Every year immediately after the completion of the NBA Draft, the hottest topic of discussion is the rookies and how they fit with the team that selected them on draft night.
This year featured many candidates for the Rookie of the Year Award, the top candidates were: Sixers forward Ben Simmons, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram, Timberwolves guard Kris Dunn, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, and Pelicans guard Buddy Hield.
A lot has happened that changed the scale of the race for the Rookie of the Year award. For example, Brandon Ingram started the season on the bench, Ben Simmons suffered a serious foot injury that has kept him on the sidelines, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield have both started sluggish offensively, and Jaylen Brown is not yet playing a major role in Boston’s system.
Due to these changes, the race has become much more competitive than originally predicted, here are the top three rookies early in the season.
3. Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram was the second overall pick in the draft and was being compared to an elite superstar talent in Kevin Durant. Ingram started the season on the bench and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon.
He is averaging just 6.9 PPG but this low average is more because of the system he is currently playing in. Ingram is averaging only 5.5 field goal attempts per game and is making 2.3 of those attempts. His role has been extremely limited but with his extreme potential, I believe it’s only a matter of time before he plays his way into the offense and demands shot attempts.
It’s a little surprising the Lakers didn’t use him much right at the start of the year, but the truth his he was drafted second overall and sooner or later production will be demanded from him. If his role increases this season, he will definitely be a candidate for the ROY award and could end up leading all rookies in scoring.
2. Buddy Hield
Buddy Hield is a player who knows how to score. He has gotten off to a slow start offensively, but he is a pure shooter and will eventually catch his rhythm. He is only averaging 9.6 PPG and he is struggling with his shot (24.2% 3P%). I believe this problem is more of a team problem than an individual problem.
The Pelicans have been terrible the start the season with the only bright spot being Anthony Davis and his otherworldly averages. If Buddy Hield finds his rhythm and starts to score on a consistent basis, he will be a serious candidate for the ROY award.
1. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid was not taken seriously coming into the season. He was coming off of two seasons of sitting on the sidelines due to a severe injury and came into the season as more of a curiosity than a serious contributor to an NBA team.
He has stormed out of the gates with averages of 17 PPG and 7.6 RPG to go with 2.3 BPG. He has posted this numbers playing on a minute restriction and I am very curious to see what he can put up once he starts playing heavy minutes. Aside from his statistical contributions, he is also a dynamic player. He is a big man who can space the floor and moves well with and without the ball. He has quickly become a favorite among fans with his sense of humor, and of course his ability to fill up the stat sheet.