NBA Summer League gives us a great chance to see some of the new rookies who will be taking the NBA by storm next season. Summer league shows us which guys might be up for the challenge the NBA presents and it also shows us the guys who may need a little more time. It's never too early to make some bold predictions as to who we think will win Rookie of the Year next season. Let's take a look at the top 10 guys who have a chance to win the award next year, and who might be named to the all rookie teams.
Kicking off our rookie of the year projections will be Florida State product Jonathan Isaac. Isaac was the 6th pick in this years draft by the Orlando Magic so he'll just be moving down the road from Florida State. Isaac was a one and done player at Florida State and averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds in his lone season with the Seminoles. Isaac only played in three games for the Magic during summer league after a hip injury forced him to be sidelined for the rest of the tournament.
Isaac showed flashes during summer league though averaging 10.3 points and 8 rebounds per game. Isaac should get a lot of minutes with the Magic next year as he will more than likely be the back up to Aaron Gordon. Look for Isaac to have a productive rookie season and possibly a great one if someone gets injured in front of him forcing him to step up during the season.
Fox is next on the list and is expected to play a big role in the future of the Sacramento Kings. Fox was selected with the 5th pick in this years draft out of the University of Kentucky. Fox is just another one of the great guards out of Kentucky and posses great speed in his game just like former Kentucky guard John Wall. Fox averaged 16.7 points and 4.6 assist per game in his lone season with the Wildcats.
Fox had a good summer league playing in four games while averaging almost 12 points per game and 3 assists per game. It'll be interesting to see how much playing time Fox gets in his rookie season after the Kings signed veteran point guard George Hill this offseason. Hill has had a history with injuries so you never know when it'll be Fox's time to shine. Still, look for him to get the bulk of the teams second unit point guard minutes and to possibly have a bigger role later in the season.
A few weeks ago I raved at how much I love Teodosic's game and how he can be such an important piece in the Clippers success this upcoming season. Teodosic will more than likely be the starting point guard for the Clippers to open the season so he'll get a lot of time to shine and play with the first unit in Los Angeles. Don't look for Teodosic to put up eye popping numbers, but highlight reel type plays instead. Voters are going to love the highlight reel plays with the new and improved lob city and that'll be enough to get him looked at as a rookie of the year candidate in my opinion.
Jackson sits at number seven on the list after a productive summer league with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns drafted Jackson with the 4th pick in this years draft out of the University of Kansas where Jackson averaged 16.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Jackson played one year at Kansas where he was a productive player on both ends of the floor and had some electric plays for the Jayhawks.
Jackson impressed at summer league, where he averaged 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Jackson should open as the Sun's starting small forward to start the season over TJ Warren which will allow Jackson to get a lot more minutes. Jackson is one of the faces of a pretty young Suns team and is a guy the franchise is looking to build around for years to come. Jackson has come up in recent speculation around a Kyrie Irving trade, but the team has said they aren't going to include Jackson in any trade talks. Probably a smart move to hang on to Jackson as he could be the face of the franchise one day, and that starts next year when he may even win rookie of the year.
Mitchell was one of the star's of the NBA Summer League where he shined for the Utah Jazz. Mitchell was taken at #13 by the Denver Nuggets on draft night and then shipped to Utah for the #24 pick and Trey Lyles. Mitchell looks like a great pick up so far for Utah after he averaged over 15 points and 3 assists per game in the Utah Summer League, and then averaged 28 points per game in two games at the Las Vegas Summer League. Mitchell made some highlight reel plays at summer league and gave Jazz fans a lot of excitement about their new guard.
As you can see Mitchell is pretty explosive and is a force to be reckoned with on the court. Mitchell will probably slot in behind Rodney Hood at the shooting guard position next season and will get a lot of time with the second unit. That could be good for Mitchell because he'll be the face of the unit and will do a lot of the playmaking for the team when on the court. An injury could also allow Mitchell to become a starter and earn more minutes on the court, and it'll all depend on how many minutes he gets in his first season that'll dictate whether or not he is in the conversation at the end of the year for rookie of the year. If Mitchell is on the court he's a sure fire spark plug for the Jazz and could be the difference maker in the teams playoff hopes next season.
