Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Ben Simmons has had a stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking in the 2017 NBA Rookie Power Rankings through the first two months. But it seems that the race seems to be tightening with the Lakers Kyle Kuzma and Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell making a huge push recently. And Jayson Tatum is still having an excellent season for the Celtics.
The following is the third look at my top rookie power rankings this season.
Stats are current as of Dec. 24.
Justin Jackson, Sindarius Thornwell, Brandon Paul, Jonathan Isaac, Luke Kennard, Markelle Fultz, Mike James (13)
Jamil Wilson, Royce O’Neale, Tyler Cavanaugh, CJ Williams
Honorable mention (no particular order)
CJ Williams Tyler Cavanaugh, Juwan Evans, Deyonta Davis, Royce O’Neale, Jamil Wilson
20. Maxi Kleber, 19. Jarrett Allen, 18. Milos Teodosic, 17. De’Aaron Fox, 16. Frank Mason
Rookies Ranked between 20 and 15
15. Frank Ntilikina, +3 spots
The 19-year-old Belgium native has had an up-and-down month and season overall. He has tallied double-figures in scoring in three of his past eight contests while distributing at least three dimes five times during this stretch. Ntilikina is producing 11.5 points, 4.1 boards and 6.5 assists per 40 minutes.
14. Dillon Brooks, +3 spots
Brooks has put up double-figure points in three of his last four games as he has seen an uptick in 3-point shooting, making 11-of-17 (64.7%) from long-range during this stretch. Brooks is producing 11.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per 40 minutes while registering a 55.5% true shooting percentage.
13. Jordan Bell, +2 spots
Bell has seen his most extended time of the season over the last six games, producing one double-double while averaging 9.3 points along with 5.8 caroms, 3.6 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals during this stretch. The Oregon product leads all rookies and is second in the league overall with a true shooting percentage of 72.2%.
12. Josh Jackson, +2 spots
Jackson has scored in double-figures in four of five games and is averaging 9.7 points over his last eight games — all starts. He is producing 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per 40 minutes despite having a 44.5% true shooting percentage, which ranks 33rd out of 37 qualified rookies.
11. Bam Adebayo, +5 spots
Adebayo has one double-double and five double-digit scoring efforts in his last eight games. He is producing 14.0 points along with 9.6 boards per 40 minutes while registering a 64.6% true shooting percentage.
Top 10 Candidates For Rookie of the Year
10. Dennis Smith Jr., -3 spots
13.8 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.9 RPG, 39.2% FG, 30.8% 3PT
Smith returned on Dec. 20 after missing six games with a hip strain. And he has struggled in his three games since coming back, tallying 27 points as he has made just 9-of-25 (36.0%) shots during this stretch. Still, he has scored in double-figures in four of his six games in December, where he is averaging 11.8 points along with 4.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 41.5% from the floor.
Smith is at his best when he is out in transition and penetrating into the lane.
Smith ranks in the top-10 among all rookies in several categories.
9. OG Anunoby, +1 spot
6.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, 50.0.% FG, 45.6% 3PT
Anunoby is a defensive force who does the little things very well. However, there are times that he does not put up numbers that are associated with the value he provides. Like in the two recent games against Philadelphia (Dec. 21 and 23), Anunoby posted six points along with six rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Anunoby, who is super athletic, is an excellent shooter with a quick release.The 6-8 combo forward knows what he does best, which is finishing around the rim or hanging out beyond the arc. He gets over 91% of his points from the paint and beyond the 3-point line with 57.5% coming from long-distance.
Anunoby ranks ninth with 1.3 treys a game and third in 3-point percentage among rookies.
8. Bogdan Bogdanovic, +1 spot
10.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.5% FG, 36.3% 3PT
The 25-year-old Serbian has apparently found his shooting stroke. Bogdanovic was 6-for-6 from the floor, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, in the Kings loss to San Antonio on December 23. Bogdanovic has now made over his 50% of his shots in five of his last seven games and six times overall in the month of December. He is having his best month of the season, producing 11.5 points along with 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 49.5% from the floor and 40.4% from beyond the arc.
Bogdanovic, who mainly hangs out on the perimeter, is a pure shooter. He has posted an effective shooting percentage of 54.1% and a 56.7% true shooting percentage.
Bogdanovic is better off the dribble than in catch and shoot situations. The 6-6 wing knocks down 47.7% of his shots off the dribble as he makes 50% of his shots from two-point range and 44.1% of his 3-point shots. In the meantime, he only drains 37.5% of his shots in catch and shot situations as he makes 69.2% of his two-point attempts and 31.3% of his 3-point attempts.
Bogdanovic ranks ninth in points per game and fifth in free throw percentage (80.5%) among all rookies. He is also fifth in steals and tied-for-third in steals.
7. John Collins, -1 spot
11.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.9 BPG, 61.9% FG
Collins has posted three straight double-figure scoring efforts and now has four games of 10 or more points in six December contests. Collins has made 19 of 24 shots over his last three games as he has produced 47 points. He is averaging 12.2 points, 7.0 caroms, 1.2 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 73.2% from the field in the month.
Collins has been at his best in screening situations and when hitting the glass. The Wake Forest product is involved in 3.3 pick-n-rolls where he is the roller per game or 33.1% of the possessions he is involved in. He produces 3.4 points in this situation, which is a team high, though just 1.06 points per possession as he shoots 55.6% in these play types.
Collins ranks in the top-30 among qualified players in rebound percentage at 17.9%. The 6-10 power forward is also seventh in offensive rebounding percentage (15.1%).
Among rookies that have appeared in at least 15 games, Collins is first in offensive caroms and total rebounds per game as well as fourth in scoring per 40 minutes. Collins is sixth in true shooting percentage at 63.6. In addition, he is second in field goal percentage and fifth in double-doubles with four.
