Written By: Andrew Martin
1. 76ers- Jayson Tatum
Actually picked- #3 to Celtics
Jayson Tatum may not be as highly considered for Rookie of the Year as Ben Simmons, or Donovan Mitchell is, but he’s the best rookie in the NBA.
What makes Tatum so special? He’s a first-year player who came into the league, performed like a 4-year vet in the playoffs. We saw his fearlessness and maturity first hand in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals when he posterized and taunted arguably the greatest basketball player of all time (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BARRHng_ilc ). Combine that mentality with Tatum’s ability to post up, drive to the hoop, and shoot from deep, and you have an outstanding rookie with endless potential.
Yes, the case could be made that Donovan Mitchell is the superior player from this class at 20.5PPG vs. Tatum’s 13.9PPG. However, when picking between the two, I’ll take the guy that led his team in postseason scoring at 18.5PPG during his first year on the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
New starting lineup: PG- Ben Simmons, SG- JJ Redick, SF- Jayson Tatum, PF- Dario Saric, C- Joel Embiid
2. Lakers- Donovan Mitchell
Actually picked #13 to Denver and traded to Utah
When Gordon Hayward announced he was leaving Utah last off-season, no one could have predicted that the Jazz would return to the playoffs one year later. However, they traded Denver for its #13 selection of Donovan Mitchell, and acquired the most athletic player of the draft.
Mitchell’s athleticism has set him apart from the rest of the class, and at 20.5PPG on the year, it’s easy to see why many are excited about the future in Utah. His speed along with the ability to fly through the air and throw down ridiculous dunks have drawn nick names like “Spidaman” and “Spideymitch.”
While Donovan Mitchell could very well win the Rookie of the Year this year, don’t expect that to be the end of his awards or recognition in the NBA. The future is very bright for the 6’3” shooting guard from Louisville.
New starting lineup: PG- Josh Hart, SG- Donovan Mitchell, SF- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, PF- Julius Randle, C- Brook Lopez
3. Celtics- Kyle Kuzma
Actually picked #27 to Nets and traded to Lakers
Kyle Kuzma wasn’t even the top selection by the Lakers this year, but he turned out to be the best. After playing his college ball at Utah, Kuzma was not highly regarded heading into the draft, but obviously he should have been. After one season in Los Angeles, Kuzma averaged 16.1PPG and 6.3RBG.
Kuzma started the year by being a streaky scorer off the bench but has now blossomed into a consistent young talent. Shooting near 40% from deep, Kuzma’s game looks poised to translate into the future of the NBA.
New starting lineup: PG- Kyrie Irving, SG- Gordon Hayward, SF- Jaylen Brown, PF- Kyle Kuzma, C- Al Horford
4. Suns- Lonzo Ball
Actually picked #2 to Lakers
With all the hype surrounding the Ball family, Lonzo had a rough start to his rookie season. He began by shooting below 30% from deep and ended up finishing right at 30%.
While the 3-ball wasn’t working well for Lonzo this season, his yearly stats show potential. He averaged 10.2PPG, 7.2APG, and 6.9RBG.
Lonzo didn’t get the chance to prove himself as much as other rookies this year, an injury plagued season led to Ball only playing 52 games. With that being said, we simply just don’t know enough about Lonzo in the NBA yet to determine if he’ll be a star, but Los Angeles sure thinks he’s one.
New starting lineup: PG- Lonzo Ball, SG- Devin Booker, SF- Troy Daniels, PF- Dragan Bender, C- Alex Len
5. Kings- Markelle Fultz
Actually picked #1 to 76ers
Many were calling Fultz the best shooter in the draft when he was selected at #1 overall, but an offseason injury prevented him from getting playing time his rookie season. He finished the season averaging seven points after only playing in 14 games.
Although we didn’t get to see Fultz as much as we would have liked this season, we did get to see a flash of a potential superstar. He finished his year by becoming the first teen in the NBA to record a triple double, he went for 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists against Milwaukee.
That game alone showed everyone why he was picked first in the draft, and why we shouldn’t doubt his game just yet.
