Connect with us

NBA

The NBA’s Most Underrated Shooting Guards

A look at some of the NBA’s most underrated shooting guards, including Arron Afflalo, a reigning NBA champion and more!

Jesse Blancarte

Published

on

Michael Jordan, through his spectacular play, made shooting guard the most intriguing, and perhaps most important position in the NBA. His gravity-defying dunks, game-winning shots, and ability to score the ball at will captured the attention of sports fans for years. Younger players like Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade have been compared to Jordan throughout their careers, their every accomplishment stacked up next to Jordan’s.

In recent years, the attention given to the shooting guard position has shifted to the small forward position. Players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the two best players in the league today, impact games on a nightly basis more than anyone else. This is especially true with players like Bryant and Wade entering the final stages of their careers. Even the point guard position has overtaken the shooting guard position in terms of importance. Because of this shift, many of the league’s most effective shooting guards are overlooked and not given the credit they deserve for their contribution to their team’s success. Here, we take a look at some of the shooting guards who make a significant impact for their team’s overall success, but don’t receive the credit or recognition they deserve:

J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers –

J.J. Redick was acquired by the Clippers last offseason to slot in as the starting shooting guard and play the role of Ray Allen in Doc Rivers offense. This includes running off the ball, forcing defenders to chase him off of screens, and knocking down jump-shots. What many people may not realize, is that Redick played the role of Allen just about as well, and even better in some regards, than Allen did in previous years with the Boston Celtics.

While Allen is the superior player overall, Redick has landed with a team whose offensive system is tailor-made to maximize his skill-set. Even when Redick isn’t scoring the ball, or shooting particularly well, his off-the-ball movement creates fluidity within the Clipper’s offense and forces defenses to make tough switches. Redick is even sneakily effective in running pick-and-rolls with bigs, using his underrated ball-handling and passing skills to find easy scoring opportunities for the Clippers big men. In short, without Redick, the Clipper’s offense is one of the best in the league; with him they are elite.

And Redick is no slouch on defense either. At just 6’4, 190 pounds, Redick gives up size to a lot of the guards he faces on a nightly basis. But Redick is a smart team defender, knowing when to switch, and how to funnel his opponents towards DeAndre Jordan for a potential block. Redick will occasionally get burned by bigger shooting guards, but he holds his own on most nights.

Last season, Redick averaged 15.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, and shot 45.5 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from beyond the arc. Coupled with a 91.5 percent free throw shooting percentage, Redick registered an impressive 59.8 true shooting percentage, which is very good for a shooting guard.

Unfortunately for Redick, he only managed to play in 35 regular season games last season as he suffered through a serious back and elbow injury. However, he returned in time for the playoffs, and contributed 13.3 points per game and 40 percent shooting from beyond-the-arc. If Redick can stay healthy next season, and if the Clippers can push past the second round of the Playoffs, Redick may finally get some of the recognition he already deserves.

Arron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets –

At age 28, Afflalo is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league. He plays tough perimeter defense, often guarding opposing teams’ best wing-players, while spreading the floor on offense with his three-point shooting. Last season, Afflalo averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, and shot 45.9 percent from the field, and 42.7 percent from three-point range. Much like Nicolas Batum, Afflalo contributes just what his team needs, and is one of the best glue-guys in the NBA.

Afflalo often gets overlooked, especially after playing the last two seasons with the rebuilding Orlando Magic. However, with Orlando, Afflalo was one of the veteran leaders, and takes that experience with him for his second run with the Denver Nuggets.

Earlier this offseason, Afflalo told Basketball Insiders that he hopes the move back to Denver will help make him an All-Star this upcoming season.

“It’s next level for me, hopefully that entails [becoming an] All-Star,” Afflalo said. “I learned firsthand last year that it’s somewhat of a team goal as well. You have to be on a good team and you have to be playing competitive basketball while being a good player a well.”

Afflalo, arguably, should have been selected as an All-Star last season, but was left off in favor of Joe Johnson. Now that Afflalo is back in Denver, alongside talented played like Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Kenneth Faried, he has the chance to get back into the Playoffs and show the league that he is one of the most underrated shooting guards in the NBA.

Wesley Matthews, Portland Trailblazers –

Wesley Matthews started his NBA career with the Utah Jazz after going undrafted in the 2009 NBA Draft. Throughout his career, Matthews has been a very solid shooting guard, but has never been in the discussion as one of the better two-guards in the league.

