DAR Sports: The 8 Best NBA Rookies So Far This Season

By @TrueGodImmortal

The NBA season is underway and seems to be getting better as the games go by. Teams are finding their identify and settling into it, as the playoff picture will begin to shape up a little more clearly (the top teams at least) in the coming weeks. Usually, when the season begins, there are one, maybe two or three rookies at best that shine and get talk of becoming Rookie Of The Year. This year, we are looking quite possibly the best batch of rookies in many seasons and with that being said, I wanted to take a look at the 8 best rookies so far over these first 13-14 games. It was tough picking the top 8 choices, as I had to leave off other impressive rookies like Jordan Bell from the Golden State Warriors, Malik Monk from  the Charlotte Hornets, John Collins from the Atlanta Hawks, and a few others. With such a stacked rookie field, who makes the list? Let's take a look.

8. De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings, 11.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.2 APG)

-Though not a regular part of the starting rotation for the Sacramento Kings yet, Fox has made a name for himself and been successful for the most part. Though the Kings aren't likely to be in contention for a playoff spot, being able to witness the growth of Fox in future seasons should be a lot of fun. He has yet to have a huge breakout performance this year, but he has played over 25 minutes in most of the games this season, and he had a huge moment with his game winner to seal a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. When Fox becomes a full time starter (he's started two games so far this season), it will be interesting to see his development, but so far, he's shown he's capable of handling the role he's been given.

7. Lonzo Ball (Los Angeles Lakers, 9.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.1 BPG)

-Lonzo is only making this list now due to his performances and his renewed aggression in his last two games. Otherwise, there would be no reason to even include him here. Lonzo hasn't had many great games so far, but with the youngest triple double in NBA history and more focus, he might work his way up the ladder again slowly. He's not going to win Rookie Of The Year likely and to be honest, he's not even the best rookie on his team, but defensively I can say he's been better in spurts than I expected. He has nights where he can block shots and force steals, and his impact on the team shows in how they move the ball. So far this year, Lonzo has been given a lot of responsibility as a rookie, playing 34 minutes a game so far, and while his scoring hasn't been the best, his passing has dazzled audiences so far, as he's passed for over 8 assists in a game 6 times so far. Lonzo has a bright future ahead, and if we can get him to be more aggressive and find more confidence in his shot, great things can happen for the Lakers.

6. Dennis Smith Jr.
(Dallas Mavericks, 14.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.0 SPG)

-I wasn't sure how well DSJ would fit into the Mavs system, and so far, it hasn't produced many wins, but the fact is, he seems capable of handling the role he's been given. He came into the Mavericks lineup as a starter and has played 29 minutes a game so far, shouldering a huge load of work for the team. DSJ has won the praise of many so far, including LeBron James, and his averages are among the highest for rookies this season. His two best performances this season came against the Wizards and Cavs, showing he can put up numbers and score against top teams in the NBA. DSJ has a bright future in the league and though he isn't a likely Rookie Of The Year top candidate, he definitely can make the All Rookie team once the year is out if he keeps up this level of play and continues to get better.

5. Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz, 13.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.2 SPG)

-Right now, the Jazz aren't a playoff contender, and Donovan has some improving to do, but truth be told, he's doing pretty well. He's started in 5 of the 13 games so far this season, and he's showcased his ability to score well and play solid defense. The thing that makes Donovan such a joy to watch on the court is that he can have explosive offense and has shown he isn't afraid to put up 20 shots a night to help lead the team to victory. Scoring wise, he has some of the best rookie performances with his 28 point performance against the Blazers in a win, a 25 point game in a crushing loss to the Raptors, and his 26 point performance that helped lift the Jazz over the Nets for a victory. Donovan can only get better from here.

4. Lauri Markkanen (Chicago Bulls, 14.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 APG)

-I'll admit, I wasn't completely sold on this guy when the Bulls drafted him initially, and although he was solid in Arizona, that doesn't always translate into the NBA. However, I'm glad I was wrong. Lauri could be a new cornerstone for the Bulls moving forward and I think he has a bright future ahead of him. So far this season, he's put up three double doubles, including a solid 14 point and 12 rebound performance against the Hawks, which would bring the Bulls one of their only two wins. His biggest scoring performance came against Miami, when he dropped 25 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in a crushing loss. The Bulls tend to mismanage their personnel a lot and with the front office being as stupid as they are, I can only hope Lauri doesn't become disgruntled or mishandled. If he doesn't, the Bulls might just have a future star on their hands.

3. Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers, 15.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 52% FG)

-The steal of the draft remains Kyle Kuzma. Drafted at the tail end of the first round, Kuzma is honestly the best rookie on the Lakers and he's been a top 3 rookie since the summer. He shined in Summer League, and since then he's been mostly consistent. He's made big plays on both ends of the floor for the Lakers and has snuck his way into the Lakers starting lineup for 5 games this season. His dedication and hard work is what makes this rookie so special, and he's managed to have a number of exciting moments in his 13 games so far this season. He's had 4 games with 20 points or more so far this season and 4 games with 10 or more rebounds, giving him 4 double doubles so far already. The sky is the limit for Kuzma and I think he will end up as a cornerstone for the Lakers going forward, he might even sneak into the starting 4 position, especially with Julius Randle seemingly on his way out the door. Kuzma is the best rookie for the Lakers this year, and I bet a number of teams are shaking their head wishing they would have taken him instead.

2. Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics, 13.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 49% FG, 48% 3PT)

-Any other season and Jayson Tatum would be the top pick for Rookie Of The Year without question. Winning rarely factors into the ROTY voting, but if it did (similar to how it does for MVP), Tatum would be the top candidate easily. Even with the season that the no. 1 choice is having, Tatum could still take it depending on how his game develops. Tatum is a solid scorer and a surprisingly good shooter from three, but what makes him so good so far is his ability to defend. He is a big part of the Celtics being the best defensive team in the league and I think he is only going to get better with all the experience he is getting now. He's started every game for the Celtics and alongside Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, and Al Horford, he's been a consistent piece for the team. The more comfortable he gets in his role, the better for the Celtics and I expect to see more 20 point games (he has three so far this season) from Tatum as the Celtics and their offensive woes get solved as their defense continues to shine.

1. Ben Simmons
(Philadelphia 76ers, 17.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 7.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 49% FG)

-There are two top candidates for Rookie Of The Year and technically, the most impressive rookie this year should be playing his sophomore season. Trust The Process, right? Well, in trusting that process, after missing what should have been his rookie season, Ben Simmons has shined in a huge role for a contending Philadelphia 76ers team that feels like it's a year or two away from being a top 3 or 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. With Joel Embiid by his side, it seems the 76ers have their own duo growing and could be a force for years to come. Ben Simmons is an extremely versatile player who possesses one big weakness and that's his shooting ability. Still, he can score when needed, grab rebounds, and he's an excellent passer as well. His numbers are All Star like, and for him to be nearly averaging a triple double just shows how good of a player he is. Defensively he's got some room to grow, but he's certainly been executing well, as the Sixers are currently a top 10 defensive team in the league. So far this season, Ben has put up 7 double doubles and 2 triple doubles already, which is amazing for someone is just playing their first 12 games of official NBA basketball. Unless Tatum goes crazy for the rest of the season, or Kuzma steps up and Simmons takes a fall, I'd say the Rookie Of The Year award might be locked down. Ben Simmons is the best "rookie" so far this season. It's as simple as that.



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