1. Markelle Fultz, PG/SG (76ers)
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Throughout the draft process, there were few people higher on Markelle Fultz than myself.
It was my belief that Fultz could come in and score points right away as a rookie, however, things haven’t quite worked out thus far.
Due to an unusual shoulder injury that dates to training camp, Markelle Fultz has shot the ball awfully. And that’s when he’s even available at all. He hasn’t looked anything like the sharpshooter that we saw at Washington, and as it stands right now, Fultz is averaging only 6.0ppg on 33% shooting from the floor.
As Markelle Fultz sits on the sidelines and allows that injured shoulder to recover, it is obvious that the 76ers would have been hoping for more when they traded up to select him first overall. Fultz’ grade should probably be lower, but if healthy, he has the talent to turn things around.
2. Lonzo Ball, PG (Lakers)
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It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing thus far, but for those of you who are already calling Lonzo Ball a bust, you couldn’t be any more premature in your assessment.
On the season, Lonzo Ball is currently averaging 8.7ppg, 7.3rpg, and 7.1apg. This means that he is basically flirting with a triple double every night. Oh, and while we are on the topic of triple doubles, Lonzo Ball already has two of them, and he is the youngest player in NBA history to ever do this.
On the other side of the ball, Lonzo has also played quite well defensively. His 0.0043 defensive win shares are good for 49th in the NBA, and that mark ranks him amongst the top 10% of the NBA.
Now, I know… The low shooting percentages are obviously a cause for concern. There have been some occasions where it couldn’t get any uglier for Lonzo, however, triple doubles and NBA records don’t exactly spell “bust” to me. From what i can gather, Lonzo Ball will continue work hard, and eventually, he will find his niche as a scorer.
Everybody just needs to calm down and give this kid some time.
3. Jayson Tatum, SF (Celtics)
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As far as true rookies are concerned, Jayson Tatum is the cream of the crop.
Playing heavy minutes for the Boston Celtics, the former-Duke Blue Devil is averaging a solid 13.7ppg. What’s even more impressive, is the fact that he’s currently doing so at a ridiculous rate – shooting 49.0% from the floor and 47.8% from 3.
Defensively, Jayson Tatum’s 0.055 defensive win shares are good for 10th best in the NBA. All of this indicates that Tatum has been extremely impactful on both ends of the floor, and due in large part to his emergence, the Celtics have easily been able to weather the loss of Gordan Haywood.
Going forward, Tatum could afford to become a little more assertive on the offensive end, but aside from that, the early returns are looking pretty good. This was an excellent pick by Danny Ainge.
4. Josh Jackson, SF (Suns)
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Leading up to the draft, Josh Jackson was thought by many to be the most complete prospect available.
With an NBA-ready body, elite athleticism, strong finishing ability, excellent shot-creating skills, and a vicious defensive mindset, Josh Jackson was a legitimate contender for the number 1 overall selection. So far, however, the Phoenix Suns are still waiting to see their investment come to fruition.
On the season, Jackson is currently averaging 9.3ppg, and 3.8rpg. He is yet to earn himself a starting role, and while T.J. Warren is a talented player, the Suns are a bad team that was counting on Jackson to step up and produce right away.
The upside remains huge, and Josh Jackson will undoubtedly become a valuable player in the NBA. If he wishes to earn himself a larger role moving forward, however, he will need to improve his shooting percentages quite dramatically (38.1% FG, 24.6% 3PT, 51.7% FT), and he will also need to maintain his focus on the defensive end of the court.
5. De’Aaron Fox, PG (Kings)
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Often compared to John Wall throughout the draft process, I’m not exactly sold on De’Aaron Fox ever becoming that kind of player.
This season, Fox is currently averaging 10.2ppg, 4.4apg, and 3.0rpg in 26.3 minutes of action. These numbers are not terrible by any means; however, Fox is also shooting only 39.4% from the field, and only 27.6% from 3-point land.
Outside of the issues surrounding overall efficiency, Fox’s biggest issues come on the defensive end of the floor. His defensive win shares total of -0.001 is just awful, and it ranks him amongst the bottom 10% of the NBA
With Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell still available at number 5, selecting De’Aaron Fox was a mistake by the Sacramento Kings. I’m sure that Fox will eventually become a very good NBA player, but I just haven’t been overly impressed thus far.
6. Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF (Magic)
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If you like upside, Jonathan Isaac is the player for you.
Standing 6’11” with a 7’0” wingspan, Isaac possesses the kind of length and athleticism needed to guard all 5 positions on the court. He can effectively put the ball on floor, he can make a spot-up 3, and he can create his own shot with relative ease.
On the season, Jonathan Isaac is shooting the ball very well (45.9% FG, 85.7% FT), and quite honestly, injuries and a lack of consistent playing time are the only two things holding him back.
Defensively, Isaac’s 0.034 defensive win shares ranks him among the top 25% of the NBA, and while i’d like to see his 3-point efficiency improve (29.4%), the door is now open for Isaac to find his rhythm upon returning with Terrence Ross out indefinitely.
7. Lauri Markkanen, PF (Bulls)
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The Chicago Bulls have been a mess over the past 12 months, however, they got it right when they chose to select Lauri Markkanen 7th overall in this year’s draft.
There isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said here, as Lauri Markkanen has earned himself a significant role in Chicago – playing 30.6 minutes a night. He is currently averaging 14.3ppg to go along with 8.2rpg, and while his overall FG% is a little bit low (39.2%), he is also shooting a very decent 34.3% from beyond the 3-point line.
Outside of improving his overall efficiency, I would like to see Lauri Markkanen block a few more shots and continue to grow as a defender, but this has ultimately proven to be a great pick by the Chicago Bulls.
