Welcome to Red Shirt Seňor’s special edition basketball blog. I’m going to be back later in the week to talk about the first full week of this season, but today we’re going to look at college basketball through a different lens. Let’s take take a ride into that no defense league they call the NBA and how last year’s best college players are doing at the start of their professional careers.
Before we really dig in I should begin with a statement…
Judging rookies before they’ve played 20 games in the NBA can be tricky. Hell, it can be borderline disingenuous. But if you don’t think there are some NBA front offices that are second guessing their first round drafts choices already, you would be sorely mistaken. Some, including me, might say WAY too early to talk about a re-draft of the 2017 lottery picks. But we’re here to speculate not think rationally.
- Jayson Tatum, Original team/pick: Boston Celtics. #3. New Team: 76ers
While this may be a shock to some, most basketball fans know this already. It’s hard to imagine another player going ahead of him right now. We knew this kid could get buckets, but I don’t think anyone really thought his defense would be where it is at this early in the season. Some of that credit has to go to Brad Stevens, but Tatum has clearly worked hard on it and is clearly ahead of schedule, posting a positive 2.3 defensive box plus/minus. He’s already averaging more than 13.5 points per game and close to 6 rebounds in about 30 minutes. Tatum is doing it on offense efficiently too, shooting 49% from the field shooting even after being thrust into a bigger role due to the Hayward injury. It’s safe to assume that with more experience he will continue to improve this year and beyond, and with Markelle Fultz having some concerning injury issues, Tatum has been the best rookie out of this draft class. What this kid can do has the Celtics foaming at the mouth like Big Baby:
- Lonzo Ball, New/Original Team/Pick: Los Angeles Lakers, #2
No change at the number 2 slot, this one was just meant to be. Lonzo may not be having the greatest start to a rookie campaign, but he is not having a bad season by any stretch of the imagination. He’s still filling up the stat sheet, even if it is with poor percentages. The Ball family staying in Los Angeles is a match made in heaven. I fully expect Lonzo to mature into a dynamite player. His demeanor is drastically different from his father. You could see that in interviews the night he got his first triple-double in a loss. 9.7 points per game, 7.4 assists, and 6.8 rebounds is a good sign. If he starts to make ANY shot from inside 20 feet, he will be more than okay. Given time, and maybe a little breathing room from the shadow of his father, the oldest Ball brother still has some All-Star seasons ahead of him.
- De’Aaron Fox, Original Team/Pick: Sacramento Kings, #5.New Team: Boston Celtics
Before the draft, I believed that Fox would be the best player in this draft. I still think that is true. Fox is an electric talent on both sides of the floor and will have the time and space to grow on the Kings. It won’t be long before he takes over the starting job from George Hill who continues to look like he’s lost a step. He nailed his first game winner last week and Star Fox was born. Averaging 12 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds in 27 minutes, is something the Celtics would not mind having on that team if Jayson Tatum was already out of the question. He would have less time on the court with Kyrie being the main show runner, but being on a better team might quicken his development.
- Kyle Kuzma, Original Team/Pick: Los Angeles Lakers, #27.New Team: Phoenix Suns
This is by far the biggest jump in my re-drafting of the NBA draft lottery. There is NO way Kuzma makes to the 27th overall pick. He’s basically running Julius Randle out of town and making a better run at Rookie of the Year than the number 2 pick in the same situation. He has been efficient in his scoring adding 15 points and 7 rebounds in 31 minutes and shooting just under 30% from 3 (much better than Lonzo and he’s a Forward). Kuzma is the surprise of the class and someone that could cause some sleepless nights for the 25 other teams that passed on him.
- Dennis Smith, Original Team/Pick: Dallas Mavericks, #9.New Team: Sacramento Kings
Dennis Smith and Kyle Kuzma could both be argued for the fourth pick. While I may have chosen Kuzma, this is far from a knock on Smith. Lebron James recently said that the Knicks made a mistake not picking him, and while I agree, they don’t even get the chance in a re-draft. He’s averaging almost 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists by breaking down his defenders in under 30 minutes a game. The Mavs lean on him a lot more than other rookies and he’s easily one of the most electrifying players in the draft. His athleticism will carry him for years to come in the NBA and looks like a surefire future NBA All-Star. Man do I wish the Knicks had taken him.
- Lauri Markkanen, Original Team/Pick: Chicago Bulls, #7.New Team: Orlando Magic
Lauri Markkanen is the biggest surprise to me in terms of remaining in the top ten. I didn’t see it in him before the draft, but he has proved me wrong early on in the season. There’s a reason why some cats call him “Baby Dirk.” 14.5 points, almost 8 rebounds and the 7-footer is still shooting above 35% from the 3 point line. He is a solid first building block that for a Bulls team that has a long way to go before they are back to competing on a consistent basis.
- Donovan Mitchell, Original Team/Pick: Utah Jazz, #13.New Team: Chicago Bulls
I was such a huge fan of Donovan Mitchell while he was at Louisville. I thought he would be a great player in the NBA but I also thought it would take a few years. Mitchell was quietly having one of the best rookie seasons this year and then had his coming out party against the Nets last week. He exploded for 26 points and made some huge plays down the stretch showing the type of impact Mitchell can have on a night to night run. He’s averaging over 14 points 1.5 steals, in under 30 minutes a game. If Exum ever gets healthy, that could make for a must-watch backcourt for a very young team.
