn’t the only team to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with. Like the addition of Tatum is a good testament to this. Accumulatively, Tatum has put up 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.
Tatum’s potential is impressing veterans and former Duke player, Kyrie Irving. Irving had this to say about him, “That dude is so talented and he has a ceiling that sometimes you can’t even really see it because — you won’t be able to see it all the time because the amount of the respect that he has to earn as a rookie. But his talent is through the roof.” That’s some high praise from Uncle Drew, and that’s saying something.
Now, not a lot of good can be said about the Phoenix Suns. They aren’t known for being a strong or dominant team in the NBA since Steve Nash played for them, and any synonymous words with this franchise are far from flattering. Amidst the Drew Bledsoe fiasco and losing their head coach Earl Watson because of a 0-3 start to the season, rookie Josh Jackson might be the Sun’s only hope. Although they aren’t in the toughest division in the Western Conference, they still aren’t performing as well as they like to. Phoenix hasn’t made the playoffs for seven consecutive years and hasn’t finished better than 9th. Jackson hasn’t had a stellar start either.
Throughout the nine games he’s played, Jackson has managed to score 10.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and has a shooting percentage of 36%. Aside from Markelle Fultz being injured, Jackson has performed underwhelming compared to his peers. Tatum and Fox outrank him in all three categories while Lonzo has put significantly more rebounds and assists than Jackson has. It doesn’t have to do with the team because Fox has excelled while playing on a team that is currently 1-8. I think, considering the situation in Phoenix, the environment Jackson was put in, is a detriment to him. The true test of his playing abilities though, is how well can play despite the circumstances.
Lastly, with the fifth pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Sacramento Kings select De’Aaron Fox. Much like the rest of the teams on this list, the Kings are another one of those teams that have a gaping hole in their roster, and have seemingly become irrelevant in the past few years. Trademark center Demarcus Cousins being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans doesn’t help, and finishing 10th in the West with a record of 33-49 shows that this team needs all it can get.
Picking up Fox early on in the draft along with Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III, provides Sacramento with a young offense that could reignite this franchise. Veteran help from Vince Carter is a nice addition also. Fox has some solid numbers in his favor with 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. Fox is one of these promising rookies that you can be confident putting money on (I don’t endorse betting). If he stays healthy and puts up more numbers like he has been doing, Fox could end up being the next Isaiah Thomas for the Kings.
It’s safe to say that the story lines that will get published throughout the NBA season will be a lot of highlights from these promising NBA rookies. The future of the NBA is full of youth, and that’s not a bad thing.
Editor’s Note: Embedded pictures by TonyTheTiger (Picture used under license of, “CC BY-SA 4.0”). Featured image: Logo property of the NBA. Created by Michael Tipton (flickr.com/rmtip21).