6. Lauri Markkanen, -1 spot
14.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 APG 40.9% FG, 32.3% 3PT
Markkanen seems to be working back into form after missing three games with a back injury. Markkanen has tallied 37 points on 15-of-27 (55.5%) shooting, including 3-of-7 (42.8%) from beyond the arc, over the last two games. 25, which are his most points this month, of those 37 points came against Cleveland on Dec. 21. He is averaging 14.8 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 44.1% from the floor in the month of December.
Markkanen, who is an excellent defensive rebounder, spends most of his time on the offensive end near the rim or beyond the arc. He is making 64.0% of his within three feet of the rim, although only 23.9% of his total shot attempts are from that distance. On the other hand, he is attempting nearly half of shots from beyond the arc. While the 7-foot center is making 2.1 treys a game for the season, Markkanen is shooting just 29.5% from long-distance in the month of December and is making just 1.4 triples a contest.
Among rookies, Markkanen ranks fourth in points per game, second in 3-pointers made and second in rebounds. He leads all first-year players in free throw percentage at 85.5%.
5. Lonzo Ball, +3 spots
10.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 34.9% FG, 29.7% 3PT
Ball is enjoying his finest six-game stretch of his career as he has scored in double-figures in each of the games while also compiling two double-doubles. The UCLA product, who has struggled all season with his shot, has shot over 45.0% from the field in four of his last six games. More impressively, he has made multiple 3-pointers in each of these six games and is shooting 18-of-40 (45%) from beyond the arc during this recent stretch.
Ball has put up 12.2 points along with 6.7 caroms and 6.8 dimes in 10 December games. He is also shooting 42.2% from the field and 37.2% from beyond the arc while draining 2.0 treys a game for the month.
Ball does most of his work from beyond the 3-point line and on a fast break. The 6-6 point guard has accumulated 45.3% of his points from long distance and 12.2% in transition as he is averaging 1.2 fastbreak points per game.
Ball has produced seven double-doubles and two triple-doubles, which ranks third and second among rookies, respectively, He tops the rookie class in assist ratio (32.9%) and is second in assist-to-turnover (2.49). He also ranks 10th in points per game, sixth in 3-pointers per game (1.5), second in assists and fourth in rebounds per game.
4. Jayson Tatum, -2 spots
13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 50.8% FG, 49.1% 3PT
This is the lowest the 6-8 small forward has been in the rookie power rankings. Tatum is producing the best month of the season so far, reaching double-digits in 11 of his 13 games in December. He is averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 boards while shooting 53.4% from the floor and 50.0% from beyond the arc.
Tatum gets almost 33% of his points from the three-point line. But he has shown he can score a number of ways as he is getting 14.7% of his points in transition (2.0), 12.0% from midrange and 21.7% from the charity stripe. Tatum is drawing 2.6 fouls a contest.
Tatum leads all rookies in three-point percentage and ranks second in that category overall. He is fifth in points and sixth in rebounds per game among rooks.In addition, Tatum tops all rookies with 3.0 made free throws a game and is third in free throw percentage at 83.1%.
3. Kyle Kuzma, +1 spot
17.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 50.1% FG, 40.6% 3PT
Kuzma has been tearing it up on the offensive end, lately. The former Utah Ute has scored 18 or more points in each of his last six games, which a career-high 38 in win over Houston on Thursday. He is averaging 24.6 points. 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 53.0% from the field and 51.3% from beyond the arc over the last six games.
Kuzma is very versatile and can score basically score anywhere on the floor. The 6-9 forward has shown the ability to score in the paint, in transition, on putbacks and from beyond the arc. His only weakness on the offensive end is in the midrange, where he is attempting less than 7% of his shots while shooting 32.0%.
Kuzma is second among rookies both in double-doubles and scoring. He is also third in 3-point field goal makes (1.9), eighth in 3-point percentage, tied for third in free throws made a game (2.2), and fifth in rebounds per game among all rookies.
2. Donovan Mitchell, +1 spot
18.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 43.6% FG, 36.5% 3PT
While Kuzma has been heating it up lately, Mitchell has been on fire for the whole month. The 21-year-old combo guard lit OKC up for 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting on Dec. 23. The performance was the Louisville product has compiled double-figures in nine of 10 games this month, including seven games of at least 20 points. Mitchell is averaging 24.1 points while shooting 51.4% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc.
Mitchell is an athletic combo guard can score anywhere on the court. He prefers to get into the paint or shoot the three-pointer. He also has been pretty good shooting the long two-pointer, between 16 and 22 feet, making 46.3% of those shots. However, he has struggled in short and midrange area, making just 30.5% and 24.0% of those shots, respectively
Mitchell leads all rookies in points per games and 3-pointers mades (2.1). He is second in free throw percentage (84.9%) and steals.
1. Ben Simmons, No movement
17.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 7.7 APG, 2.0 SPG, 51.1% FG
Simmons has three double-doubles and a triple-double in his last seven games to give him 18 DD’s and four TD’s on the season, both of which leads all rookies. He has scored in double-figures in nine of 11 games in December, including three occasions where he has scored 20 or more points. Overall, Simmons is averaging 14.5 points along with 8.7 assists and 7.9 rebounds for the month of December.
Simmons does most of work on the offensive end in the paint. He gets 79.6% of his points (13.6) in the paint. The 6-10 point guard’s major weakness is his outside and free throw shooting.
Simmons leads all rookies in rebounding, assists and steals. The LSU product is third in scoring and seventh in field goal percentage among qualified rookies. He is also first in assist percentage at 33.2%, steals and PIE (14.5).
On a negative note, Simmons tops the league in turnovers (4.0).