The 2017-2018 NBA Rookie class is undeniably stacked. As the season continues, the hype train is chugging along, with some people even wondering whether this rookie class will eventually be in the conversation with the ’03 and ’84 classes. It’s so stacked, in fact, that there are rookies having solid seasons that you probably haven’t even heard of.
The young talent in the NBA is something very exciting, and in case you haven’t been watching, here’s a list of 10 rookies who have been flying somewhat under the radar. These rankings will be based off of both production and potential.
10. Frank Mason III (PG, SAC)
At 7.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.1 rebounds per game, Frank Mason III’s stats don’t jump off the page. However, at just 18.6 minutes per game, these are numbers that indicate his consistent contribution as a role player for the Kings- a role which can grow if he continues to be a steady hand off their bench.
Mason is a prototype slashing point guard with an explosive first step combined with effective handles, excellent court vision, and creativity around the rim. Shooting 41.9% on three point attempts, he also has a steady pull-up jumper. Issues with Mason as far as shot selection and injury have dropped him down to number ten on this list, but he has the potential to climb if he can stay healthy. The focus in Sacramento has been mainly on the other young stars, but don’t be surprised to see Frank Mason III come back from injury and be a valuable sixth man for the Kings.
9. Frank Ntilikina (PG, NY)
Frank Ntilikina is currently averaging 5.4 points, 3.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. These numbers aren’t all too great, either, but he wasn’t drafted to be an explosive star right off the bat.
It was fairly well-known that the young point guard would need some time to adjust to life in the NBA and his production has been slowly increasing over time. His NBA frame and ability to guard multiple positions give him a really high ceiling, and he has lived up to the hype on the defensive end. He isn’t all too fast, could use some work to make shots more consistently, and has a tendency to turn the ball over, but if his gradual progress continues things should be looking up for New York as he adjusts to the NBA.
8. Dillon Brooks (SF, MEM)
Grizzlies rookie Dillon Brooks has shown flashes of great play, but has been ridden by inconsistency. His current averages are 8.4 points, 1.1 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game.
He is an explosive and physical finisher with a good stroke, shooting 46.2% from the field on the season. However, at 6′ 6″, 220 lbs, he is undersized for the small forward position and lacks in the rebounding category. For Dillon Brooks to climb higher on this list, he will need to improve in rebounding and court vision and consistently put forth the good performances that Grizzlies fans have seen flashes of throughout the season.
7. Bam Adebayo (C, MIA)
Bam Adebayo is yet another steady bench player on this list of rookies. At 6.9 points, 4,9 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks per game, he has been a physical presence for the Miami Heat second team. He is shooting an impressive 56% from the field, taking smart shots by putting missed shots back up and aggressively taking it to the rim off of drive and kicks from his teammates.
Coach Nick from Basketball Breakdown said it best in his video about rookie sleepers, that “if they don’t put a body on him when the shot goes up, he’s a ferocious and relentless offensive rebounder, giving the Heat plenty of 2nd chance opportunities to score.” He is also effective in the pick and roll, as Coach Nick goes on to explain how the Heat “can trust him to set a good ball screen, run hard to the rim… the pass doesn’t have to be very accurate at all for him to catch it and flush it down.” Adebayo’s refined skills and supreme athleticism make him a real must-watch and give him a chance to become a force in this league. Outside of the top 10, Adebayo stands as the most physically dominating pick in the draft.
6. Milos Teodosic (PG, LAC)
Teodosic currently totals 9.1 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game. He fits the mold of a floor general point guard, running the floor with supreme vision and passing ability to find open team mates. As Coach Nick points out, “there isn’t a pass he can’t make out of the pick and roll, by using arguably the best vision in the NBA to find the seams in the defense to slip balls through the smallest openings, as well as take advantage of one of the best roll men in the league in DeAndre Jordan with the alley oop.” His basketball IQ is not limited to the offensive end, either, as he excels in getting into passing lanes to snag easy steals. Areas that need improvement for Teodosic include field goal percentage and stamina. Transitioning from the Euroleague to the NBA is not easy, and he will need to get in better shape to put up higher numbers.
