Allen Pettigrew Jr, Twitter: @AP_The_Great_ 10/23/2018
1. Trae Young
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Trae Young has increased his stock with every game he’s played this season (only 3). Young is currently averaging 23 points per game to go along with 8.3 assists. It truly looks the number 5 overall pick is leaving off where he started at Oklahoma University.
Young is taking a high volume of shots as many people expected and that’s leading to his amazing stat line this early in the season. Before his game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday Young’s game would largely be described as inefficient. He was shooting less than 36% from the field but knocking down the three at a steady 35% clip. But after his 35 point explosion, Trae easily became one of the most efficient rookies in this early season with shooting splits of 45-39-80.
Trae, of course, isn’t without flaw. He plays defense as well as a smaller guard who doesn’t have elite quickness possibly can. Even though the young guard holds his own on the offensive end he still hurts his team when on the court posting a -4 plus/minus three games into the season. Young will have all the offensive stats needed to win the award but will his opponents and team success is enough to dampen his individual achievements.
2. Luka Doncic
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Luka Doncic didn’t get off to the hottest start with his shy 10 points and 5 rebounds he posted against the Suns but he’s only improved since his debut. Going into his third game of the season he’s averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.
The young Slovenian bounced back from his debut with a massive 26 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He showed glimpses of how efficient he could be but it was enough to save his poor shooting numbers. After going 0 for 5 against Phoenix and going 4 for 9, Doncic currently sits at 28% from three. His struggles don’t stop there he’s shooting a shocking 54% after 11 tries at the stripe.
What’s even more stunning is Doncic’s 5 turnovers a game. Don’t expect the Euroleague MVP to continue this streak his craftiness will eventually shine through much like the behind the back pass he completed to Deandre Jordan. But he has shown a knack for rebounding averaging 7 a game which has surprisingly a better stat than his 3.5 assists a game. As the seasons go by I predict his shooting stroke will settle down at and his turnover ratio will become much more appealing of the most accomplished rookie in the league.
3. Deandre Ayton
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Ayton has already experienced ups and downs in his career. His debut was spectacular tallying 18 points and 10 rebounds and showing off his touch. At 7-1 and 250 pounds you’d be right to expect Ayton to be physically opposing around the rim and he is but what is truly stunning is his ability to stretch the floor 16 feet to beyond the three-point line. Ayton is nearly as efficient around the rim as he is at stretching the floor and as that continues to expect him to climb up this list.
Thanks to Devin Booker, Ayton will have the space to operate on the post and give his team another reliable scorer. Ayton is the only rookie on this list with a positive plus-minus stat on this list and he is only one of three rookies who can boast that claim. As long as Ayton continues his efficient play and makes strides on the defensive end you can pencil him in for this award by March.
4. Jaren Jackson Jr.
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It’s hard to be the dark horse for the Rookie of the Year award when you’re a top 5 pick but somehow Jaren Jackson Jr. is doing it but for how much longer. He’s currently averaging the most efficient shooting splits out of the entire field. While scoring 17 points a game and grabbing 6 rebounds Jackson Jr. manages to hold his own against the big boys just fine.
Jackson Jr. does it all quietly. He doesn’t have the flare that his contemporaries have but he’s taken advantage of every possession he gets. When matched up against smaller players he makes sure to bury them under the block for the easy lay-in. When used as the trailer Jackson is more than able to knock down the three with consistency at 40%. Even though he wasn’t known for his scoring prowess during the draft he’s been in his bag for the first two games of the season.
Triple J is showing a lot of savvy early in his career. His understanding of how to maneuver the pop and roll after setting a pick is obvious when you look at his shot chart. His high IQ shows on the defensive end as well, he’s currently averaging 1.5 blocks and steals a game. If he continues to shoot as well as he does and continues to standout of defense we may be looking at a borderline unicorn.
5. Marvin Bagley
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As possibly the best athlete on this list, Bagley has shown it even if his numbers haven’t. With the lowest points and second lowest rebound averages on this list at 12.7 and 6.7 respectfully, he’s been fun to watch. Just to add salt to the wound Bagley also gets the least amount of playing time with Sacramento crowded frontcourt.
Bagley is bar none the best rim runner on this list and it shows when you look at the numbers. He’s taken 22 of his 29 field goals within 10 feet of the rim where he’s making 63% of his shots. He’s using his size and athleticism whether running the lanes on the fast break, fighting for rebounds, and finishing over opponents in the post.
If Bagley continues his play he may be able to crack the Kings starting lineup. If he doesn’t expect him to be one of the best rookie spark plugs in the league. As Bagley becomes more acclimated to the pace of the league I expect Bagley’s shooting splits to improve as he and De’Aaron Fox continue to build chemistry.