The NBA Awards marked the end of a very intriguing season in regards to the influence young players had on the entire league. For a first time in years we were able to see plenty of rookies actively contributing for their teams. This undoubtedly had a positive effect on the NBA as the competition for the Rookie of the Year Award was brought back to life.
It is fair to say that Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum stood one head above the rest. However, it would be disingenuous to negate the impact the other first season players had. Ten of them made the All-Rookie First and Second Teams. But in all fairness there were five more who could have made it as well.
Unfortunately limited minutes and lesser team roles prevented them from showing their full potential on the court. Let’s hope that these former rooks will continue to develop and eventually find their right place in the NBA.
De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings evidently tried to tank the past season in order to secure a top pick in the 2018 Draft. In doing so head coach Dave Joerger made a substantial mistake by not running the team’s offense through De’Aaron Fox.
Rather, it seemed that the focus was on shooting guards Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic (who actually made the All-Rookie Second team) and center Willie Cauley-Stein. In that system, the first year point guard did not show his full potential. There was hype about him becoming John Wall 2.0 since he had the speed, the ability to play above the rim and passing skills.
Unfortunately for Fox, he wasn’t challenged to be more assertive on offense even though he has proven that he can be a closer. Instead the King’s point guard ended up with averages of 11.5 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds, and fell short of making the All-Rookie teams.
One would imagine that after being drafted fifth overall, given a starter spot and almost 28 minutes per game Fox could have done more. But in all fairness he could have been coached in a different way and the results might have been more impressive. Regardless, Fox has a bright future ahead of him considering his talents and the young Kings’ team.
OG Anunoby – Toronto Raptors
If you look at Anunoby’s stat line for his rookie season you won’t be necessarily impressed with his 6pts and 2rbs in 20min of play time. However, the small forward played a key role in Toronto’s rotation and people who have watched Raptors games know it very well.
His contribution to the team’s success came in the form of catch-and-shoot three pointers and defending opposing players on both sides of the court. Clearly this meant he had to play off the ball which led to less points and assists on his stat line. Not to mention former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey constant player rotation which took a toll on the numbers of pretty much everyone on the team. Especially, Anunoby since he was usually the first one to get benched.
In hindsight, if the small forward was drafted by either Indiana, Milwaukee or Sacramento he could have posted up better stats since these teams might have used him in a different way with emphasize on the offense. Not that Toronto was a bad place for OG but he had no chance of making an All-Rookie team with the role he had. Let’s hope that with a new head coach he gets more minutes and gets more involved on offense.
Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
Selected 14th overall by the Miami Heat, Adebayo had shown great promise in his rookie campaign. He has the physique of the prototypical modern NBA center – tall, slender, athletic, big wingspan, great pick-and-roll and above the rim plays. But then again, he only scored an average of seven points and pulled down little over five boards. Not the numbers to get you a spot on the All-Rookie teams.
Unfortunately, Adebayo ended up on a team with several issues that led to his less than impressive stats. First and foremost, the drama surrounding Hassan Whiteside had its negative effect on Bam. The starting center for the Heat missed some games then came back demanding more minutes despite his declining numbers. This did hurt Adebayo who at the time was showing his potential at the five spot.
But perhaps the biggest problem for Bam even though he is a big is that he doesn’t have the handles and shooting ability like Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic. Or as fans say – he can’t find his own shot. Yet, Adebayo has a huge vertical leap and body length both of which are perfect for finishing at the rim more than four-five times a game. Therefore, he needs assisting from his teammates – the point guard in particular.
The bad thing is that Goran Dragic is no Rajon Rondo or Chriss Paul either. Which switched Adebayo’s role to a one of a rim protector and rebounder. There were plenty of other factors too but in the end Bam’s potential on the offensive end remained untapped.
Dwayne Wade’s arrival back to Miami changed things a little bit. As the legendary shooting guard came back on the court he also brought his assisting skills. Something he had perfected when playing with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The main beneficiary of this was Bam whose playing minutes matched Wade’s as they were both coming off the bench. The great alley-oops and finishes by the seven foot center were impressive almost Anthony Davis like. Yet they were supposed to be happening all year – long not the end of the season.
In his first season Adebayo was doing OK as a center coming off the bench. Unfortunately, he could have had a way bigger impact on the Heat if coach Spoelstra gave him more minutes and most of all – a bigger role on offense. To top it off, the Hassan Whiteside situation did not benefit Bam at all since. You can’t really get more play time if the starter is complaining about his minutes. And Adebayo fell victim to that. Hopefully, in the near future his role on the team will be sorted out because he can become a great modern age big man. Watch out for BAM!
Jordan Bell – Golden State Warriors
First season in the NBA and already a champion – that has been reality for Warriors young center Jordan Bell. Coming to a loaded Western conference team one could imagine a rookie wouldn’t necessarily have a standout role. Take Zhou Qi in Houston as an example. He also entered the NBA pretty much like Bell – no hype, no top draft selection, no nothing. He was a 2017 champion in the Chinese league and the Defensive Player of the Year.
However, he did not fit in with the Rockets. It could have been his style of play (or lack of any substance to it). Or the team failing to find the right role for him. Regardless, Qi was sent to the G-League and looking at the way things are going he won’t be seeing minutes in the NBA anytime soon.
That hasn’t been the case with Jordan Bell who after joining the Golden State Warriors has contributed coming off the bench. Undersized for the center – spot listed at 6-foot-9, he managed to be a decent defender guarding small and power-forwards too. Not to mention his overall athleticism and strength.
However, Jordan Bell’s rookie season stat line is rather bad – almost 5 points, 4 rebounds and a block per 14 minutes. This a direct result of him being the third center on the roster with the other two being Javele McGee and Zaza Pachulia. Steve Kerr preferred the lengthy McGee over Bell giving him only 13 starts in the entire season. Which is not enough for the rookie to show what he is truly capable of.
One thing we know about the Warriors organization is that it has been brilliant in the draft ever since 2009. It has also been very good at developing young players. (ex. Ian Clark, Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney) We can assume Bell is in the right place and his star will certainly shine one day.
Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets
Considered a steal at the 2017 draft point guard Malik Monk went under the radar in his rookie season. Which is rather unfortunate since he has shown he could do more than his numbers say. He finished with seven points, a rebound and an assist per 14 minutes of playtime. Not so special at first sight but if you have watched Monk you would know he can do a lot more.
The problem was the Charlotte Hornets were stuck in an awful mediocrity in which neither good players got what they wanted nor young players saw any substantial room for contribution. Malik Monk has suffered because of that since he is the sub for the team’s best player Kemba Walker.
On one hand, it’s disrespectful to not give Walker his minutes. On the other, leaving a good rookie on the bench isn’t helping either. Minnesota had a pretty identical situation with Kris Dunn and the moment he got traded and given a starter spot he produced big time.
If given 25 minutes Monk can definitely do the same thing. He has great handles, finishing by the rim and midrange shooting that can be lethal. So far the rumors suggest that Charlotte may clean house and trade Kemba Walker and Nick Batum following Dwight Howard’s ‘dump trade’.
This may give Malik Monk the opportunity he rightfully deserves.