NBA’s 2017 rookie class was best since 2009

NBA’s 2017  rookie class  was best since 2009
June 21
12:00 2018

One of the hardest things to do in sports is projecting how a rookie’s talent will translate to the professional level.  The top of this year’s rookie class delivered more than most in recent memory.  Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith Jr. and Ben Simmons were all rookies who made an immediate impact on their respective teams.

The above-mentioned rookies were not the only ones to impact their teams.  Early on this is the best crop of picks since the 2009 draft, which included the Blake Griffin, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague.

It may be a reach but with this much depth, this class may have the chance to rival the famed 1996 draft for most overall talent.  Let’s remember that ’96 draft included the likes of Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kerry Kittles, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.

For the sake of time in this column, I am just going to focus on Tatum, Mitchell, Ball and Simmons.  There is just not enough space to discuss the solid play of all the rookies from this year’s class.

Out of everyone, Ball had the most hype coming into the draft in large part to his big-mouthed father.  Ball, who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, had a solid season as a player but he was slowed by injury during the heart of the season.

Ball’s season averages were not bad at 10.2 pts. (points), 7 rpg (rebounds per game), and 7.2 apg (averages per game).  Those are not bad numbers for a rookie on a below-average team.  I have never been the biggest fan of Ball but I do think he will be a solid NBA player for years to come.  If not, I’m sure his father has a scheme to keep his name in the public eye.

Following injuries to Gordon Hayward early on and Kyrie Irving later in the season, Tatum stepped up and led the Boston Celtics in scoring during their playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. With a season under his belt, Tatum plus a healthy Hayward and Irving could spell danger for the Eastern Conference next season.

Tatum raised his regular season averages of 14 pts. 5 rpg. and 1.6 apg up to 18.5 pts, 4.4 rpg and 2.7 apg during Boston’s playoff run.  The former Duke product has shown he has the chops to be an elite player in this league for years to come.

In my opinion, the most impressive rookie this year has been Mitchell of the Utah Jazz.  In a stacked Western Conference, Mitchell led the Jazz to a surprising 48-34 record leading them to the playoffs as the 5 seed.  Mitchell also won the NBA Slam Dunk championship during this year’s All-Star weekend. 

Mitchell continued to impress during the playoffs as well.  He and the Jazz defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games to win their first round matchup.  Next they gave the Houston Rockets all they could handle but fell to them in 5 games. 

The upside for Mitchell seems limitless.  There is nothing he can’t do on the basketball court.  He can shoot, drive, finish in traffic and play tremendous defense.  As the 13th pick in last years draft, not much was expected out of Mitchell but he definitely exceeded expectations as evidenced by him winning he “Leader of the New School” (best rookie) award by the NBA Players Association.

Simmons is technically a rookie since he did not play a single game in the 2016-17 season.  I don’t think Simmons should be able to classify as a rookie due to the fact he had the ability to practice, travel and acclimate himself to the NBA lifestyle. 

Simmons is a phenomenal athlete who reminds me a lot of LeBron James early on in his career.  No I am not comparing Simmons to James, but simply pointing out the similarities in their games.

The biggest knock on Simmons is his lack of a jump shot.  The rookie did not attempt a single three point shot the entire regular season.  With the league going by way of the three he will have to gain a competent jump shot in order to keep defenses honest.  Even without a jumper he is still almost unstoppable going to the basket.

I wish I had more time to discuss more players but I just don’t have the room.  Not to get ahead of myself, but I am eagerly awaiting this year’s draft as there will be some intriguing big men.  I will definitely love to compare these two draft classes in a couple of years to see which one comes out on top.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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