Each season, Matthews has steadily improved. Last season, Matthews averaged 16.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.9 steals per game, and shot 44.1 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from beyond-the-arc. While everyone acknowledges Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as the best shooting backcourt in the league, the fact is that Matthews, alongside Damian Lillard, were not that far behind the Splash Brothers.

Matthews is also an underrated defender. While he may not be a lock-down defender like Tony Allen, he is a tough competitor and takes each defensive assignment as a personal challenge. And while Matthews stands at just 6’5, he is strong enough to switch onto small forwards and hold his own periodically.

Matthews may not be the flashiest shooting guard in the NBA, but he is rock solid and is a big reason why the Portland Trailblazers were one of the surprise teams of last season.

Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns –

Gerald Green flies under the radar because he has bounced around the league, playing for seven teams in seven seasons in the NBA. Green made a name for himself early in his career by winning the 2007 NBA Dunk Contest, and was the runner-up in the 2008 NBA Dunk Contest. Unfortunately for Green, he could never translate his athletic ability into the actual games, and earned the reputation as being little more than an elite athlete. However, last season in Phoenix, Green thrived in Jeff Hornacek’s uptempo offense, and was one of the main reasons the Suns were the surprise team of the league last year.

Everyone knows that Green is a high-flyer, but many people don’t realize that he made the fourth most three-pointers in the league last year (204), falling behind only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard. And don’t think he was just a volume shooter either, as Green connected on 40 percent of his shots from beyond-the-arc; a percentage that is higher than other noted three-point shooters like Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love.

Last season, Green averaged 15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.9 steals, and shot 44.5 percent from the field. Green had a career game last season on March 6, scoring a career-high 41 points, and connected on eight three-pointers (another career-high).

Green seems to have found a home in Phoenix and, with Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and presumably Eric Bledsoe, is a part of one of the most dynamic back-courts in the NBA.

Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs –

Danny Green is another shooting guard that is a perfect fit with his team. Over his career, Green has transformed himself into an elite three-point shooter, and effective 3-and-D player. The San Antonio Spurs were the sixth best offensive team during the regular season (108.2 points per 100 possessions) and much of that has to do with Green.

Last season, Green averaged, 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, while shooting 41.5 percent from beyond-the-arc. While Green’s per game numbers aren’t eye-catching, his contribution to the Spur’s offense and defense isn’t really reflected in the box-score. Basic box-score numbers won’t show the times Green shuts down an opposing wing player, or point guard, or the times he makes the extra pass to a teammate for a wide open shot. Nor will it show the times his off-ball movement forces an opposing defense to rotate, creating opportunities for his teammates to find open shots.

On a team of selfless stars like Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, Green’s contributions at times go unnoticed. But when people wonder how the Spurs are always so good, a big part of the answer lies in the significant contributions from selfless players like Green.

Honorable Mention –

Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies–

Tony Allen for many years has been considered one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, but that is often diminished since he is also known as a poor-to-average offensive player. However, on the Memphis Grizzlies, Allen represents more than any box-score or advanced statistic could ever convey. He is the heart and soul of the Grizzlies’ grit-and-grind defense that is so vital to their success. Allen manages to impact the game, by slowing down players as small and crafty as Chris Paul, and as tall and lethal as Kevin Durant. He even has had the indirect effect of getting players like Zach Randolph to buy into the team defense-first philosophy. And Allen has done this throughout his career while never averaging more than 27 minutes per game in a single season.

Yes, Allen is given recognition for his defensive prowess and is rightfully viewed as a below average offensive player. But it is often overlooked that without Allen, the Grizzlies lose more than just a wing-stopper; they lose a significant part of their collective identity, and that is something that is worth recognizing.

Today’s NBA lacks the superstar shooting guards from years ago. Now, players like James Harden, and Klay Thompson stand at the top, while all the other shooting guards are in a sense jumbled together in the same mid-tier category. Among that jumbled group are guards whose production and contributions go largely unnoticed, or unappreciated. While the golden age of the shooting guard may have passed by with Jordan’s retirement and the twilight years of Kobe and Wade upon us, there is still plenty of talented players that deserve recognition, including the players mentioned above.

Which shooting guards do you think are the most underrated in the NBA? Let us know below! 

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

NBA Daily: Let The NBA Trade Chatter Begin

More than 95 NBA players become trade-eligible this week. Steve Kyler breaks them down.

Steve Kyler

Published

on

Let The Trade Chatter Begin

While NBA teams are always talking, whether aggressively or casually, the date most teams circle on the calendar to start really exploring trade options is December 15.

