The NBA season starts today as the Boston Celtics face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets take on the Golden State Warriors.
These teams have some intriguing rookies themselves as Jayson Tatum will hope to make an impact with the Celtics and Jordan Bell aims to make it out of the G-League and onto a championship team, but that’s not who we are talking about today.
We have some other rookies for you to watch out for, starting with one who is actually in his second season.
1. Ben Simmons, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia finally gets to see the 2016 number-one overall pick run the show. The 21-year-old is listed at 6ft10, 230 pounds and yet he will run the point for the 76ers this season. His vision and passing is reminiscent of LeBron James, while his build is closer to Kevin Durant’s with a little more meat on him. He has some work to do on his jump shot, but his impact goes far beyond his scoring.
2. Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Like Simmons, Lonzo Ball has excellent court vision and makes his team-mates better around him. At 6ft6, he doesn’t have Simmons’ size, but Ball’s ability to find the open man was second to none among players in this year’s draft. He has a less-than-conventional jump shot but still managed to shoot 41.2 per cent from three-point range in college. His defense will certainly have to improve, especially when he matches up with the next man on our list.
3. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Sacramento Kings
Fox has received many comparisons to Washington Wizards guard John Wall in the past, and those certainly have some merit. Having also played under John Calipari at Kentucky, Fox is a mature leader on and off the court. When he speaks, team-mates listen. The Kings have needed a player like Fox for a long time, and now that the voice of that franchise, DeMarcus Cousins, has been traded, the 19-year-old has every chance to make Sacramento his team.
4. Dennis Smith Jr., PG, Dallas Mavericks
As fast as Fox is, that’s how explosive Smith is. The young man is a walking highlight reel as he throws down dunks with serious authority for a player listed at just 6ft2. He also can shoot a bit as he hit 36 per cent from three-point range at N.C. State while scoring 18.1 points per game.
5. Josh Jackson, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns
Jackson is long and lean and the perfect project for a team that’s built to win in about five years. The former Kansas Jayhawk can shoot some, though he wasn’t great in college from beyond the arc, and he can get to the basket as well. But his best attribute may be his defense. In today’s NBA, with teams going to smaller line-ups, he may be able to guard point guards all the way up to power forwards. Also, with as young as the Suns are, he will get his chances to play this season.
Sleeper to watch
While Ball gets all the hype in Los Angeles, Kyle Kuzma has by far been the Lakers’ best rookie in the pre-season. The 6ft9, 221-pound forward out of Utah, who the Lakers got with the 27th pick in the draft, is eighth in the league in scoring with 19.5 points per game. It was just the pre-season, but the Lakers have been enamoured with him for the last few months and may have gotten another steal like they did with Jordan Clarkson in the second round in 2014.