As the season is winding down, the rookie class is underwhelming compared to the sophomore class. With studs like Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Devin Booker and Myles Turner, it might seem like an unfair comparison.
With #1 pick and (what would’ve been) the likely ROY frontrunner Ben Simmons out for the season, no one else really stepped up. After Joel Embiid made his long-awaited debut, he made a huge surge up the rookie rankings and a claim to be an All-Star. However, as always, health got in the way as he’ll have only played in 31 games this season.
If Simmons and Embiid were out, that means that Brandan Ingram or Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray would win the award, right?
Nope. As of right now, the Rookie of the Year will be awarded to either Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks or Dario Saric of the Sixers.
While the rookie class seems lackluster, there have been a few bright spots of this class. These guys may not be the next superstars, but they could easily be high-end role players in the NBA. Let’s dive into some rookies outside the lottery that could make a big impact in the NBA:
Point Guard: Tyler Ulis
After Phoenix decided to shut Eric Bledsoe down for the season, Earl Watson handed the keys to Tyler Ulis. The 5’9″ point guard has flourished in his new role.
Since the All-Star break, Ulis is averaging 12.4 points and 7.2 assists in 31.4 minutes of play. While his shooting numbers have been subpar (42.6 percent from the field and 20.4 from 3-point land), he’s shown a knack for orchestrating an offense. In addition, for his size, he isn’t a terrible rebounder (3.0 rebounds).
Oh, and he’s got that clutch gene:
The true barrier to his full potential is obviously his size, but you can’t deny his talent. If the Suns don’t go down the Fultz/Ball route in the draft, they might’ve found their point guard of the future in Tyler Ulis.
Who knows? Maybe we’re looking at the next Isaiah Thomas.
Wing: Malcolm Brogdon
The likely Rookie of the Year was a gem in the second round. There’s no debate around it.
The former Virginia Cavalier has been a huge help to the Bucks’ young core. So far this season, Brogdon is averaging 10.3 points on an impressive 45.7/40.4/86.5 slash-line, 2.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 73 games (26 starts).
His playmaking and 3-and-D abilities compliment Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker perfectly. Because of his solid play, the Milwaukee Bucks will be a difficult matchup for just about anyone in the playoffs. They are one of the few teams that can truly play position-less basketball without giving up a single thing.
This year may not be the season they make a huge playoff run, but let’s think about this: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe, Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon.
Sign me up.
Wing: Patrick McCaw
His stats aren’t that impressive (3.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists), but he’s a gem because he’s essential to the Warriors’ long-term success.
After swooping up on him in the second round, it was obvious why he was selected: free agency. With Steph and Iguodala on the market, the Warriors have a dilemma on their hands.
Hear me out.
Obviously, they have to max out Steph Curry. That’s a given. But with KD, Draymond, Klay and Steph locked up, they need to bring back their glue guy: Andre Iguodala. His defensive prowess and presence off the bench drives this Warriors team. When – I mean if – he gets big bucks somewhere else, the Warriors may have to let him walk. If he opts for a pay-cut, they still need a replacement for Ian Clark.
Insert Patrick McCaw.
He’s shown the potential to be a solid scorer. If he could just develop to that full potential, the Warriors would have a gem out of the second round and could have something they’ve never really had: a microwave scorer … off the bench.
*imagines a 15-0 Steph Curry run followed by a 10-0 Patrick McCaw run*
Power Forward: Skal Labissiere
After posing as a serious threat to overtake Ben Simmons as the number one pick, Skal Labissiere had a forgettable season at Kentucky. He lacked the strength, aggression and confidence. Not taking a risk on his future draft stock, he entered the NBA draft.
After slipping to late in the first round, Skal has found his place once DeMarcus Cousins was traded.
Since the trade, he’s averaging 9.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 20.8 minutes over the course of 21 games. His per-36 numbers for the year are salivating: 16.6 points and 10.5 rebounds. He also dropped the first 30-point game for any rookie this season when he scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Phoenix on 03/15.
On the offensive end, Labissiere has flashed a nice post game and a smooth mid-range jumper. On the other end, he’s shown that he could be a solid rim protector, but not consistently.
If he could bump his block numbers and develop a consistent outside shot, the former hyped prospect will become the biggest steal of this draft – and potentially an All-Star big man.
Center: Deyonta Davis
This one solely depends on how the Grizzlies use him.
Over the years, Memphis hasn’t developed any young talent. They’ve drafted guys like DeMarre Carroll and let him slip away. They’ve signed guys such as Hassan Whiteside. Yeah, you know that story.
After being considered a lottery pick, the Michigan State big man fell into the second round, and the Grizzlies traded for him.
Davis can finish around the rim. More importantly, he’s a lob threat once he’s near the basket. To further his develop on the offensive end, he must develop a consistent post-game and a mid-range jumper.
He has one of the league’s best to learn from:
As the Grizzlies look to build towards the future, they can’t let Deyonta Davis go. His two-way potential is far too valuable to drop.
This draft class is loaded with talent. Tune into the Summer League as most of the 2016 rookies will be in action in bigger roles.