Tatum was the third pick in the draft by the Boston Celtics out of Duke University. In one year at Duke Tatum averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Like Donovan Mitchell, Tatum played in both the Utah Summer League and in the Las Vegas Summer League. In Utah, Tatum averaged 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in 3 games, while in Vegas he averaged similar numbers with 17.7 PPG and 8 RPG in 3 games. Tatum showed off a ton of what made him the third pick in the draft by bringing energy to the Celtics line-up and being consistent in knocking down his jump shots.
At the small forward position Tatum has Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown in front of him at the moment, but he could possibly get some minutes at the power forward spot. The Celtics only true power forwards on the roster right now are Marcus Morris and Semi Ojeleye so Tatum could get some minutes there next season.
Like most rookies, it might be hard for Tatum to get minutes on a crowded Celtics roster but all it takes is that one opportunity to make a play and earn more playing time. Tatum highlighted in summer league why the Celtics took him with the third pick so it'll be interesting to see what they do from here on with there roster. If they don't consolidate and trade some players already on the roster it may be hard for Tatum to showcase his talent in his rookie season.
Mr. BBB himself comes up at #4 on the list and may garner the most attention out of any rookie in the NBA next season. Aside from all the publicity and hype around Lonzo and the Laker's he actually had a pretty solid summer league. Winning MVP of the Summer League certainly is a big first step and made Laker nation excited for what the future has in store for the teams starting point guard. Lonzo played in six summer league games averaging 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 9.3 assist per game. After almost averaging a triple double in summer league and all the excitement he brought to the summer league games it was an easy choice to who was the summer league MVP.
Hopefully Lonzo will carry over the success he had in summer league to the regular season and help the Lakers compete in the brutal Western Conference. Lonzo isn't going to light up the stat sheet every night in terms of points, but he should have no issue doing that with assists. Lonzo displayed great passing ability and a high basketball IQ during his time at UCLA and at summer league and his passing has taken the league by storm. Lonzo's hail mary passes and ability to get his teammates involved is such an exciting part of his game and could certainly be the most exciting thing to watch during his rookie season. If Lonzo is able to improve his shot and his scoring ability he'll definitely be at the top of most lists in rookie of the year voting at the end of the season.
The Ben Simmons era should officially start this season in Philadelphia and he'll certainly be an important piece of the puzzle if the Sixers are going to make it back to the postseason. Simmons was sidelined all last season due to injury so this upcoming season will technically be his rookie season. Simmons was the first pick in the 2016 draft by the Sixers out of LSU where he averaged 19.2 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game in his only college season. Simmons did play with the Sixers in last years summer league where he played four games and averaged 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Simmons has yet to play for the Sixers in a regular season game and is slated to be the starting small forward for the Sixers this upcoming season. Simmons himself has said that he's a point guard, but with the team recently drafting Markelle Fultz I certainly see him as one of the teams starting forwards. We don't really know what he have in Simmons yet at the NBA level and it's kind of like the situation the Sixers just experienced with Joel Embiid. Although Embiid wasn't the first pick in the draft he did miss his first two seasons in the league due to injury. If Simmons plays like he did at LSU though there should be no question that he'll be at the top of the list in rookie of the year voting at seasons end.
Fultz was the number one pick in the NBA draft this year after the Sixers completed a trade with the Celtics to get the first pick. Fultz is just another part of "the process" for the Sixers and gets them that much closer to there first playoff appearance since the 2011-2012 season. Fultz is a product of the University of Washington and averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assist per game in his only season at the school. Fultz was a dominating force in the Pac-12 last year and was awarded at the end of the year by being named to the Pac-12 All First Team.
