The 2016-2017 season has started out with a bang. We have two triple-double machines (Russell Westbrook and James Harden), a budding superstar (Giannis Antetokounmpo), and an extremely talented young core of players in the league (Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, etc.). The rookies are getting lots of attention, as per usual. Rookies tend to be under a lot of stress to perform in their first years in the league.
Most people do not understand that rookies need time to get better and develop their skills to be the player that they were drafted to be. There are a handful of rookies have not disappointed this season and I narrowed them down to the rookies to the top 5.
Honorable mention: Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield
The Biggest Disappointment of the Year
Kris Dunn was drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Dunn came in with the expectation to be the Ricky Rubio replacement, but he has not shown immediate progress towards that goal throughout the season. The key thing for Timberwolves fans to remember is that Dunn is a young amateur and there is plenty of time for him to improve. Dunn has proven that his offensive game needs work (averaging 3.8 points with 2.6 assists while shooting 37%), but the good news is that he can play very good defense.
Dunn is 6’4 but has a 6’10 wingspan, which is helpful in punishing the opposing team by producing many steals. Kris also has elite quickness which can help him stay with crafty point guards, for example, Chris Paul. Good defense is a way to get minutes in Tom Thibodeau’s lineup and on a Timberwolves team that lacks defense, a good defender is welcomed with open arms by Thibs.
Top 5 Rookie of the Year 2016-17
Yogi Ferrell went undrafted but has recently put on a show for all the doubters. Yogi has been impressive as of late for the Mavericks. So impressive, that he was signed to a two-year deal by the Mavs. Ferrell is averaging 17.2 points, 5 assists, and 2.8 rebounds with the Mavs. It has been fun over the past week watching the young man show all the fans what he’s got. Yogi has finally given the Mavs a glimmer of hope and is giving Indiana Hoosier fans something to cheer for this season.
4. Dario Saric
The anticipation around this young European is incredible by Sixers fans. Dario was drafted 12th overall by the Sixers. The thought was for Saric to play next to Embiid for years to come. Yet, the Sixers decided it would be a good idea to trade for Ersan Ilyasova, thus delaying the process Sam Hinkie put into place (“The Process” is not strictly for Embiid, no matter how many times he uses it). Saric is now splitting minutes with Ilyasova.
The good news is that Saric is still putting up average numbers while coming off the bench. Dario needs to work on his defense and scoring. The rebounding and passing skills are there. And Dario can shoot catch-and-shoot open threes, he just has a tough time making contested shots or shots he tries to create for himself. Saric gets bullied in the paint against bigger forwards and centers. The potential is there for Dario, he just needs to put in lots of time in the gym.
3. Brandon Ingram
Another rookie with high expectations was Brandon Ingram. Drafted with the number 2 pick in the draft, the expectations are sky high with this young man. The Lakers knew when they drafted him that he would be a project. The appeal of Ingram is that he is a 6’9 wing with a 7’3 wingspan. Does this remind you of anyone? A top 3 candidate for MVP: Kevin Durant. The comparisons are rampant. The appeal of another Kevin Durant or Giannis is too good to pass up.
This project could turn out very good or very bad for the Lakers (we do not need another Anthony Bennett situation). From the looks of the situation currently, it looks as if the Lakers made the right decision. Ingram needs to add some weight and consistency to his game to achieve what the Lakers want him to be. Expect for Walton to keep experimenting with different things with Ingram. He has shown flashes on the defensive and the offensive end of possible greatness. Time will be the greatest friend and enemy of this young talent.
2. Malcolm Brogdon
Did anyone expect for Brogdon to be this good this close to the All-Star weekend? Drafted with the 36th pick in the draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, he has shown promise as of late. He has taken over the Point Guard role in the starting lineup. While not maintaining primary ball-handling duties, Brogdon is better suited for a shooting guard role. Brogdon has proven to be the steal of the 2016 draft.
It looks as if the three extra years Brogdon stayed at Virginia worked towards his advantage. Malcolm looks as if he plays with a chip on his shoulder night in and night out and that is the kind of play that the Bucks coach Jason Kidd looks for in his players. Also, shooting 42.2% from the three-point line helps the bucks stretch the floor which can help keep the paint a little less crowded.
1. Joel Embiid
Was this a surprise to anyone out there? Embiid has been fantastic this whole season and has made Sixer fans want to “Trust the Process.” Embiid is putting up crazy numbers even though he is on minutes’ restrictions. Joel is supposed to play a max of 28 minutes to preserve the bone that he broke in his right foot two times, in two consecutive seasons.
Per 36 minutes is a good stat projection to see what Embiid can do with some real starter playing time. Joel’s per 36 numbers are 28 points, 11 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 3.5 blocks. Those kinds of numbers could propel Embiid to serious talks of being the best center in the league, surpassing Cousins and Towns. Embiid’s ceiling has not even been reached yet. The Sixers need to treat Embiid as if he was their last hope (mostly because he is their last hope for a while). Embiid is without a doubt the Rookie of the Year and he is even being considered for an All-Star spot.