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NBA Rookie Grades at the Two Week Mark

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Danny Podolsky joins the Sonics Rising crew and brings his thoughts on the NBA each week.

We’re only two weeks into this season but this rookie class is already showing the potential to be a great one. I have graded every player taken in the first round of this year’s draft, and keep in mind that the lower the player was taken, the lower expectations will be and that affects the players’ grade. Enjoy!

1.Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns, From:Arizona Grade: A-

The Suns have not looked great to start the season, but Deandre Ayton has definitely looked good to start his career. Through six games, Ayton is averaging a double-double with 17.5 ppg and 10.3 rpg. The Suns likely won’t make the playoffs this season, but Ayton’s play should encourage their outlook on the future.

2.Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings, From:Duke Grade:B

Bagley III has shown flashes of potential through seven games as an inside scorer. Playing 23.3 minutes per game off the bench, he is averaging 12.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg on 54.5% shooting. He still does not have a great jump shot but has time to develop one.

3.Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks, From:Spain Grade: B-

Doncic, traded for Trae Young on draft night, has shown a lot of potential but also a lot of rookie mistakes. Doncic is averaging 20.4 ppg which leads all rookies in scoring while also averaging 4.3 turnovers per game with an alarming turnover rate of 19.5%. The Young-Doncic deal was a major trade on draft night and one that could affect the future of the NBA.

4.Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies, From:Michigan State Grade:B

Jackson Jr. is a physical and versatile defender with potential to be a good shooter from deep. He cracked a spot in the starting lineup after Jamychal Green went down with a broken jaw and is averaging 15.0 ppg. However, his three point shot is lacking: he is just 2 for 13 from deep.

5.Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks, From:Oklahoma Grade:A-

The other half of the Doncic trade, Trae Young has looked great to begin the season. Young was seen as a risky pick coming out of Oklahoma with Steph Curry-like potential from deep. He went off last week to beat the Cavaliers with 35 points and 11 assists. Young also leads all rookies with 7.0 apg and is second in scoring with 18.3 ppg.

6.Mohamed Bamba, Orlando Magic, From: Texas Grade:C+

My personal pick for ROY, Bamba has been solid in the minutes he’s seen to start the season. Bamba gave the Magic a spark on opening night with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 monster blocks as Orlando came from behind to beat Miami. Since then, he’s been quieter, seeing only 20.0 minutes per game. I still have really high hopes for Mo and wouldn’t count him out of the ROY race just yet. He needs to be more physical and his jump shot needs to improve.

7.Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls, From:Duke Grade:C+

Carter has played aggressively on the defensive end as he leads all rookies with 1.7 blocks per game. His offensive game needs work, he often passes up open mid range shots for shooters on the wing, and his post game still needs work.

8.Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers, From:Alabama Grade:C-

The Cavaliers have looked horrible after losing Lebron to begin the season and that seems to have brought out the worst in Collin Sexton, who is turning it over at a rate of 14.6%. That said, Sexton is a freakish athlete and a good defender. Coming off the bench, he averages 11.2 ppg. The Cavs have little hope for this season so I think they should move Sexton into the starting lineup.

9.Kevin Knox, New York Knicks, From:Kentucky Grade:D+

Not really his fault for the low grade, but Knox will be out for 2-4 weeks with a sprained ankle and the Knicks are struggling without him. He struggled to shoot the ball in the three games he played, shooting just 35.5% from the floor. Knox has a lot potential and it will be interesting to see how he plays when he returns.

10.Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns, From:Villanova Grade:C-

The 10th pick in the draft, Bridges was traded by the 76ers to Phoenix in exchange for Zhaire Smith and a future pick on draft night. Bridges has not seen a lot of playing time, averaging 5.5 ppg on 39.3% shooting in just 15.2 minutes per game.

11.Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Los Angeles Clippers, From:Kentucky Grade:A-

An athletic player and potential elite defender at the point guard position. SGA is getting 9.0 ppg, 3.7 apg, and 1.2 steals per game. His inside shot looks solid as he’s shooting 48.7%, a good clip for a point guard. He has the potential to be the steal of the draft.

12.Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets, From:Michigan State Grade:B+

Bridges is a really good shooter and a spark player off the bench for the Hornets. After not seeing a lot of playing time to start the season, Bridges is starting to get relevant minutes and he played most of the fourth quarter during Charlotte’s two-point loss to the 76ers on Saturday. Bridges is shooting the three ball at a high clip of 43.8%.

13.Jerome Robinson, Los Angeles Clippers, From:Boston College Grade:C-

Robinson has yet to crack a spot in the Clippers’ rotation as he has played just 12 minutes so far, all coming late in blowout games. Robinson may not play much this season.