- John Collins, Original Team/Pick: Atlanta Hawks, #19.New Team: New York Knicks
John Collins would be an interesting prospect for the Knicks to draft at 8. I love what Frank Ntilikina has done in his minutes but the prospect of having another young guy close to 7 feet in the paint with Porzingis would be fun to watch. The only thing that concerns me is the front court is already so crowded I’m not sure how many minutes Collins would get. Nonetheless, he has thrived on the rebuilding Hawks. In addition to his 10 points and 7 rebounds, he is leading the Hawks in player efficiency rating (PER) and win shares per 48 minutes. He still has to add some more to add to his game to continue his progression, but that’s a hell of a start if you ask me.
- Josh Jackson, Original Team/Pick: Phoenix Suns, #4.New Team: Dallas Mavericks
It seems unfair to put Josh Jackson this low, this early in the season. He has a ton of raw talent. Jackson falling to 9 is more about what other rookies have done than Jackson playing poorly. He is only getting about 20 minutes a game, checking in with 9 points and 3 rebounds a game. But if you look at his per 36 numbers, it seems to be more what you expect from a top 5 pick.
Upping to 15.5 points and 5.9 rebounds is a much more accurate assessment of Josh Jackson in my eyes who must deal with a very poorly constructed Suns team.
- Malik Monk, Original Team/Pick: Charlotte Hornets, #11.New Team: Sacramento Kings
My god is Monk fun to watch. My favorite shooting form in this draft class, so damn pure.
He has to work on shot selection, but he has provided quite the spark of the bench for the Charlotte Hornets. This team struggles with Kemba Walker off the floor but as Monk adjusts to the NBA grind, I think in time he will be the certified leader of that bench unit. If for no other reason than necessity. Averaging 9.6 points on under 35% shooting is not ideal, but Monk has shown enough promise to warrant being selected in the top ten still.
- Frank Ntilikina, Original Team/Pick: New York Knicks, #8.New Team: Charlotte Hornets
It hurt to drop Franky Smokes out of the top ten as a Knicks fan, but as good as he’s looked on defense and in spirts on offense, his production does not justify a top ten selection at this point. I still believe he could be a very good game manager, and will provide a much improved reprieve from the lackluster defensive guards the Knicks are accustomed to. He’s already second on the Knicks in defensive box plus-minus. The Hornets could use a defensive presence to back up Kemba at this pick as well. About 4.5 points and assists in 20 minutes a game doesn’t look flashy but you really need to watch the games to see his impact on the floor. It will be a few years before his numbers catch up with the prospect’s flashes, but seems like he will at the very least be a very serviceable starting point guard.
- Jonathan Issac, Original Team/Pick: Orlando Magic, #6.New Team: Detroit Pistons
The next two picks are not the sexist, but I think both make sense because I think they will be rotation players with starting capabilities after a few years in the league. Jonathan Issac is currently sitting at six points and 4 and a half rebounds, on a good magic team, where people did not think he would start off getting very many minutes (currently at 20 min per game). Issac’s impact has been mostly on the defensive end for the Magic, a nice compliment for Vucevic. I believe the offensive will come with time. He would be in a similar situation in Detroit so I think the pick makes sense.
- Bam Adebayo, Original Team/Pick: Miami Heat, #14.New Team: Denver Nuggets
Bam moves up one spot in the re-draft. He showed some great flashes early in the season starting in three games for the Heat with Whiteside’s absence. It’ll be tough for him to get meaningful time with James Johnson getting minutes at the four in addition to Whiteside and Olynyk getting a huge chunk of the big man minutes. His 4 points and 4 rebounds doesn’t exactly show his talent, but he’s doing it in under 15 minutes a game. I could even seeing Bam getting some time in the G-League as the year goes on so he still getsin-game action. It may not come to fruition this year, but Bam is an X-factor player in the future and will survive at least ten year in the NBA solely because of his name being BAM.
- Markelle Fultz, Original Team/Pick: Philadelphia 76ers, #1. New Team: Miami Heat
This is probably unfair to the number one pick in the draft. He has a small sample size, and when he did play, he was very clearly hurt. However, it is fair to say that Fultz’s shoulder injury is concerning. I don’t think he’d fall completely out of the lottery because he has all of the talent in the world, but hearing he can’t lift his arm above his shoulder is not something you invest in with a top overall pick. Can’t the Sixers draft just ONE player who can play their first year in the league?
Jordan Bell, Dillion Brooks, OG Anunoby, Semi Ojeleye, Jabari Bird (Larry Bird back?)
Some of these mentions aren’t players that have had a chance to make a giant impact but all are in the top 20 in win shares per 48 minutes. The Celtics have three in the top ten.
I HATE that the Celtics have 3 rookies that look like impact players in the League, it just infuriates me that an organization is being run that well, with a coach that good. Why can’t the Knicks have nice things?
It’s a damn shame that no one here has a shot at rookie of the year because Ben Simmons is a freak of nature, once in a lifetime player. As long as he stays healthy he will continue to turn the league on it’s head. So that’s it. These are the rookie’s final judgment and they will never be any better or worse. It’s definitely not too early to say anything about their futures and nothing will have changed a month, or even a week from now.