Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball garners most of the headlines along with the Philadelphia 76ers’ Markelle Fultz, the Phoenix Suns’ Josh Jackson, and the Sacramento Kings’ De’Aaron Fox. But there are some lesser-known rookies who could develop a very good case for next year’s top greenhorn plum.
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina is an intriguing prospect. He’s just 19 years old and was chosen eight overall from France’s Strasbourg club. He is an athletic 6-foot-5 point guard, who already plays solid defense. He shot 38 percent from 3-point range last season, which is a good mark for an all-around point guard prospect.
The New York Knicks will have decent talent around him, including Tim Hardaway Jr., Carmelo Anthony (technically, as of this writing), and Kristaps Porzingis, which means Ntilikina will have plenty of opportunities to rack up assists and take open shots. With the Knicks’ other options at the point guard position being veterans Jarrett Jack and Ramon Sessions, Frank Ntilikina should have no trouble eventually earning a starting spot.
Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets
Jarrett Allen is an athletic big man who will get plenty of opportunity this season, as his competitions at center are only Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller. He also played quite a bit of power forward last season at Texas, so that versatility will serve him well this year. Allen specializes in using his length to create athletic plays in the post, both on offense and defense.
He plays like a younger, bigger, more athletic version of former Longhorn and current Cleveland Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson – although Allen is not close to an elite rebounder at this point in his career. He could become a focal point for the talent-stricken Brooklyn Nets, and if he takes advantage of that, he could become a legitimate contender for the Rookie of the Year award.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings
Bogdan Bogdanovic is a Euro-stash player making his NBA debut this season for the Sacramento Kings. He shot 43 percent from deep last season — an incredible number that should excite Kings fans. The team obviously has confidence in him, as they signed him to a three-year $27 million contract.
Playing with sharpshooter Buddy Hield, as well as fellow rookies Fox and Justin Jackson could hurt his chances, but Bogdanovic has a chance to greatly contribute for an up-and-coming team. His age and experience in Europe gives him an advantage that most rookies don’t have, and a three-point shooting expert is always extremely valuable to any team.
Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets feel very fortunate to have Malik Monk on their team, as he was projected as a Top 5 selection in the draft. Monk is an athletic 2-guard with a fantastic shot. He is a very good cutter and slasher, and shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season for Kentucky.
He will immediately push Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb for minutes, and if he improves his defense, could end up starting at some point. The Hornets want to compete, and they cannot afford to keep a player of Monk’s caliber on the bench.
This should end up being a very good NBDA draft class. These rookies will be fun to watch, and choosing one to win the award will not be an easy task come June.