Making it to the NBA is one of the most difficult things any young athlete in the world can ever accomplish, as just a handful of hoopers have what it takes to stand out from the rest of the pack.
Naturally, most young players actually struggle a lot during their rookie season, as they need to make a lot of mental and physical adjustments in order to be successful in the most competitive league in the world.
But, once the game starts to slow down for them, they take a step forward and prove why they made it to the league for the first time. Today, we’ll give you a few examples of this trend, letting you know about the top 10 best sophomores in the NBA.
10. Derrick White
The Spurs did it again. They drafted a guy with the 29th overall pick, and turned him into a huge factor, even in the playoffs. With Dejounte Murray out for the season and Tony Parker heading out the door, he didn’t hesitate to take the starting point guard spot.
White exceeded all expectations in his sophomore season after barely playing at all during his rookie year, and really exploded as a scorer in the playoffs. This year, he averaged 9.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.
9. Jarrett Allen
Jarrett Allen has already stuffed some of the best players in the world, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin, and LeBron James, but he’s been way more than just a shot-blocker.
Besides being a top-tier rim protector, Allen was great as a roll man next to D’Angelo Russell, and while he may not be the modern type of big man, he’s a great rim-running big with a bright future ahead of him. This year, he averaged 10.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game.
8. Dennis Smith Jr
The Dallas Mavericks took a major gamble by trading away Dennis Smith Jr to the New York Knicks in return for Kristaps Porzingis, as they thought he wasn’t much of a fit next to Luka Doncic.
Still, Smith Jr is one of the most promising young guards in the world, even if he kind of regressed throughout the first half of the season. Averaging 13.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game, he’s going to be good for a very long time.
7. De’Aaron Fox
De’Aaron Fox’s career didn’t get off to the best of starts, as he really struggled to get his shot to fall and went through several injuries. Still, since his breakout after last year’s All-Star break, he’s just been a major stud for the Kings.
Fox is incredibly fast and aggressive in both ends of the floor and has already shown that he’s not afraid of the spotlight in crunch time. Sadly, his team didn’t make the playoffs, but he was great with averages of 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game.
6. Lauri Markkanen
Lauri Markkanen was only able to make 52 appearances this season as he was healing an injury, but he was a living proof that the Chicago Bulls had won the Jimmy Butler trade as soon as he dressed in shorts.
Markkanen is an underrated defender and a much better rebounder than Kristaps Porzingis while providing the same spacing and scoring ability. During his sophomore season, he averaged 18.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game.
5. John Collins
John Collins is slowly proving why he was one of the biggest sleepers of last year’s Draft. He really improved as a shooter and provided a lot of spacing for the Hawks offense with his ability to knock down three-pointers.
He can play both forward spots or as a small-ball center and developed a great rapport with Trae Young, which is great news for this team going forward. He averaged 19.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.
4. Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum was, by far, one of the most impressive rookies of the past season, not only for all of the little things he could do, but how efficiently he could do it in both ends of the floor, and how mature he was to step up for the injury-riddled Celtics.
Now, Tatum is enjoying a great sophomore season as well, and he’s shown that he’s got what it takes to be a franchise player one day. This year, he’s averaged 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game.
3. Kyle Kuzma
There’s a reason why Kyle Kuzma is one of the biggest steals of the last 10 Drafts or so, and that’s his determination to prove he’s better than most of the guys that went way ahead of him in the Draft.
Kuzma has a sweet shooting stroke and really understands the game. He’s the best young scorer of the team already and is only going to get better. This year, he averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
2. Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell drew a lot of criticism earlier in the season as he mightily struggled to build on his breakout rookie season, but, as all great players do, he turned the table and led his Utah Jazz to the playoffs.
He’s already the leader on and off the court for his team despite being just 22 years old, and while efficiency was a major issue in the playoffs, he’s just incredibly talented. This season, he averaged 23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game.
1. Ben Simmons
While you may argue that Ben Simmons is not actually a sophomore, his 2017-18 Rookie of the Year award can tell you otherwise. Either way, Simmons has been a stud all year long for the Sixers.
Simmons can do it all – but shoot three-pointers – and is already one of the best playmakers in the league. Once he develops a jump-shot, he’ll have a shot to be the most dominant player in the league. So far, he’s averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game.