The 2017-18 rookie class has been one of the most productive in recent memory. A myriad of rookies, controversial or not, have all contributed to their respective teams, whether in the regular season, postseason or both.
But how do they stack up against the best? After all, the NBA has had some dominant rookie classes throughout its storied history.
While their careers are still in their infancy, the likes of Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and others have proven themselves a special bunch. The bar has been set time and time again, but how do these kids compare?
For simplicity’s sake, this list will compare the combined top five win share marks from the 2017-18 group to some of the better rookie groups in NBA history (win shares being an estimate of the number of wins contributed to a team by a single player).
6. Class of 2003-04
Notable Rookies: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade
Top 5 Combined Win Shares: 26.8
One of the most anticipated groups of the last 20-odd years, the 2003-04 class, headlined by then high school phenom LeBron James, are still finding ways to produce in 2018. Four of the top five players went on to play multiple All-Star caliber seasons and, in all likelihood, will end up in the Hall of Fame (sorry, Darko).
However, things weren’t perfect during their freshman campaigns.
Chris Bosh actually led the group, posting 6.2 win shares for the Toronto Raptors. Carmelo Anthony (6.1) with the Denver Nuggets, James (5.1) with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Udonis Haslem — who had gone undrafted in 2002 — (4.8) and Dwyane Wade (4.6), both with the Miami HEAT, all followed.
This class produced plenty of other serviceable players as well. While the likes of Chris Kaman, David West, Mo Williams and Kyle Korver haven’t been superstars like the others, they found ways to produce for their teams and, in the case of West and Korver, are still playing important playoff minutes on their respective teams.
5. Class of 1996-97
Notable Rookies: Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash
Top 5 Combined Win Shares: 27.4
The 1996 rookie class was deep. The group was littered with future All-Stars and also produced three future MVPs in Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
But, like the 2003-04 group, it took some time before they were playing their best basketball on the biggest stage.
Bryant and Nash averaged just 15.5 and 10.5 minutes per game, respectively, in their first pro seasons. While the likes of Iverson and Ray Allen played big minutes in their first season’s, it took them both multiple years before they were finally able to make an impact in the playoffs. Kerry Kittles (6.9), Dean Garrett (6.2) and Matt Melony (5.3) were actually the top three among rookies in win shares that season, but not many could tell you who they were.
4. Class of 2008-09
Notable Rookies: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol
Top 5 Combined Win Shares: 28.8
Multiple players from this group contributed solid minutes immediately. Marc Gasol, who had come over after spending some time in Spain, led all rookies with 6.4 win shares while averaging 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. Brook Lopez (5.8) posted 13 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Kevin Love (5.3) averaged 11.1 points and 9.1 rebounds.
While Derrick Rose (4.9) and Russell Westbrook (1.9) didn’t crack the top five in win shares, both posted solid stat lines — Rose averaged 16.8 points and 6.3 assists, Westbrook 15.3 and 5.3 — while Rose took home Rookie of the Year and led his team into the postseason.
Rudy Fernandez (6.1), who played just four seasons in the NBA, and Mario Chalmers (5.2) rounded out the top win share leaders among rookies that season.
3. Class of 2017-18
Notable Rookies: Ben Simmons, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma
Top 5 Combined Win Shares: 31.1
Simmons (9.2), Tatum (7.1) and Mitchell (5.2) made the difference all season long for their respective squads. Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma both proved to be major contributors on the offensive side of the ball, while the likes of John Collins, Bam Adebayo, Jarrett Allen and plenty others all found their own ways to contribute.
In terms of pure production, the 2017-18 group has been exceptional in all facets of the game. Simmons, Tatum and Mitchell alone produced over 4000 total points during the regular season. Multiple rookies have had a big impact in the playoffs as well.
And, with the emergence of other players toward the end of the season — Adebayo, Markelle Fultz, Malik Monk and others — this rookie group looks poised to take the league by storm in the coming seasons.
2. Class of 1992-93
Notable Rookies: Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner, Latrell Sprewell, Robert Horry
Top 5 Combined Win Shares: 35.6
Has there ever been a player as physically dominant as Shaquille O’Neal? An instant All-Star, Shaq feasted on competition from the get-go and racked up numerous stats and accolades, including 1893 points, 1122 rebounds, 286 blocks, Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie honors in his first season. Shaq finished 12th in the league and tops among rookies in win shares with 10.4.