That’s mainly because that’s when the bulk of trade restrictions on players signed during the offseason to free agent deals lifts, but also because most teams have played 25 or more games.

While it’s easy to talk about trades, especially for teams that get off to a slow start, it’s also important to realize teams put in mountains of works assembling their rosters. That includes weeks and weeks of development and planning work, so rushing to tear it all up after a slow start isn’t always smart. Take the Cavaliers as a perfect example. The Cavs were 3-4 entering November looking dreadful, since then, the Cavs have gone 17-4.

Most teams want to give the roster they built a chance because change does not always equal improvement. However, as teams get to the 30-game mark, there is enough of a sample size to know where you stand, which is why trade talk tends to be lower until mid-December.

With more than 95 players becoming trade eligible tomorrow, trade talks are going to start to heat up.

NBA teams are prohibited from trading players signed during the offseason for 90 days or December 15th, whichever is greater.

Players who re-signed with the same team and received more than a 20 percent increase in salary from last season, are further restricted until January 15th.

Players that signed one-year deals with the same team, also gain the ability to veto trades, as do rookie scale players that signed a Qualifying Offer.

Equally, players who had free agent offer sheets matched, like Washington’s Otto Porter Jr., also gain veto rights for the first calendar year of their deal.

With all of that said, here is how the 2017 free agent trade eligibility breaks down:

Atlanta Hawks

Luke Babbitt
Dewayne Dedmon
Ersan Ilyasova (Veto Rights)
Mike Muscala (Veto Rights) 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Boston Celtics

Aron Baynes
Gordon Hayward
Shane Larkin
Daniel Theis 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Brooklyn Nets

Tyler Zeller 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Charlotte Hornets

Michael Carter-Williams
Julyan Stone 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Chicago Bulls

Justin Holiday

Trade Eligible January 15th

Cristiano Felicio
Nikola Mirotic  

Cleveland Cavaliers

Jose Calderon
Jeff Green
Derrick Rose

Trade Eligible January 15th

Kyle Korver

Dallas Mavericks

Maxi Kleber
Jeff Withey
Nerlens Noel (Veto Rights)
Dirk Nowitzki (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Mason Plumlee 

Detroit Pistons

Reggie Bullock
Langston Galloway
Eric Moreland
Anthony Tolliver 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Golden State Warriors

Nick Young
Omri Casspi
Zaza Pachulia (Veto Rights)
Kevin Durant (Veto Rights)
David West (Veto Rights)
JaVale McGee (Veto Rights)
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Iguodala
Shaun Livingston 

Houston Rockets

Tarik Black
Nene
Luc Mbah a Moute
P.J. Tucker
Troy Williams 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Indiana Pacers

Bojan Bogdanovic
Darren Collison
Damien Wilkins 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Los Angeles Clippers

Danilo Gallinari
Marshall Plumlee
Willie Reed
Milos Teodosic 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Blake Griffin 

Los Angeles Lakers

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Tyler Ennis
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Memphis Grizzlies

Mario Chalmers
Tyreke Evans
Ben McLemore
Wayne Selden
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

JaMychal Green 

Miami Heat

James Johnson
Jordan Mickey
Kelly Olynyk
Dion Waiters
Udonis Haslem (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Milwaukee Bucks

None

Trade Eligible January 15th

Tony Snell  

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jamal Crawford
Jeff Teague
Marcus Georges-Hunt
Taj Gibson
Shabazz Muhammad (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

New Orleans Pelicans

Tony Allen
Ian Clark
Darius Miller
Rajon Rondo

Trade Eligible January 15th

Jrue Holiday  

New York Knicks

Ron Baker
Michael Beasley
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Jarrett Jack
Ramon Sessions

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Oklahoma City Thunder

Raymond Felton
Patrick Patterson
Nick Collison (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Roberson  

Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
Khem Birch
Shelvin Mack
Jonathon Simmons
Marreese Speights

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Philadelphia 76ers

Amir Johnson
J.J. Redick
Phoenix Suns
Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Phoenix Suns

Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

Portland Trail Blazers

None 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter
George Hill
Zach Randolph 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

San Antonio Spurs

Pau Gasol
Rudy Gay
Manu Ginobili
Joffrey Lauvergne
Brandon Paul 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Patty Mills  

Toronto Raptors

Alfonzo McKinnie
C.J. Miles
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

Serge Ibaka
Kyle Lowry 

Utah Jazz

Jonas Jerebko
Royce O’Neale
Thabo Sefolosha
Ekpe Udoh 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Joe Ingles 

Washington Wizards

Jodie Meeks
Mike Scott 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Otto Porter (Veto Rights) 

Tracking all of these details is pretty tedious, which is what makes Basketball Insiders’ salary cap guru Eric Pincus so amazing. If you want to know more about each teams’ cap situation, make sure to check out the team links here for a detailed break down of every team’s cap position and restrictions.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Continue Reading

NBA DAILY

NBA Daily: One Year Later, Yogi Ferrell Continues To Rise

One year after a turbulent start to his NBA career, Yogi Ferrell is still thriving with the Dallas Mavericks.