Fultz was another big name who competed in summer league and played in both the Utah Summer League and the Las Vegas Summer League. In 3 games in Utah Fultz averaged 20 points per game and over 3 rebounds and 3 assist per game as well. Fultz only played in one game at the Las Vegas scoring 8 points before his summer league was cut short due to a sprained ankle. Luckily the injury isn't that severe and Fultz will be back soon. The Sixers definitely dodged a bullet on that one.
Fultz will be the leader of the Sixers offense and will run the show with nice complimentary players like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and newly acquired shooting guard JJ Reddick. Fultz will be able to get his on the offensive end of the court and will have great teammates around him to get assists as well. Fultz was the guy at Washington last year and did a lot of the teams scoring so it'll be interesting to see how his passing translates in the NBA. Fultz is sure to put up some big numbers if he stays healthy and if the Sixers make the playoffs it'll sure help his case in rookie of the year voting.
One of the most electric players if not the most electric player in this years draft class. Smith Jr. was drafted 9th by the Dallas Mavericks in this years draft and took the NBA Summer League by storm with some of the amazing plays he was able to make. Smith Jr. averaged 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game for the Mavericks in the Las Vegas Summer League. Smith Jr's game is built off his energy and his ability to play at 110% all the time. His energy really helps him on offensive end of the court because it allows him to blow by his defender whenever he wants to go to the rack, but he's also able to step out and knock down a mid-range jumper or a three-pointer whenever he needs too.
Smith Jr. couldn't have gotten drafted by a better team either in the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas has a perfect mix of veterans on the roster and a great coach in Rick Carlisle who are going to put him in a position to have success. There's no reason Smith Jr. shouldn't be the Mavericks starting point guard from day one which helps give him an advantage over some other rookies in terms of how many minutes he's going to play. The electricity he plays with is just so much fun to watch and the tenacity he brings on both ends of the court is incredible. I think Smith Jr. has the ability to be a really good defender in the NBA as well because of the passion he plays with. He won't stop harassing his opponent and he has that ability to get under opposing players skin on both ends of the floor.
You can pretty much pencil in Smith Jr. for the dunk contest as well after the show he put on at Summer League and the videos he's been posting on instagram. No rim within 30 miles is safe and the dunk contest will most certainly give Smith Jr. some great publicity. I think this drafts point guard class has the potential to be very good and even though Smith Jr. was the fifth point guard taken in the class I feel like he may end up being the best one. All the rookie point guard's game's are different and Smith Jr's has a little Russell Westbrook to it with the explosiveness he plays with every single night. I see one of these ten guys on the list winning Rookie of the Year, but if I had to bet on it right now I'd give it to Dennis Smith Jr.
Sleeper: Derrick White
Derrick White is my sleeper for rookie of the year and it really just depends on how much playing time he's going to get in San Antonio. White was the point guard for the University of Colorado last season after sitting out a year due to eligibility reasons after he played two seasons at UCCS (University of Colorado Colorado Springs). UCCS is a division II program and White holds school records for career points and assists. During his senior year at CU white averaged 18.1 points and 4.4 assist per game and was voted to the Pac-12 All First Team and All-Defensive team.
White reminds me a lot of Malcolm Brogdan who took home the rookie of the year this past season. Brogdan flew mostly under the radar for most of the season and when he got a chance to step up with the Bucks he took advantage of it. White will more than likely have to do the same thing as he'll be pretty low on the Spurts depth chart to start the season, but White does posses the ability to play shooting guard as well. The great thing is that the Spurs have a great organization and love guys like Derrick White. White's a great player who doesn't particularly do one thing really well, but all parts of his game are solid. Look for White to be this years Malcom Brogdan if he can carve out a bigger role in his first season with the Spurs.
All Rookie Teams:
PG: Dennis Smith Jr.
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Ben Simmons
PF: Jason Tatum
C: Bam Adebayo
PG: Markelle Fultz
SG: Malik Monk
SF: Josh Jackson
PF: Jonathan Isaac
C: Zach Collins
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Luke Kennard
SF: Justin Jackson
PF: TJ Leaf
C: Jarrett Allen
*All stats are courtesy of sports-reference.com and NBA.com