As great as Shaq was, Alonzo Mourning (8.2), Christian Laettner (5) and Latrell Sprewell (4) were nothing to scoff at. All three were immediate contributors for their respective teams — all three averaged at least 15 points on the season, Mourning and Laettner both averaged more than eight rebounds while Sprewell averaged 1.2 steals per game.
Others, including LaPhonso Ellis (8), Robert Horry (3.6) and Tom Gugliotta (1.6), had solid rookie seasons and went on to have great careers as well.
1. Class of 1984-85
Notable Rookies: Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Sam Perkins
Top 5 Combined Win Shares: 43.2
Is this really a surprise?
Often regarded as one of the best rookie classes EVER, the 1984-85 class immediately claimed the NBA as their own. Multiple players revolutionized their respective franchises and changed the landscape of the league.
The rookie phenom Michael Jordan (14) led all rookies and was second in the NBA in win shares after posting a stat line of 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in his inaugural campaign. Hakeem Olajuwon (10.2) completely changed the fortunes of the Houston Rockets, taking them from a record of 29-53 to 48-34 in just a single year. Charles Barkley (7.5) found his way to a more than talented Philadelphia 76ers team stocked with frontcourt talent, including Julius Irving and Moses Malone, and made an immediate impact, averaging 14 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Even Sam Bowie (5.7), often thought to be one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, had a solid rookie season averaging 10 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Portland Trail Blazers.
The most successful periods in NBA history have been marked with major influxes of talent and youth. Each group, in some form, managed to change the game or grow the culture of the NBA. The 2017-18 rookie class, which has proven itself to be a special group, appears to be in a similar vein.
NBA Daily: Trade Watch Central Divison
Which players could be on the move in the Central? Shane Rhodes names a list of candidates.
It has been quite the up and down start to the season for the Central Division.
On one hand, the Milwaukee Bucks have stormed out of the gates, while the Indiana Pacers have, at times, looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. On the other, the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers have combined to start a dismal 13-29.
It may be early in the season but, as the Philadelphia 76ers have shown with their recent acquisition of Jimmy Butler, it is never too early to think about trades that could improve the team. If these teams make themselves out to be wheelers and dealers, what could they add or subtract? Which players could be on the move?
Milwaukee Bucks – John Henson
The play of Brook Lopez has made John Henson, and the near $10 million he is due next season, expendable. Lopez has started every game this season for the Bucks to the tune of 12.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. He has also played a major role in the three-point wave that washed over Milwaukee upon Mike Budenholzer’s arrival; Lopez has taken seven three-point attempts per game and is knocking them down at a 41.8 percent clip.
Henson, meanwhile, hasn’t done much off the bench.
With most of the big minutes split between Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, Henson hasn’t seen the floor much. While he has played in all 14 games, he has averaged only 13.5 minutes per to go along with 5.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He is shooting a career-high 35.5 percent on 2.2 three-point attempts per game (also a career high), but that alone isn’t enough to take minutes away from Lopez.
At this point, a trade would not only seem logical but beneficial for both parties as well. Henson could latch on with a team that would make use of his services. Meanwhile, the Bucks would clear some cap space and open up more minutes for third-year center Thon Maker.
Ideally, Milwaukee would acquire another shooter to provide Giannis Antetokounmpo with maximum spacing as well.
Indiana Pacers – Myles Turner
Myles Turner looked like he needed a change of scenery last season. Then, the Indiana Pacers gave him a four-year, $80 million extension over the offseason.
Not much has changed for Turner in 2018. While he has posted an impressive 2.4 blocks per game, Turner has averaged just 10.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per game, down from the 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds he posted a season ago.
More importantly, Turner has continued to play ahead of Domantas Sabonis.
In his second season with the Pacers, Sabonis has averaged 14.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 24.1 minutes per game off the bench. While he isn’t the versatile defender Turner is, Sabonis has shown that he has much more to offer on the offensive end.
