This season has given us a great look at some of the young talent that came out in this year’s draft. This could arguably considered one of the better draft classes in recent years as some of these players have quickly turned into household names. This article will focus on my top 10 rookies of the season giving an overview of their seasons while also highlighting their most impressive performances.
- Karl Anthony Towns
The 7 footer from Piscataway, New Jersey drafted with the 1st overall pick out of Kentucky has been an absolute stud this season. Big KAT, throughout this season’s rookie rundowns has been at the top of the list nearly every article. Towns has been the Western Conference player of the month every month this season as well as being awarded player of the week honors the week of April 4-10. Towns also won the skills competition during All-Star weekend in Toronto. He finished the season leading all rookies in points per game with 18.3 as well as leading in rebounds with 10.5 per game. Towns is the standout piece on a young T’Wolves team that is on the cusp of doing big things. Big KAT’s best game this season was against the Pelicans in a win. Towns had 30 points, 15 rebounds as well as adding 4 assists.
2. Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps has come a long way from being booed by the New York faithful on draft night to getting nicknames like Porzin-God and Alabaster Ewing. The 7’3 20 year old out of Latvia took the Big Apple by storm off the jump becoming the first rookie in NBA history to record at least 500 rebounds, 125 blocks and make 75 three-pointers. Although his season was cut short due to a knee injury Porzingis finished the season 3rd amongst rookies with 14.3 ppg as well as 7.0 rebounds per game. During All-Star weekend Porzingis dropped 30 points on 12-16 shooting in the USA vs World game. The Knicks have a lot to look forward to in this young kid. Porzingis’ best game was against the Hornets where he dropped 29 points while grabbing 11 rebounds, going perfect from 3 point range as well as the free throw line.
3. Devin Booker
Another Kentucky draft pick holding his own this year was Devin Booker. Booker has steadily risen up the ranks in terms of standout rookies this season as his shooting ability is something NBA coaches and GMs are starting to see. While on the Suns Booker averaged just under 14 ppg with 13.8. Since the All-Star break however he averaged 19.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting, 4.2 assists, and 3.2 rebounds. Booker is likely to improve on his shooting ability and will become one of the more prominent shooters in this league. In a loss to Denver, Booker dropped 35 points while adding 5 assists.
4. Jahlil Okafor
The 19 year old rookie out of Duke has had a pretty up and down year however he has been one of the more consistent and better rookies this season. Okafor started out the season as a stud on a very mediocre Sixers team with an impressive resume of scoring games. Okafor’s play and image took a bit of a hit when he was involved in a night club altercations in Boston. The team suspended him for 2 games and it took him a while after the suspension to get back to form. Okafor was shutdown at the beginning of March due to injury. Okafor finished the season averaging 17.5 ppg as well as 7 rebounds per game. It will be interesting to see how the Sixers handle their plethora of big men that are supposed to be on the team next year. Okafor’s best game this season came against the Kings where he dropped 26 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
5. Justice Winslow
One of the least exciting rookies when it comes to offense, Justice Winslow can still be regarded as a top rookie from this year’s draft class. Drafted out of Duke, not only has Winslow been a defensive specialist for a playoff bound Heat team, it’s all the little things that don’t show up in the stat sheet that he does well. Whether it’s taking charges or going for loose balls he is a coaches dream. Over time Winslow will improve offensively. This season he averaged 6.4 ppg and 5.2 rebounds however he did average almost 30 minutes per game. Winslow will be a key piece for Miami if they want to make a deep playoff run. His best game this year was in February in a win against the Pacers pouring in 15 points, 7 assists and 4 assists.
6. D’Angelo Russell
Before the last few weeks Russell was just another rookie trying to get his foot in the door in the NBA. However recently Russell has been all over social media for a video of him recording teammate Nick Young talking about woman other than fiancé Iggy Azaelia. This caused a rift in the locker room causing Russell to be the team outcast. It shouldn’t take away from what Russell has done this season in the midst of Kobe’s farewell tour. Russell averaged 13.2 ppg and 3.3 assists per game. It will be something to see how Russell can win back the locker room for next season on a team that has some potential in the future. D’Angelo’s best performance on the year came against the Nets where he sizzled for 39 points including a pair of clutch 3 pointers in the final minute.
7. Myles Turner
Turner drafted 11th by the Pacers out of Texas made a name for himself in the month of January which was capped off by a game on the road against the Warriors where he put up 31 and 10. For a good part of the season Turner wasn’t even seeing the floor however injuries to players ahead of him gave him the chance he was looking for and he took it and ran with it. Since that stellar month of January Turner has found himself a nice role on a Pacers team looking for an upset in the playoffs. Next season will be interesting to see if Turner will get the starting role as this year Turner averaged 10.3 ppg, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Aside from the Warriors game Turner recently put up 28 and 10 with 2 blocks against the Nets.
8. Nikola Jokic
Probably one of the least known rookie stand outs to the average basketball fan, Jokic has been balling out down there in the mile high city. A skilled passer for his position coupled with being an above average interior scorer, this season for the Nuggets Jokic has averaged a respectable 10 points and 7 rebounds per game. Jokic’s play has been fairly consistent along with fellow rookie Emmanuel Mudiay. Nikola and the Nuggets have some growing to do however but both have some upside in the near future. This season Jokic is third amongst rookies in double doubles with his best game this year coming against the Raptors where he put up 27 points while grabbing 14 rebounds.
9. Willie Cauley-Stein
Another one of the Kentucky studs in the top 10, Cauley-Stein has solidified himself as a solid big man in Sacramento and is only going to get better. Although the stats don’t show it, Cauley-Stein is a good defender being a rim protector while altering shots of smaller players trying to get to the hoop. Stein averaged 7 ppg and 5.3 rebounds per game. Amidst all the drama that is the Kings franchise Cauley-Stein has managed to keep a low profile and let his game do the talking. The pairing of Stein and Cousins with a new coach should help enhance the young kid’s talents. Stein’s finest outing came against Phoenix where he dropped 26 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
10. Emmanuel Mudiay
The rookie coming out of China had a tough start to his first campaign as an NBA player however he quickly righted the ship and established himself as a quality guard. Mudiay has struggled with turnover problems for the better part of the season but also led all rookies in terms of assists. Mudiay averaged 12.8 ppg and 5.5 assists per game, even posting a player efficiency rating of 9.96. Along with fellow rookie Nikola Jokic, Mudiay helped the Nuggets to 33 wins on the year. Mudiay’s best performance came against the Sixers where he scored 27 points, pulled 11 rebounds and had 4 assists. Look for the Nuggets to build the team around Mudiay and Jokic for the future.