5. Mike James (PG, PHX)
Mike James’ current averages are 10.4 points, 3.8 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. All of these stats come off of an average of just 20.9 minutes, which is impressive for a rookie. He is slightly undersized at 6′ 1″, but he uses it to his advantage, quickly cutting and slicing through the defense to create opportunities for himself and his team mates. His finishing ability is similar to that of Kyrie Irving- he is a strong and creative finisher, adept at nailing runners, floaters, and reverse layups. His main strength as a scorer is finding and creating space on any part of the floor to either look for his shot or draw a double and pass. His shot selection from the 3 point line could use some improvement, but on good looks from distance he converts at a reliable rate. In the coming years, expect to see more of Mike James.
4. Jordan Bell (PF, GS)
Some people call it the Warriors Effect- they say that any decent player can flourish with a cast like that around him. Nevertheless, Jordan Bell has been impressive. He is averaging 5.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game with a player efficiency rating of 19.54- all while player under 15 minutes per game. With his 6′ 9″ frame, Bell fits right into the Warriors small ball lineup at the second team Power Forward. He uses his quickness and athleticism to expose the larger, slower defenders with quick finishes and athletic slams. On the defensive end, his quick feet and basketball IQ allow him to stay in front of his man as well as feel out when to slide down for help defense. Joining the highest pace team in the league is truly a dream for this big man.
Due to these attributes on defense, he also blocks shots at a very high rate. He fits in the Warriors game plan perfectly on both ends of the floor, and with so many great players around him, Jordan Bell will learn and continue to improve his game.
3. OG Anunoby (SF, TOR)
OG Anunoby has produced 6.2 minutes, .8 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game. These numbers are not particularly great for his average 21.5 minutes of play per game, but his efforts at the defensive end have had a big impact in the game. He has had flashes of great scoring ability, scoring his career-high 20 points against the Hornets back in December. Although he is lengthy and athletic, a lot of his scoring comes from his quick trigger on 36.8% shooting from the 3-point line. As his game develops, we should see Anunoby looking to diversify his game on offense to become a more viable scoring threat, and retain his defensive prowess as well.
2. John Collins (PF, ATL)
Watching John Collins play the game of basketball is purely exciting. He is long, strong, athletic, and hustles like no other to grab rebounds on both ends of the floor. If the ball comes down after a shot attempt, you will see Collins refuse to give up the board in a fashion that reminds me of Dwight Howard in his prime. He plays 22.2 minutes per game and averages 10.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game as well. To go along with his relentless rebounding, he is an athletic finisher who is extremely effective in the pick and roll. In Coach Nick’s words, “He’s in a perfect situation with the Hawks, who value tons of ball movement before the pick and roll, and that serves to open up all manner of passes to him for violent finishes between his hand and the rim.” All signs point to John Collins becoming a force in the NBA for a long time, and that’s why he belongs at number two on this list.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic (SG, SAC)
Bogdanovic has been real surprise for Sacramento this season. After being drafted 27th, he has quickly forced his way into playing significant minutes. His current averages are 11.4 points, 3.0 assists, and 2.7 rebounds on 48% shooting and 39.4% from deep. Bogdanovic is your typical sharpshooter with a clean stroke and a high release point. As Coach Nick from Basketball Breakdown put it, “…he’s got a beautiful stroke and the team has had no trouble finding him spotting up on the perimeter, but he has also shown signs of being able to knock down the long shot off the pick and roll as well”. Every time Bogdan releases the ball on the three-point line, you get the feeling that it’s going to fall. It’s amazing when a rookie can reach that level in shooting.
Bogdanovic’s consistency is proving to be a valuable asset for the Kings, and as he progresses, we will surely see his role as an offensive threat grow and allow his team mates to get better looks as well.
So, there you have it- ten rookies who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. There’s no doubt this year’s rookie class is full of knockdown shooters, rim breakers, and guys who are downright exciting to watch play the game- but whether or not this class will fall in with the ranks of the ’03 and ’84 classes is a question only time can answer. One thing remains true, though, that these guys are exciting and I’m excited about watching them.
Be sure to check out Basketball Breakdown’s take on the sleepers in this rookie class or visit their website at www.bballbreakdown.com !