As was the case last season, Turner has the look of a player that could use a change of scenery. His departure would allow the Pacers to move Sabonis into the starting lineup, alleviate some spacing issues and clear the way for offseason-signee Kyle O’Quinn to see some minutes off the bench.
Detroit Pistons – Langston Galloway
In back-to-back years, the Detroit Pistons have used their top draft selection on a shooting guard: Bruce Brown in 2018 and Luke Kennard in 2017.
So, why is Langston Galloway still on the books?
Galloway would seem the odd man out in a crowded two-guard rotation in Detroit, one that includes Kennard, Brown and Reggie Bullock. Not only is he the most expensive of the bunch with a $7 million cap hit this season, but he hasn’t exactly made waves when on the court. While he has seen a major bump in playing time — 24.5 minutes per game compared to 14.9 last season — his contributions haven’t changed all that much; Galloway has averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game this season compared to 6.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and one assist per game last season.
It doesn’t make sense to take any time away from Bullock, the starter, or stunt the potential growth of Kennard and Brown. If Detroit can flip Galloway and clear the money on his contract, or find some competent forward depth behind Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson and Glenn Robinson III, they should jump at the chance.
Chicago Bulls – Robin Lopez
This one is simple.
The Chicago Bulls are rebuilding and Robin Lopez is, at worst, a serviceable rotation player on a potential playoff team. Outside some mentor-like responsibilities, he only serves to take minutes away from the Bulls’ youth.
His playing time has dipped this season; Lopez has averaged 15.3 minutes per game after he saw 26.4 a season ago. With Lauri Markkanen expected back in the next few weeks, it would only seem destined to dip further. The best course of action for Chicago would be to move Lopez to a team desperate for an interior presence.
While there is light at the end of the tunnel in Chicago, they should keep in mind that they are still in the midst of a rebuild. The Bulls should acquire assets whenever they can to further things along wherever they can, and this seems like a prime opportunity.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Is Anyone Not On The Table?
The Land has fallen on hard times.
With the departure of LeBron James, so too has winning basketball departed from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team has dealt with their share of injuries, but the Cavaliers looked bad at the start of the season when they were healthy. With Kevin Love out for the foreseeable future, no one should expect things to get much better.
There are a number of players that Cleveland could look to move: Love, J.R. Smith, George Hill, Kyle Korver. The list goes on. The only player one could think to be “off limits” would be rookie point guard Collin Sexton, and even he could probably be had for the right price.
Such is the life of the NBA bottom feeder.
The Cavaliers would be wise stockpile whatever future assets they can. Expect their phones to be some of the busiest in the country between now and the February trade deadline.
As teams continue to soldier on through the season, they will look to make deals. Whether they approach the table as buyers or sellers, every team will look to improve themselves either in the now or with an eye on the future.
Basketball Insiders has already looked at some of the potential trade candidates in the Northwest and Southwest divisions. Keep an eye out for our trade candidates in the Southeast, Atlantic and Pacific divisions as well.
NBA Daily: Trade Watch: Southwest Division
Drew Maresca identifies and breaks down the potential trade candidates in the Southwest Division.
As of Thursday, 60 percent of the Southwest division was at or above .500. The Western Conference’s brutal competition will likely fix that as the season grinds on, but the number of surprises in the division thus far is shocking – be they pleasant or otherwise.
Basketball Insiders continues its Trade Watch series with an eye on the Southwest Division, examining players that might be on the move and teams that should be looking to wheel and deal.
- Houston needs Ariza (and vice versa)
The Houston Rockets need help on the defensive end of the floor; they will almost certainly look to add some wing defenders before the trade deadline in February. The Minnesota Timberwolves passed on their offer of four future first round picks, Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss for Jimmy Butler. But fortunately for the Rockets, there’s a player that should fit right in who may be available via trade – Trevor Ariza.
Yes, he would come at a price; but the Rockets see what life is like without Ariza patrolling the perimeter, and something or someone must stop the bleeding. The Rockers are 6-7 through 13 games. They need to recapture some of the magic they tapped into last season, and Ariza is part of what’s missing. They won’t be able to execute a deal until December 15 per NBA rules, which can’t come soon enough for the defenseless Rockets.