Ben Nadeau

Published

on

It was never going to be easy for Yogi Ferrell.

At just 6-foot-0, there were major concerns about Ferrell and his ability to effectively contribute at the professional level, so the 24-year-old was a near-lock to go undrafted despite his impressive haul of collegiate honors. In 2016, he did not hear his name called on draft night — but for a gamer like Ferrell, pushing on was always the only option.

However, on this particularly cold mid-season evening, Ferrell sits at his locker and studies film on a tablet. He looks comfortable and focused as if he knows that this moment cannot be ripped away from him once again. Today, Ferrell is the Dallas Mavericks’ backup point guard and is settled into a steady role amongst a currently crowded backcourt. For Ferrell, he now finally has the life of an everyday NBA player.

But just over one year ago, Ferrell had to take the road less traveled to reach professional basketball for good.

“It was actually about this time [last year] when [the Nets] decided to waive me and I went back to Long Island,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t know I’d be here. I’m just thankful for the opportunity the Mavericks gave me and I’m just still trying to be here in Dallas.”

To be exact, the Brooklyn Nets waived Ferrell on December 8th, 2016. 365 days (and counting) later, Ferrell has earned his guaranteed contract but he’s still playing like he has something to prove.

* * * * * *

In order to fully understand Ferrell’s winding journey, it’s necessary to go back to where his story really kicked off: Summer league. Following a solid audition in Las Vegas — 8.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game — Ferrell was shifted to Brooklyn’s G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. With the offseason signings of Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez, plus the addition of rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead, there was no room for Ferrell and he was the last man cut in training camp.

Before the Nets could even blink, Vasquez re-injured his problematic ankle just three games into the campaign, an ailment that would eventually require season-ending surgery. Lin, of course, lasted just two more games before a hamstring injury derailed the key free agent acquisition until deep into the season.

Out of nowhere, it was time for Ferrell.

After waiving Vasquez, the Nets signed Ferrell on November 9th — the same day as his NBA debut, where he logged five points and three assists in a 14-point loss to the New York Knicks. But as the Nets continued to free fall without their veteran point guards, Ferrell grew more confidently into his role and was a solid fit in head coach Kenny Atkinson’s three-point heavy rotation. Over 10 contests with Brooklyn, Ferrell tallied just 5.4 points and 1.7 assists in 15 minutes per game. Nonetheless, for a suddenly talent-deficient roster, it appeared as if the point guard was poised to stick around through the winter.

In a surprise twist of fate, the Nets waived Ferrell to sign Spencer Dinwiddie to a partially guaranteed three-year deal, opting to tie their future to a different G-League point guard instead. Just like that, it was back to Long Island for Ferrell — but surprisingly, it wasn’t something that he hung his head over for too long.

“I knew my next opportunity was going to come — I didn’t know when, but I just wanted to make sure I was ready for it,” Ferrell said. “I had a great coach — coach [Ronald] Nored — and he told me to still go about my business as if I was still in the NBA. I didn’t get all the luxuries, but if you treat yourself like a pro, like you’re there now, once you get there, it’ll make it easier and you can make a splash.”

Upon returning to the G-League, Ferrell continued his hot streak and ended up averaging 18.7 points and 5.8 rebounds over a total of 18 games — both before and after his NBA call-up with the Nets. Ultimately, it wasn’t long before another franchise took notice of the enigmatic guard and the Mavericks capitalized, signing Ferrell to a 10-day contract while both Deron Williams and Devin Harris were hampered by injury. His debut with Dallas saw Ferrell tally nine points and seven assists in a win over the San Antonio Spurs and future Hall of Famer Tony Parker — but somehow, that was only the beginning

Affectionately nicknamed Yogi-Mania — a play on Linsanity, Lin’s historic stretch with the Knicks back in 2012 — Ferrell re-joined the NBA red-hot, even leading Dallas to back-to-back wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers. Quickly thereafter, Ferrell signed a multi-year deal with Dallas and then promptly torched the Portland Trail Blazers for nine three-pointers and a total of 32 points. Over his initial two-week stretch with the Mavericks, Ferrell scored 10 or more points in seven of his first nine games and made a serious claim for a permanent spot in the rotation.