New starting lineup: PG- Markelle Fultz, SG- Buddy Hield, SF- Justin Jackson, PF- Zach Randolph, C- Willie Cauley-Stein
6. Magic- Dennis Smith Jr.
Actually picked #9 to Dallas
With the Mavericks long time super star Dirk aging, the team needs to find some young pieces to create excitement. They certainly found one in Dennis Smith Jr. last year with the #9 pick.
The 6’ 3” guard from NC State only played 69 games this year, but he made the most of those games at 15.2PPG, and 5.2APG. He showed off his top tier athleticism all year with high flying dunks and proved that he has a natural ability to score.
His only problem right now is his ability to shoot, we saw him make some small strides with his jump shot over the course of the season, but it still needs work. If he can develop a more consistent 3-ball, Dallas will have found a real weapon.
New starting lineup: PG- Dennis Smith Jr., SG- D.J. Augustin, SF- Mario Hezonja, PF- Aaron Gordon, C- Nikola Vucevic
7. Timberwolves (traded to Bulls)- Lauri Markkanen
Actually picked #7 to Timberwolves and traded to Bulls
Lauri Markkanen may not have been a name you heard a lot this year, but if this draft was re-done, the Bulls would have to make the same selection.
The seven-footer from Finland quietly put up solid numbers all year long at 15.2PPG and 7.5RPG. What sets Markkanen apart from other big men? He spreads the floor very well at 36.2% from deep, and he’s not afraid to keep taking the shots.
Bulls HC Fred Hoiberg gave Markkanen the green light all year as a rookie and raved about how he’s not afraid to keep shooting when his shot isn’t falling.
While he may not be poised to become a star in the league soon, it’s never bad to have a seven-footer putting up 15 and 7 every night.
New starting lineup: No change.
8. Knicks- De’Aaron Fox
Actually picked #5 to Kings
De’Aaron Fox had a lot of excitement surrounding his game when he was drafted to Sacramento, but unfortunately its hard to get people to talk about your game when you play in Sacramento. Despite no one hearing about him, Fox didn’t have THAT bad of a season.
Fox averaged 11.6PPG and 4.4APG his rookie season. He simply hasn’t done enough for us to be impressed, but he hasn’t been bad enough for us to rule him out. Fox’s second and third year in the league will be crucial to his career long success, but the main concern is if he’ll even get the chance to shine in a city like Sacramento.
New starting lineup: PG- De’Aaron Fox, SG-Trey Burke, SF- Michael Beasley, PF- Lance Thomas, C- Kristaps Porzingis
9. Mavericks- Josh Jackson
Actually picked #4 to Suns
Josh Jackson carried an impressive freshmen year at Kansas into the draft where a young Phoenix team picked him at fourth. However, Jackson hasn’t lived up to the hype of the #4 pick so far, averaging just 13.1PPG and 4.6RPG.
While those aren’t necessarily bad numbers, he simply just didn’t impress this year, and there’s not a super dominant part of his game. As Phoenix brings in more young talent next year, watch for Josh Jackson to search for his identity.
New starting lineup: PG- J.J. Barea, SG- Josh Jackson, SF- Harrison Barnes, PF- Dirk Nowitzki, C- Dwight Powell
10. Kings (traded to Trail Blazers)- John Collins
Actually picked #19 to Atlanta
John Collins was another player that wasn’t talked about as much this year but put up very solid numbers based on his expectations this year.
Collins averaged 10.5PPG and 7.3RPG as a rookie and is quickly becoming the best young player on this Hawk’s team. Collins is a great natural defender who rebounds very well, especially on the offensive glass.
All the hype that Collins has gotten so far is from his impressive list of poster dunks. He even was given the nickname “John the Baptist.” While Atlanta is still missing many pieces and needs to go into full rebuilding mode, John Collins is a great young piece that they can build around.
New starting lineup: PG- Damian Lillard, SG- C.J. McCollum, SF- Maurice Harkless, PF- John Collins, C- Jusuf Nurkic