It’s not too early to say the 2017 draft class was strong. 8 of 30 picks have already logged 200 minutes. Six players have already scored over 100 points (Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen).
The rookies have made an impact for their teams, even Dennis Smith and De’Aaron Fox, whose teams have only won one game respectively. And then there is Ben Simmons.
Simmons sat out all of last year mostly as a precaution and the 76ers are better for it. All the hype of Simmons in 2016, a LeBron prototype, has come to fruition. On paper it looks like you can pencil Ben Simmons in for Rookie of the Year. But he has two strong competitors chasing him. Or. Does he?
|The Great Race||Minutes||Points||FG%||Career High||PER||Usage Rate|
|Ben Simmons||35.2||18.0||51.6%||24 points||21.2||24.0%|
|Kyle Kuzma||28.1||15.7||56.3%||22 points||18.7||20.4%|
|Jayson Tatum||32.0||13.7||48.1%||22 points||16.0||18.0%|
Stop the Voting: Ben Simmons is Rookie of the Year
Simmons leads the rookies in scoring, rebounds, assists (yes he averages more assists than Lonzo Ball). The only negative metric from Simmons this early is he has a -3.0. and has no jump shot to speak of. But the rest of it is extraordinary. He looks like the basketball version of Ken Griffey. Everything is effortless. He makes the right pass when he is bringing the ball up the court, he rebounds, he has great chemistry with Joel Embiid. Simmons being Simmons has put poor Jahlil Okafor on the trading block, just like Embiid put Nerlens Noel on the trading block last year. No one at Simmons size can do what he can do on the court, which is just about everything. Simmons is a star. Stars win Rookie of the Year. It’s a wrap. (Julian Billick)
Stop Calling Kyle Kuzma the Steal of the Draft
We know the story so everybody just stop. The Lakers traded away D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and Brooklyn’s 27th pick in the draft. With that pick they selected Kyle Kuzma from Utah. Kyle Kuzma was the Vegas Summer League MVP. During preseason he was leading the league in scoring. But every time his name is mentioned it is through the steal of the draft prism. Kyle Kuzma is so much more than that.He leads all 2017 drafted rookies in points scored. At 6-9 he can finish with his right or left. He has footwork that can stop in the paint, spin and then finish at the rim. He’s a good passer in traffic. He has a hook shot, floater, a catch and shoot jumper. He likes to take big shots. He has a higher offensive rating than Simmons (117) but a lower usage rate (20.4%) and a higher field goal percentage at 56.3%. He shoots 80% at the rim, 50% 3-10 feet, 57% from the midrange and 50% on long two’s. His weakness is his three ball but even that isn’t atrocious at 33%. He is underwater in his plus/minus but that is reflective of who he is playing with. He has a motor, is coachable and will be in the ROY hunt with Simmons. Whoever has the better record will get the award. (C.J. Hampshire)
ROY Doesn’t Matter, the Eastern Conference Finals Does
Jayson Tatum doesn’t have the scoring numbers like Simmons and Kuzma but Tatum will probably be in the Eastern Conference Finals. Tatum is making 48.1% of his shots and dropping 13.8 points. He pulls in 6.6 rebounds a game. But dude can rock the three, hitting half of his attempts. He has taken 25 threes and made 13 of them. Tatum’s defense is on point, a defensive rating of 99 and his offensive rating is nice at 115. His PER is 16.0. His glaring weakness is mid range shooting so that is how he will be defended. He may be overlooked because he is on a stacked team. Still, the best thing to happen to Tatum was going to Boston. He is winning, he is learning defense from a master, the Celtics pride themselves on teamwork and despise iso sets. His game fits. It’s a perfect situation though not necessarily one that sets him up to be the frontrunner for ROY. As good as Tatum is, he isn’t the best player on the Celtics. Or the second best. Or the third best. Or the fourth best. ROY is a numbers game. Tatum is a long shot. (Julian Billick)