Of course, the multi-year contract offered Ferrell something else he hadn’t yet experienced in the NBA: Job security. After Ferrell’s team option was picked up last June, he was happy to have a role with the Mavericks once again, no matter how big or small. Without the worry of being on borrowed time, Ferrell was able to train, learn the system and embrace of the city of Dallas during the offseason.

“The offseason was pretty good, I played summer league with some of the young guys,” Ferrell said. “It was great to work every day and get to know the coaches better, the area of Dallas better. Headed into training camp, I just wanted to work on my game and I had lot more confidence.”

One of those coaches he’s gotten to know better is Rick Carlisle, an old-school guard that has found success as both a player and coach. Under Carlisle, Ferrell is averaging 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 42.5 percent from the floor — numbers slightly below his Yogi-Mania marks, but he’s consistently reliable in a way the Mavericks so badly need. Additionally, Ferrell has garnered 28.3 minutes per game so far as a sophomore, good for the third-highest total on the entire roster. Ferrell, who was in the G-League at this time last year, has merited more playing time than any other point guard on the team — a list that includes rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr. (28.1), J.J. Barea (22.5), and the aforementioned Harris (18.9).

For Ferrell, much of his second-year successes have come from simply putting Carlisle’s words of wisdom into action.

“He’s just always telling me to be a threat,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders of Carlisle. “First of all, be a threat to score because that’s what opens up everything else. If you’re pushing the pace and getting in the paint, attacking, especially for somebody like myself in my position. You want to just cause 2-on-1s and kicks and find whatever the defense gives us.”

While Yogi-Mania was built off of an electric career-altering hot streak, Ferrell has been a contributor this season in a more dependable, experienced way. Building off the All-NBA Rookie Second Team berth Ferrell earned in just 36 games with Dallas last season, the point guard is now often one of the first guards off the bench, a role that Barea has long excelled in. The comparisons between Ferrell and Barea are all too obvious, the latter being another 6-foot-nothing guard that carved out a 12-year career after going undrafted in 2006.

During the Mavericks’ championship-winning playoff run in 2011, Barea averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists, including massive back-to-back 15-plus point outings in Dallas’ series-defining Game 5 and 6 victories. While tearing up the NBA Finals is undoubtedly a long-term goal for Ferrell, he’s just thankful to have teammates like Barea and Harris to learn from on and off the court.

“I always say that I like watching them, especially how they play,” Ferrell said. “I try to mimic the older guys, Devin and J.J., they’re so synced together when they play, it’s something special to watch. I just try to go out there and mimic what they do, they’ve been successful at it and been in this league for a long time, so I’m just trying to learn from guys like them.”

* * * * * *

Precisely, it’s been 370 days since Ferrell was first waived by Brooklyn and found success at the NBA level that little believed was possible. Not one to let an obstacle get in his way, Ferrell went undrafted and still managed to earn a multi-year contract before he even hit 20 career appearances. For his dominating stretch in the G-League last season, Ferrell was named an All-Star — although he was too busy with Dallas to attend the festivities — and he still went on to earn a spot with the All-NBA Rookie Second Team as well.

Overcoming roadblocks and adversity at every turn, it’d be easy to now exhale and relax — after all, his contract is currently guaranteed and he’s got a solidified role in an NBA rotation — but Ferrell, forever hungry, isn’t ready to stop there. Staying motivated isn’t difficult for Ferrell because he knows that much of his journey is still left in front of him and he’s ready to keep climbing upward.

“I’m a winner, I came from a winning program,” Ferrell said. “My mentality is still to prove that I belong here. I just want to win, that’s it.”

For Ferrell, this isn’t the end of an underdog story — this is just the beginning of something even greater.

Continue Reading

NBA

Rookie of The Year Watch – 12/13/17

Shane Rhodes checks back in on what’s become a relatively consistent Rookie of the Year race.

Shane Rhodes

Published

on

It has been a pretty ho-hum Rookie of The Year race so far in the 2017-18 season, with the top rookies staking their claims to this list at the beginning of the season and, for the most part, staying there. While there has been some movement up and down over the season and since our last installment, for the large part those who were on the list remain on the list.

