Partway through the second month of the NBA season, clarity now exists not only among teams and the standings, but among the players as well. With growing sample sizes, the analysis of those players has become more and more accurate.
While things have shifted somewhat since our last check in on the Rookie of The Year Watch, there appear to be select few rookies who have placed themselves above their peers and will be staples on lists like these all season long.
Here’s the third update in the Rookie of The Year Watch.
6. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith Jr. is still adjusting to the NBA. But, in his short time in the Association, he has impressed nonetheless.
Averaging 14.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, Smith is fourth among rookies in scoring and second on the Dallas Mavericks, behind only Harrison Barnes’ 18.9 points per contest. His athleticism is constantly on display and, so far, Smith has done his best to live up to the hype that has come with being selected ninth overall in the NBA Draft.
While he is scoring, Smith isn’t doing so efficiently; he’s shooting just 39.1 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. Part of Smith’s problem comes from just being a rookie, but part of it comes from questionable shot selection and learning to score in volume. As he continues to adjust, his numbers should continue to drift toward the 45.5 field-goal percentage and 35.9 percent from three that he shot during his lone season at North Carolina State.
5. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
John Collins continues to go under the radar despite being one of the NBA’s best rookies.
Second among all rookies playing 20+ minutes per game in Player Efficiency Rating, Collins has posted a line of 11.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He’s shot an uber-efficient 58.1 percent from the field, first among rookies and 12th in the NBA overall, while being highly effective on the glass. Collins is averaging 3.1 offensive rebounds per game, tops among rookies and ninth in the NBA, while posting an offensive rebounding percentage of 14.8 percent, again tops among rookies.
Collins plus/minus sits at a lowly -1.9, but that still ranks seventh among rookies. And with a recent promotion to the starting lineup, Collins, averaging just 22.9 minutes per game, should see an uptick in most of, if not all, his stats.
4. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
While the Utah Jazz have struggled to remain consistent in the absence of big-man Rudy Gobert, the same cannot be said for guard Donovan Mitchell, who has really turned it on over the past few weeks.
Mitchell, who is now averaging 14.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, has provided the offensive firepower that the Jazz have sorely lacked this season. His efficiency remains a problem — Mitchell is shooting just 38.3 percent from the field — but Mitchell is still making a positive impact for the Jazz, posting a plus-minus of +1.8, third among rookies. His offensive rating of 104.2 points per 100 possessions ranks second among rookies as well.
Mitchell is making an impact on the defensive end for the Jazz as well. His defensive rating of 101.5 ranks second among rookies, while is 1.4 steals per game is tied for second.
3. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma has been on a mission this season. Projected as a second rounder by many, Kuzma’s mission has been to prove them all wrong.
As of now, he’s done that and more.
Kuzma is averaging 16.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game for the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three, good for third and second among rookies. His offensive and defensive ratings of 102.4 and 104.4 points per 100 possessions place him fifth and sixth among rookies as well. Kuzma has posted five double-doubles as well, third among rookies.
Not exactly the Laker everyone expected to be in the running for Rookie of The Year after the NBA Draft, Kuzma has established himself as a foundational piece and for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Now, Kuzma just needs to play his game. If he continues to play the way he has, a move up in the rankings certainly isn’t out of the question.
2. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum’s scoring average has dropped, but the Boston Celtics rookie is still making a huge impact for the NBA’s top team.
Tatum, currently averaging 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists, is third among all rookies in offensive rating, first in defensive rating and first in net rating, registering marks of 103.2, 98 and 5.1 points per 100 possessions, respectively.
Tatum has also been one of the more efficient shooters in the Association this season, shooting 49 percent from the field, 47.8 percent from three-point range and has an effective field goal percentage of 56.9 percent; marks that place fourth, first (nearly 10 percentage points better than all other rookies) and second among all rookies, respectively. Tatum’s three-point percentage also places him second in the NBA, higher than the likes of sharpshooters Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and others.
1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
It may be a new week, but it is the same player atop the Rookie Rankings.
Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, he of the 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game, has flat out dominated the competition, posting 11 double-doubles and two triple-doubles on the season en route to taking a seemingly permanent residence atop most Rookie of The Year lists. While he is dealing with an ankle injury at the moment, Simmons has played so well up to this point in the season that a few missed games won’t negatively affect his stock.
Barring a Philadelphia fan’s nightmare, Simmons is looking like he could hold the top spot for the entire season.
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