- New Orleans should be buyers at the deadline
This is the season in which the Pelicans must prove to Anthony Davis they’re serious about building a winner around him. They made nice additions this offseason in Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle, and they have a nice combo guard in Jrue Holiday.
But still, they’re only 7-7 despite Davis’ extraordinary play. They need a second star (and then some).mFortunately for New Orleans, such a player should be available – assuming he returns fully recovered from injury this season: Kevin Love. The Cavs are not interested in remaining competitive – in fact, they’re nearly openly welcoming losses at this point (Hello, Zion). The Pelicans can include Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore and others in a deal, which should be a net positive for the Pelicans depending on Love’s health.
- DeAndre Jordan
Early reports out of Dallas are that DeAndre Jordan isn’t overwhelmingly popular in the Mavericks’ locker room. And that’s fine because Jordan doesn’t align with the Mavericks’ young core of Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. Dallas should shop Jordan to a team that’s in need of an athletic center.
The Wizards have looked better at times with Dwight Howard on the floor than they did prior to his return. So why not upgrade? After all, it doesn’t seem like they’re ready to break-up the Wall-Beal core.
In return, the Wizards would probably be willing to build a deal around Otto Porter – who, at 25, arguably aligns much better with the Mavericks’ young core. While Porter’s deal extends as long as two years beyond Jordan’s one-year contract, the fact that the Mavericks traded the rights to their 2019 first-round pick to acquire Doncic makes nabbing a young, well-rounded player like Porter all the more appealing.
- Spurs need help at point guard
The Spurs’ 2018-point guard plan broke down before the season started with Dejounte Murray’s knee injury – and the team still needs help. While they don’t seem to have the assets to return high profile point guards like Terry Rozier or Goran Dragic, there are alternate options.
The Knicks have an abundance of point guards, none of whom stands out as a huge difference-maker for them this season, but any of whom could help as a short-term solution in San Antonio. And what’s more, the Knicks probably wouldn’t require much in return – with one caveat being that they prefer to move Courtney Lee or Tim Hardaway Jr., as well. Fortunately for the Spurs, Lee can contribute nicely in Coach Gregg Popovich’s system, assuming he gets healthy sometime soon.
The Spurs should look to flip some of the players who aren’t currently in the rotation for a capable point guard. While New York isn’t sending out capable players for free, the price tag on some of these guards shouldn’t be too high.
- Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol
Both Conley and Gasol are still members of the Memphis Grizzlies, and there have been no rumors of either of them being shipped elsewhere. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be.
The Grizzlies hold first place in the Southwest Division at 8-5 with wins against the Jazz (twice), Nuggets, Pacers and Sixers. They’ve dropped some easy ones, too. Basically, they’re good, but the cold, hard reality of the situation is that advancing beyond the second-round out west will require more than what they currently have on their roster.
Meanwhile, Conley and Gasol are still assets, but aging ones who will return exponentially less every year they’re not moved. Conley is still playing well in his twelfth year, averaging 18.6 points, 5.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. And Gasol is averaging 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his eleventh season. It would behoove the Grizzlies to put feelers out there to any team that fancies themselves buyers in the lead up to the deadline. The time is now to embrace a rebuild around Jaren Jackson Jr. and get everything they can out of their star point guard and center.
In all likelihood, teams will only become more desperate as the season plays out. With the Philadelphia-Minnesota deal in the books, other teams are sure to follow suit. Considering the parity, every team in the Southwest Division should seriously consider making moves — after all, the division is still entirely up for grabs.
NBA Daily: Role Players Vital to Pacers’ Success
In a star-heavy league, Jordan Hicks takes a look at why role players are so vital to the Pacers’ wins this season.
In today’s NBA, you have to have star players if you want to compete. Gone are the days of having one or two All-NBA caliber players take you deep into the playoffs. Nowadays, with as much talent as there is in the league, you need three or four. And for teams located in northern California, you might even need five.
But does this apply to everyone?
The Indiana Pacers have started the season off on a quiet note. They aren’t doing anything incredibly flashy, nor do they have any overt weaknesses. But they do have eight wins compared to only six losses. Three of those wins have come against teams with above .500 records, and all of their losses have come from the Bucks, 76ers, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, and Rockets – all good teams if you don’t want to look it up.