Those players have earned their spots on this list with their play, however. This rookie class is one of the better, more exciting classes in recent memory. These players have just managed to remain at the top of the hill.

Let’s take a look at this week’s rankings.

stockup456. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Last Week: Unranked)

By virtue of John Collins missing time due to injury, Markkanen jumps back onto this list. However, that’s not to say Markkanen has played poorly this season. On the contrary, the former Arizona Wildcat and current Chicago Bull has played very well; it’s just hard to get recognized when you are on the worst team in the league.

Markkanen is averaging 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, third and second among rookies, respectively, while adding 1.3 assists per game as well. Athletic enough to get his own shot and big enough to be a mismatch when he’s on the floor, Markkanen is probably the best (healthy) offensively player the Bulls have. While his defensive game isn’t great, his defensive rating of 106.4 still ranks ninth amongst rookies.

Perhaps most importantly, Markkanen inspires hope for a brighter future in Bulls fans that have watched the team plummet from the 50-win team it was just three seasons ago.

stockup455. Dennis Smith, Jr., Dallas Mavericks (Last Week: 6)

His shooting percentages continue to underwhelm and the Dallas Mavericks still have one of the worst records in the NBA, but Dennis Smith Jr. has been one of the Mavs’ bright spots this season while averaging 14.4 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.

While he hasn’t been a great shooter overall, Smith Jr. has managed to be a big contributor on offense for the Mavs, with an offensive rating of 101.4, ninth among rookies, and an assist percentage of 25.2 percent, fourth among rookies. He is second on the team in scoring behind Harrison Barnes’ 18.4 points per game as well. He is still a work in progress, but Dallas has found a keeper in Smith Jr.

stockdown454. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (Last Week: 3)

While the Lakers have stumbled over the past few weeks, Kuzma continues to play well when he is on the floor. He still paces the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring with an average of 16.1 points per game, third among rookies, while also dishing in 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Kuzma is now second among rookies in double-doubles with eight on the season and three in his last five games. With a diverse offensive game, the power forward should continue to impress as the season goes along.

stockup453. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (Last Week: 4)

Donovan Mitchell has been electrifying in recent weeks. Second in scoring among rookies, Mitchell is averaging 17.3 points per game to go along with three rebounds and 3.2 assists. As his confidence has grown, so to have his field goal percentage and three-point percentages. Mitchell has led the Utah Jazz in scoring in 11 of their 27 games, and is second on the Jazz in scoring too, behind Rodney Hood’s 17.7 points per game.

Mitchell became the second rookie ever, first since Blake Griffin in 2011, to score more than 40 points in a single game after going for 41 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Coupling that with his high-flying athleticism, Mitchell has been one of the best rookies to watch this season.

stocknochanges452. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (Last Week: 2)

Jayson Tatum is on pace to be only the second rookie ever to lead the league in three-point percentage. In over 38 years, the only other player to do it was Anthony Morrow, who shot 46.7 percent on 2.7 attempts per game during the 2008-09 regular season. Tatum is currently shooting 50 percent on over three attempts per game.

The 19-year-old forward has also made a near seamless transition from the isolation-dominated basketball that he played at Duke, and has flourished as the third, fourth and sometimes even fifth option on offense, having scored in double digits in 25 of 29 games and averaging 13.8 points per game on the season. His defense continues to be better than advertised as well.

Tatum has been Mr. Clutch among rookies as well. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Tatum has 14 field goals on 21 attempts, seventh in the entire NBA and tops among rookies. In fact, Tatum is the only other rookie in the top 15 in clutch field goals.

While Mitchell has been on fire recently, Tatum has performed well enough to this point where he is still in control of the number two spot among rookies. But the race for this second spot is close and will continue to be close throughout the season. The race for the number one spot on the other hand? Not so much.

stocknochanges451. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (Last Week: 1)

It would make for a very boring race if Ben Simmons remained at the top of this list for the entire season. And it looks increasingly likely that that is going to be the case.

Try as they might, the other rookies just can’t hang with Simmons; none of them have the right combination of production and physicality to keep pace with the point-forward. Tatum has been better than advertised while Mitchell and Kuzma have exceeded all predraft expectations, but none of them can produce what Simmons has. With averages of 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game, Simmons would be just the second rookie in NBA history, the first since Oscar Robertson during the 1960-61 season, to finish the season with that stat line.

So, unless they combine their powers to become a being with superhuman basketball skills, the other rookies don’t stand a chance against Simmons in the race for Rookie of the Year.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending Now