The 2017 draft class has seen an enormous amount of hype. Truly, this is a loaded bunch that will be a gift that keeps on giving for teams and the NBA. Assuming most of the members of the group will reach their ceilings, we could be looking back at this draft class as one of the best ever.
We just have to wait, as only time will tell if the players will live up to the expectations. The potential is great. That said, here are the top players, in no particular order.
He has been an amazing addition for the Utah Jazz, he leads all rookies in both total points (660) and points per game (18.3), and already is a Top-40 NBA scorer, averaging more points than Carmelo Anthony, Andrew Wiggins, Kyle Lowry, and Goran Dragic. Mitchell went for 41 points and became the first rookie with a 40-point game in nearly seven years (Blake Griffin scored 47 points in 2011), overall he hit the 25-point mark sixteen times.
Mitchell also broke the record for points in a game by a Jazz rookie. Darrell Griffith previously owned the highest mark, scoring 38 in 1981. He hit 61 threes through his first 25 games, the most ever by a rookie in their first 25 games played in NBA history (previously, it was Damian Lillard with 56 in 2012-13).
Kyle Kuzma owns one of the more surprising stories early in the season. From being a late first round pick to becoming one of the most offensively talented players taken in the draft, Kuzma has immediately established himself as a go-to guy for the Los Angeles Lakers and a fan-favorite.
He has scored 20-plus in 14 games so far this season and has been in double-digits 31 times (out of 36 games). Kuzma became the first Lakers rookie with 25+ points in three consecutive games since Jerry West in 1961 and the first Lakers rookie with three 30-point games since Magic Johnson did it four times in 1979-80.
Ben Simmons is leading Rookie of the Year candidate, already joining Blake Griffin (2011) and Elton Brand (2000) as the only rookies with 30 or more points and 18 or more rebounds in a game over the last 20 seasons.
Simmons, along with Lonzo Ball, recorded 20+ points, 20+ rebounds, and 10+ assists through their first two NBA games. Only five players prior to Simmons and Ball opened their NBA careers in the same fashion: Maurice Stokes, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Connie Hawkins, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Simmons also ranks No. 1 in the NBA in passes made.
One of the more pleasant early surprises out of the 2017 class, Lauri Markkanen has not only been good during the first two-plus months of his NBA career, he has been great. Markkanen shoots the lights out, drilling 2.2 threes per game, shooting off screens and spot-ups.
Markkanen became the first player in NBA history to make 10 3-pointers in his first three career games and is on pace to shoot twice as many long distance shots this season as Larry Bird did in any season of his career. Whether you are a rookie or not, those numbers are pretty impressive.
Lonzo Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to produce a triple-double, breaking the record previously held by LeBron James by five days. He also joined Magic Johnson as the only Lakers with multiple triple-doubles in their rookie seasons (Johnson had seven).
He is averaging 10.0 points, 7.1 assists, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and a block per game and already produced some insane stat-lines. Ball finished his 13th game (Nov. 11, 2017) with 19 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists, three steals, and three blocked shots. Since the NBA began recording steals and blocks in 1973, only two players produced a boxscore line matching or surpassing his performance (Larry Bird in 1982 and Magic Johnson in 1983). Less than a month later he had 10 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, three steals, and four blocks. Only two other Lakers players matched or exceeded his stat line: Vlade Divac (three times) and Shaquille O’ Neal.
But many of the good things he does won’t show up in box scores. He ranks fourth in the league in passes made and seventh in potential assists.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. became the second rookie in franchise history to earn a triple-double (also Jason Kidd in 1994-95). Smith’s triple-double also lifted to seven the total of triple-doubles by NBA rookies this season (Ben Simmons has four and Lonzo Ball with two). That’s one more than the total produced by rookies over the previous five seasons combined.
Jayson Tatum’s play has been impressive so far, and he has been an integral part of the Celtics’ early success. He is making a ridiculous 46.8 percent of his 3-point attempts, third best in the entire league, which is very rare for a rookie as only three other first-year players in NBA history have ever made 45 percent of their 3-pointers on at least two attempts per game (Anthony Morrow at 46.7 percent, Josh Richardson at 46.1 percent, and Walter Hermann – 46.1 percent).
OG Anunoby deserves to be in the honorable mention department. With him on the court, the Raptors have outscored opponents by a total of 216 points. He is 10th in the league and ahead of all rookies with that mark.
Statistics used courtesy of NBA.com/Stats and Basketball-Reference.com