As we approach the half way mark of the season, one thing is sticking out like dog’s balls – this year’s rookie class is playing terribly. The Dunkyard breaks down the ugly truth.
The exception – Joel Embiid
Stat line: 19.4ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.3bpg, 25.1mpg, TS 57.2%, 23.4 PER
If his body holds up, then we have ourselves a potential superstar. Don’t laugh when people loosely mention him as an All-star candidate – he’s as clear cut as it gets and should be named. He has single handedly made Philly relevant again and Ben Simmons hasn’t even been added to the mix yet.
It’s important to note that Embiid was drafted two years ago. Now let’s have a look at the top-10 picks of this year’s draft class.
NB: for some perspective, the league average PER is 15.0, while a PER of 10.0 is the ‘replacement level’ PER – which basically means the level any gimp from the D-league could come in and play at.
1 – Ben Simmons (PHI)
Given that he’s injured, he gets a leave pass for now. Let’s move on.
2 – Brandon Ingram (LAL)
Stat line: 8.0ppg, 2.0apg, 4.0rpg, 27.6mpg, TS 46.2%, 7.5 PER
The Lakers have had a minor renaissance this season, but none of it has had anything to do with Ingram.
When you see him running up and down the court, you can see the length and athleticism that had scouts so excited – reminding them of a young Kevin Durant. The problem is that, unlike rookie Durant, rookie Ingram can’t create shots anywhere near as well (usage 15.1% vs 28.1%) or put the ball in the basket (TS 46.2% vs TS 51.9%).
In fact, the only similarities I can see so far are height and order drafted. Unless Ingram improves significantly from here, he’ll easily qualify for the Adam Morrison Rule.
3 – Jaylen Brown (BOS)
Stat line: 4.7ppg, 0.6apg, 1.9rpg, 13.1mpg, TS 50.5%, 9.7 PER
It’s hard being a high-drafted rookie on an already solid team. Brown has a fantastic attitude and his athletic ability of off the charts (poor Vooch):
He’s even let LeBron have a small taste:
However, for a player as athletic as he is, his rebounding, steal and block rates are all worryingly low and – like many of his fellow rookies – he’s really struggling to put the ball in the hole (44.1 FG%, 32.5 3P%, 64.1 FT%).
That being said, he’s pretty much at replacement level already and he’s my shoe-in of the week to improve as the season progresses – easily avoiding qualification for the Adam Morrison Rule.
Whether or not he’s the future star Boston is begging for remains to be seen.
4 – Dragan Bender (PHX)
Stat line: 3.2ppg, 2.0rpg, 0.5bpg, 12.2mpg, TS 48.8%, 6.3 PER
To be fair to Bender, he’s the youngest player in the NBA and hasn’t seen much court time in the first half of the season as the Suns look to bring him along slowly. Then again, Porzingis faced pretty much the same set of circumstances last season and managed just fine. If you’re good enough then you’re good enough. So far, Bender ain’t anywhere near good enough and will be the Euro-bust second coming of Darko Milicic if he doesn’t start asserting himself and improving.
A strong Adam Morrison Rule candidate if ever I saw one.
That said, there’s always a silver lining and it’s a pretty good one in Bender’s case: On 26 December 2016, he became the youngest person since Tracy McGrady to post a stat line of 11 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in a game – and all in 27 minutes no less.
Obviously, it’s still very early days and, if he does qualify for the Adam Morrison Rule, I sincerely hope he pisses all over it (NB: so far, there hasn’t been a single exception to Adam Morrison Rule with over 26 years of data collected).
5 – Kris Dunn (MIN)
Stat line: 4.0ppg, 2.4apg, 2.2rpg, 16.8mpg, TS 44.5%, 8.8 PER
This is what the Dunkyard had to say about Dunn on draft day:
I’m not sure how this inconsistent shooting 6’4” point guard fits in with the one they already have on their roster. Look for one of them to be traded.
It gives me no pleasure being right as far as Dunn’s shooting ability goes – but facts are facts and Dunn can’t put the ball in the hole to save his life at the moment (38.2 FG%, 29.4 3P%, 61.9 FT%).
His turnover rate is also abominable for a ball handler (15.7%). A coin-flip to qualify for the Adam Morrison Rule.
6 – Buddy Hield (NOP)
Stat line: 9.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.4apg, 20.4mpg, TS 50.5%, 10.8 PER
Buddy had a shocking start to the season, but recently looks to have figured things out:
- January: 28.2mpg, 37.7 FG%, 48.4 3P%, 12.0ppg, 5.0rpg
- December: 22.3mpg, 43.5 FG%, 47.8 3P%, 10.6ppg, 2.8 rpg
- November: 16.5mpg, 37.4 FG%, 26.5 3P%, 7.4ppg, 2.3rpg
While his general field goal percentage and overall true shooting percentage are poor so far, his three point shooting has become deadly and he’s an automatic free throw shooter (92.3%).
Look for him to continue to improve and become a solid player over time.
7 – Jamal Murray (DEN)
Stat line: 8.0ppg, 1.8apg, 2.6rpg, 20.1mpg, TS 49.1%, 10.1 PER
The good news is that Murray is already a replacement level player – which is more than many of his fellow rookies can say.
The bad news is that he simply cannot put the ball in the hole (37.6 FG%, 32.2 3P%). The small silver lining is that his free throw stroke is good (83.0%) which gives hope that he’ll be able to figure things out from the field.
8 – Marquese Chriss (PHX)
Stat line: 7.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 0.5bpg, 17.9mpg, TS 51.4%, 10.3 PER
For such an athletic guy, he really has sucked at rebounding and blocking shots so far. In particular, his 10.5% overall rebounding rate is shameful for a power forward standing at 6’10”.
At least his outside shooting was more or less as advertised (33.3 3P%).
The Ringer has written a fantastic piece on both Chriss and Bender that’s well worth reading here.
9 – Jakob Poeltl (TOR)
Stat line: 2.3ppg, 3.0rpg, 0.3bpg, 10.7mpg, TS 46.8%, 10.6 PER
I’m sure the Raptors would like to play Poeltl more, but he has no outside game, can’t spread the floor and is so bad when he does shoot from the inside (43.6 FG%, 52.2 FT%), that he’s too much of a liability at the moment.
Hence, the Rapators have turned to the slightly less odious and more athletic Pascal Siakam (TS 52.6%, 11.0 PER) – who was drafted 17 spots behind Poeltl in last year’s draft.
PS: Siakam ranks 9th among all rookies for PER this season.
10 – THON!!! (MIL)
Stat line: 2.3ppg, 1.2rpg, 0.2bpg, 4.5mpg, TS 71.7%, 19.0 PER
I’ll give him this – at least he tries to look busy on defence. The only problem is that he has absolutely no idea where to stand or what to do, which is probably why Kidd has only put him out on the rarest of occasions so far.
The good news is that, in the limited time he’s had (68 minutes in total), he’s managed to hit 5-9 threes and grab 18 rebounds. Or in other words, he’d be a 20-10-2 guy if Kidd would trust him a little more.
It ain’t all bad
Outside of the top-10, the following rookies have performed admirably and contributed right away:
- Willy Hernangomez (NY): PER 15.4
- Mindaugas Kuzminskas (NY): PER 15.3
- Kay Felder (CLE): PER 14.3
- Malcolm Brogdon (MIL): PER 14.0
- Juancho Hernangomez (DEN): PER 13.8 (PS: I told you Dave)
- Davis Bertans (SA): PER 12.7
It’s telling that these guys occupy the no. 2 – 7 spots on the rookie PER rankings so far, with not a top-10 pick in sight until the 10th spot (Hield).