Most would consider Victor Oladipo a star. Sure, he’s only had one All-Star nod in his young career, but he’s proven on more than one occasion that he can be elite on both ends of the floor.
But apart from him, the Pacers are nothing but a mix of role players. But the role players on the roster aren’t just “good” – they seem to know their roles and execute them to a high degree.
To the casual fan, this would seem like it should be a given. But getting grown men with egos to consistently play their part isn’t as easy as it seems, and the Pacers organization might actually have something to work with. Sure, they are still a star (or two) away from actually competing for a title, but they were one game away from knocking off the former Eastern Conference Champions in last year’s playoffs, and, with any luck, could make it even further in the playoffs this year.
After the departure of Paul George, it was easy to read the writing on the wall. Most assumed that the Pacers would be headed to the lottery for a year or two while they worked their eventual rebuild. The franchise itself has consistently been considered one of the better small market organizations. With players like Reggie Miller, Danny Granger and George – it is easy to see why. They’ve only missed the playoffs five times in the last 20 years. But losing a mega-star like George usually contributes to a negative campaign the following season.
To the shock of the entire NBA, Oladipo led the Pacers to the five seed last year after posting a 48-34 record. Oladipo obviously played a huge part in this, but it was the help of the many role players, most of whom remained on the roster for this season, that likely made the biggest contribution to their positive season.
Through the beginning of the the 2018-19 campaign, the team statistic that sticks out the most for the Pacers is their opponent points per game. They are currently second in the league, allowing only 103 points a night behind only the Grizzlies. In comparison, both teams are also in the bottom two for pace. Controlling the flow of the game seems to be an important part of their game plan, and it is currently paying off as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The list of role players making a significant contribution for the Pacers is quite long. In fact, over nine players are averaging more than 15 minutes a game. Keep in mind that eight of the nine players have a positive plus-minus, with Tyreke Evans being the sole player to fall under zero at -0.8. Let’s take a look at a few individuals and see what they may be doing to make a significant splash.
Oladipo is leading the team in scoring at 23.8 points per night, but he also leads the team in assist percentage at 24.4 percent and steal percentage at 27.8 percent. His impact on both ends of the floor is tremendous, and he is one of the few players in the NBA that leads his team in usage percentage and still maintains All-NBA level defense on the other end.
Domantas Sabonis is currently leading the team in rebound percentage at 18.3 percent. He is also second on the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game on a 68.8 effective field goal percentage. He’s doing all that coming off the bench.
Cory Joseph is currently posting the highest net rating on that team at 8.4. The Pacers also enjoy their lowest defensive rating, 98.7, when Joseph is on the court.
Myles Turner is starting to come into his own on the defensive end of the court. Currently posting 2.4 blocks a game, good for fourth in the league, his presence is being felt more and more at the rim. While his offensive game still needs to be polished, Turner has done a great job at amplifying his defensive position on the court.
Bojan Bogdanovic is tied for second in scoring at 14.1 points a game. He’s doing so by shooting a blistering 51.7 percent from three on over four attempts a night. He’s second on the team in minutes and eighth in usage percentage, showing just how effective he can be off the ball. He boasts the third best plus-minus and fourth best net rating.
Plenty of other players could get nods here – guys like Thaddeus Young, Doug McDermott, Darren Collison and Evans. This just shows the talent night-in and night-out that the Pacers deploy.
The point of this article is not to say that the Pacers have a legitimate chance to win the East. They’ll likely finish outside the top four behind the Bucks, Raptors, 76ers and Celtics. But the Pacers definitely have one thing going for them – a roster full of talented role players that, in today’s NBA, can certainly be positive when deployed correctly.
We are still very early in the season. Another star could potentially emerge mid-season for the Pacers or they could make a bold move at the All-Star break. It is very unlikely that Indiana brings home a championship this year or even the next. However, they are still a team to watch throughout the season. They are a well-coached squad and play an incredibly selfless style of basketball.
Who knows? Maybe they can turn heads in the postseason. But in the meantime, they for sure prove one thing.
Role players are vitally important to a team’s success.