14.Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets, From:Missouri Grade:N/A

After dropping to the Nuggets at 14 on draft night, Porter has not hit the court yet as he recovers from a back injury. Porter has a lot of potential if he can just stay healthy.

15.Troy Brown Jr., Washington Wizards, From:Oregon Grade:C

Similar to Jerome Robinson, Brown has only seen playing time in two games, both blowouts. I’ll bump him up to a C whereas Robinson gets a C- due to the lower draft pick and expectations. Also, as I’m going through this draft class, I just noticed Brown Jr. is the fourth “Jr.” to get drafted.

16.Zhaire Smith, Philadelphia 76ers, From:Texas Tech Grade:N/A

Traded for Mikal Bridges on draft night, Smith got hit by the 76ers foot-injury curse and will be out until around Christmas time with a broken foot.

17.Donte Divincenzo, Milwaukee Bucks, From:Villanova Grade:A-

One of my favorites players in college, I was hesitant when Divincenzo was taken 17th by Milwaukee only because his game was still very raw. Divincenzo has provided a spark off the bench for the Bucks so far, shooting 46.7% with 8.3 ppg in 20.1 minutes per game. He has seen more playing time in his last three games, and his ppg has improved to 12.0 during that span.

18.Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs, From:Miami Grade:N/A

Lonnie Walker IV has not played yet after he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in early October. He is expected to return in late November or early December

19.Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks, From:Maryland Grade:D+

Huerter, a good shooter out of Maryland, has not played very well to begin the season. In 15.8 minutes per game he is getting just 3.7 ppg and shooting 30.4% from the field. Huerter has the potential to be a good three-point shooter off the bench but he’ll need to shoot much better.

20.Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves, From:Georgia Tech Grade:A

With the highest grade on this list, Okogie is looking like the biggest steal in the draft. After not playing the first two games this season, Okogie has cracked a spot in the starting lineup and has been a pest on the defensive end. He’s averaging 9.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg and leads all rookies with 1.6 steals per game.

21.Grayson Allen, Utah Jazz, From:Duke Grade:B-

Allen has not played that much to start the season but he has looked pretty good in the action he’s seen. In 33 minutes played, he has 24 points and has been aggressive when driving to the hoop. I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve seen from him and would like to see the Jazz give him more playing time.

22.Chandler Hutchison, Chicago Bulls, From:Boise State Grade:C

Hutchison has cracked a spot in the starting lineup but hasn’t done much to earn more playing time. In 17.0 minutes per game, Hutchison is getting just 3.0 ppg with an incredibly low usage rate of just 10.0%. There are a lot of young players on the Bulls trying to earn a spot in the rotation so Hutchison will have to play better to stand out amongst the pack

23.Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers, From:UCLA Grade:C

Holiday has played just 16 minutes in seven games for the Pacers to start the season and likely won’t play a lot this season.

24.Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers, From:IMG Academy Grade:N/A

Simons just turned 19 years old and the Trail Blazers will likely make sure he is fully developed before they put him in a real game.

25.Moritz Wagner, Los Angeles Lakers, From:Michigan Grade:N/A

Wagner shined in the 2018 NCAA tournament but has not appeared in a game for the Lakers yet.

26.Landry Shamet, Philadelphia 76ers, From:Wichita State Grade:B

Shamet comes off the bench and provides three point shooting and defense for the 76ers. Shamet dropped in the draft after a bad performance in last year’s NCAA tournament. His best strength is his 3 point shot and the 76ers are hoping he can replace the void left by Marco Belinelli.

27.Robert Williams, Boston Celtics, From:Texas A&M Grade:C+

Robert Williams has played just 11 minutes in the Celtics first 7 games. Williams likely will not play an important role for the Celtics, but Brad Stevens likes to get his young guys in the game so he may see some more playing time down the road.

28.Jacob Evans, Golden State Warriors, From:Cincinnati Grade:C-

Evans has only gotten playing time during Warriors blowouts. He’s been underwhelming and has just 4 points in 37 minutes so far.

29.Dzanan Musa, Brooklyn Nets, From:Croatia Grade:C

Musa has played just 15 minutes so far this season and scored 6 points. He was assigned to the Nets G-league affiliate where he will likely spend much of the season.

30.Omari Spellman, Atlanta Hawks, From:Villanova Grade:B

Spellman has made good use of the minutes he’s seen to start the season, averaging 8.2 ppg and 4.6 rpg on 44.1% shooting and 17.2 minutes per game. His best performance came on October 21 when Omari shot 6 of 8 from the floor and 4 of 5 from three to help beat the Cavaliers.

Thanks for Reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed!

Comment with your thoughts below!