8. Frank Ntilikina, PG (Knicks)
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I was puzzled when the Knicks made this selection, and I am still puzzled now.
In 19.0mpg this season, Frank Ntilikina is averaging only 4.7ppg, 3.3apg, and 1.8rpg. Even worse, he is also shooting a dreadful 34.3% from the field, 25.0% from 3-point land, and 64.3% from the charity stripe.
With quick feet and a 7’1″ wingspan, one might think that Frank Ntilikina has at least shown some promise defensively, and while he has certainly flashed some upside in this regard, his 0.020 defensive win shares could stand to improve.
Much like Sacramento, with Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell still available at number 8, it is obvious that New York has made a big mistake. The potential surrounding Frank Ntilikina is massive, but there were better players still available at this point.
9. Dennis Smith Jr., PG (Mavericks)
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The Dallas Mavericks must have been ecstatic when Dennis Smith Jr. fell to them at pick number 9.
With a quick first step and explosive leaping ability, Smith has been everything that Dallas could have hoped for thus far, and he is only going to improve as he gains more NBA experience.
With averages of 14.4ppg, 4.3apg, and 3.9rpg, Dennis Smith Jr.’s production is near the top of this year’s rookie class. While his shooting percentages could stand to improve (38.6% FG, 29.7% 3PT, and 69.0% FT), Smith would hardly be the first rookie point guard who needed time to find his shot.
Going forward, along with improved efficiency, I’d like to see Dennis Smith Jr. improve as both a playmaker and a defender. His 0.006 defensive win shares ranks 360th in the NBA, and this mark is obviously near the bottom of the league.
Overall, this proven to be a rock-solid pick by the Dallas Mavericks. They can now tick “find a franchise point guard” off their list of things to do.
10. Zach Collins, C/PF (Trail Blazers)
When the Portland Trail Blazers found themselves on the clock back in June, they decided to make the worst move of the entire draft – taking Zach Collins out of Gonzaga with the 10th overall selection.
With Jusuf Nurkic entrenched as the team’s starter, and with no back-up shooting guard, I feel that either Donovan Mitchell or Malik Monk would have been the best fits here for Portland.
Zach Collins may have a giant, NBA-ready body, and he may have range all the way out to the 3-point line, however, he was also a limited bench player during his stint at Gonzaga. Taking Collins was a reach by the Portland Trail Blazers, and it didn’t exactly address any of the team’s needs.
In only 5.3 minutes of action, Zach Collins is averaging just 0.4ppg on 11.1% shooting from the field. The only reason in which I haven’t given Collins an “F” here is because I’m an optimistic guy, and who am I to say that he wouldn’t play better if given a more consistent role?
11. Malik Monk, SG (Hornets)
This is the player that I tend to think about when looking at Malik Monk’s game. Caldwell-Pope may be a little bit bigger, and Malik Monk may be the better athlete, but there are a lot of similarities regarding each player.
Known as a microwave scorer at Kentucky, Malik Monk flashed the ability to score points in a hurry and completely dominate the opposition. So far in the NBA, however, Monk is still trying to find his niche with the Charlotte Hornets.
If Malik Monk wishes to earn more minutes in Charlotte, then obviously, he is going to have to shoot the ball better than just 35.3% from the floor. His 3-point and free throw percentages are decent (34.6 3P%, 76.9 FT%), so there is every reason to think that he will find his offense.
As time goes by, I strongly feel as though Malik Monk will become an impact player in the NBA. For now though, it’s hard to give him a grade reflective of his true potential.
12. Luke Kennard, SG (Pistons)
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On draft night, Luke Kennard was the perfect pick for a Detroit Pistons team lead by Stan Van Gundy.
Similar to a few teams, however, the Pistons must be wishing that they chose Donovan Mitchell here instead.
With Avery Bradley and Langston Galloway ahead of him in the rotation, Luke Kennard has only been able to average 6.1ppg in 16.1 minutes. Known as a sharpshooter at Duke, Kennard has at least been able to live up to that label despite playing limited minutes – shooting 42.4% from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc.
If Luke Kennard ever gets the opportunity to play more minutes, then he certainly has the offensive ability to be a weapon in Detroit. However, until he is able to work his way up the rotation, it’s hard to give him a higher grade than what is given below.
Donovan Mitchell, SG (Jazz)
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Donovan Mitchell is without a doubt the best value pick from this year’s lottery.
Playing in a featured role for the Utah Jazz, Mitchell is currently second on his team in scoring – averaging 15.1ppg. His efficiency from the field is a little bit low (38.3% FG), however, his 3-point shooting has been solid (34.4%), and he converts with regularity at the charity stripe (81.1%).
This season, not many rookies have been asked to be what Donovan Mitchell is for the Utah Jazz – arguably their best player night in and night out. He has asserted himself as an NBA scorer much quicker than anticipated, and he has proven to be vital as Utah look to stay afloat in the Western Conference.
Bam Adebayo, C/PF (Heat)
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Bam Adebayo can definitely play; however, I still don’t like how he fits down in Miami.
In just 15.1 minutes of action, Bam Adebayo is currently averaging 5.2ppg to go along with 3.9rpg. He is shooting the ball with good efficiency (58.7% FG), and surprisingly, he has also done a pretty good job at the charity stripe thus far – converting 73.1% of his chances.
With Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk ahead of him in the rotation, it is hard to see how Adebayo is going to earn a significant role moving forward – especially if the Heat remain in contention for the 8th seed in the East. There is plenty to like about Adebayo, and as a fan, i wish that he could have been taken by a team that has more use for him.
With per 30-minute averages of 10.4ppg and 7.8rpg, along with efficient shooting, I’ll bump Bam Adebayo’s grade up a little bit here, but not too high given that he hasn’t yet earned himself meaningful playing time.
All stats provided by way of NBA.com