As the 2016-2017 NBA regular season comes to a close, and as the pre-draft workouts prior to the 2017 NBA Draft begin to ramp up, it’s time to take a look back at how this year’s rookies fared in their first years in the league. So far, it’s safe to say that this group of rookies doesn’t quite live up to the group who entered the league in 2015, when players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis — guys on the cusp of super-stardom — were taken among the top four picks. It’s also safe to say that the 2016 group didn’t feature nearly the same level of depth that this upcoming crop of NBA prospects currently boasts. Our NBA Rookie Rankings will have an in-depth summary of each player. Just click on each individual player’s hyperlink to read previous articles on them.
Still, while there may not be any All-Stars among the group, there are certainly some interesting players who are just wrapping up their freshman seasons in the NBA. Let’s take a look at the 10 best NBA rookies for the 2016-2017 season. Here is our NBA Rookie Rankings.
TOP 10 NBA ROOKIES
10. Yogi Ferrell, Dallas Mavericks — After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, Yogi Ferrell bounced between the Brooklyn Nets and the Long Island Nets of the NBA Development League for much of his rookie season. But everything changed in late January of 2017, when signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. He became the just the third undrafted rookie in NBA history to have a 30-point game within his first 15 games, and hit nine three-point attempts in a win over Portland, tying the record for made three-point shots in a game for an NBA rookie. The Mavericks ended up signing Ferrell to a two-year extension, marking one of the most interesting story-lines among all NBA rookies this season.
9. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers — The second overall pick in the draft, the Lakers took Ingram as another piece of their rebuilding process. Ingram currently averages just over nine points per game (in just under 29 minutes of action per game), and hasn’t quite shown the same versatility and knack for scoring that so many scouts projected. But let’s also not forget that Ingram is still growing into his 6′ 9 frame, as he’s basically only 19-and-a-half years old right now. As he gets more consistent with his shot, he’ll gain more confidence, and start to look more like the player the Lakers originally envisioned.
8. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets — Even if Jamal Murray never really develops his basketball skills past what he’s shown during his rookie season, he already has a home in the league as a scoring threat off the bench. Coming out of the University of Kentucky, Murray’s strength was always his ability to put the ball through the hoop. As a rookie, he’s shooting just under 34% from three-point range, but he’s shown the mechanics and form to where there’s plenty of reason to believe he can significantly up that rate. He’s also shown the ability to score in the paint, with an array of finishing moves when driving to the rim.
7.Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics — Throughout Jaylen Brown’s path to the NBA, everyone could see the prodigious talent he brought to the proverbial table. The question with Brown was always around whether he could put all those talents together. So far, his grade is still a bit of an incomplete. Brown is another one of the members of this rookie class who’s still finding his way in the NBA, showing flashes of brilliance between stretches of inconsistency. However, the Celtics are very excited by the combination of versatility and athleticism he brings to the table, and are quite fine with patiently developing him over the long term. Head Coach Brad Stevens has another young and talented building block at his disposal.
6. Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings — Buddy Hield, the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has had a roller-coaster ride over the past 12 months. He went from being a high-scoring consensus All-American coming out of the University of Oklahoma, to a struggling rookie for the New Orleans Pelicans, to the centerpiece of the package which New Orleans sent to the Sacramento Kings, as part of the trade for Demarcus Cousins. The change of scenery was definitely a good thing for Hield, as he was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in March, after leading West rookies in scoring during the month with 14.1 points per game.
5. Willy Hernangomez, New York Knicks — Willy Hernangomez went from a mostly unheralded second-round selection in the 2015 NBA Draft (by the Philadelphia 76ers) to one of the few good stories to emerge for the New York Knicks this season. Hernangomez joined the Knicks in the summer of 2016, and after a short stint in the NBA Development League, he’s been on the team’s roster ever since. His 7.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game averages don’t really do justice to just how he’s played when on the court. Over his last 10 games, Hernangomez has averaged 11.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
4. Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns — The second of the two lottery selections by the Phoenix Suns, Marquese Chriss went from being a player who was a mid-first-round projection, to being one of the hottest names in the 2016 NBA Draft. Scouts were tantalized by his combination of size (6’10) and athleticism (he recorded a 40-inch vertical). But Chriss was admittedly a “raw” product coming out of college, and it showed for much of the NBA season. His 9.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game won’t impress many people, but his flashes of athleticism and contributions to a game aren’t demonstrated through box scores. He still has a long way to go in his development, but the talent is evident.
3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers — For several large stretches of the 2016-2017 season, Joel Embiid was about to make Sam Hinkie — best known for “the Process” (the mission name for his rebuilding job of the 76ers) — look like a genius. Before suffering a season-ending torn meniscus, Embiid was the run-away favorite for the NBA rookie of the year award at mid-season. In 31 games this season, despite only playing about 25 minutes per game, Embiid was averaging a staggering 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. After two years of angst, he showed countless flashes of his basketball brilliance, vindicating the team’s patience during his injury rehabilitation process.
2. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks — Donald Trump might be the executive living inside the White House, but to the players and fans of the Milwaukee Bucks, rookie Malcolm Brogdon is “the President.” He’s been given that nickname given the maturity and leadership he demonstrated as a “graybeard” rookie who turned 24 years old this past December. He’s averaging 13.3 points and 4.6 assists, shooting 51 percent from the field and 90 percent from the line during his last 17 games. But as is to be expected from someone who graduated from the University of Virginia, it’s his lock-down defense that’s really made him a player the Bucks are excited about.
1.Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers — For all the lottery picks that the Philadelphia 76ers have drafted during their rebuilding process, Dario Saric probably wasn’t one of the guys you’d expect to become one of the best rookies in the NBA season. But, after playing two seasons overseas for the Anadolu Efes team (even after the 76ers drafted him), Saric finally joined his professional team in the summer of 2016. Through the first 74 games of his NBA career, Saric is averaging 12.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and is shooting 41.4 percent from the field. His play was good enough to where the 76ers felt comfortable trading away Nerlens Noel, another center who was also a lottery pick.
OTHERS IN CONSIDERATION:
Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors: Siakam has been a pleasant surprise for the Toronto Raptors. A late first round pick in last years draft, the PF has brought energy and rebounding to the roster. He has even started earlier in the season. Siakam looks like he is going to be a useful rotation player now and in the future. He was a dominant rebounder in college, as rebounding is one skill that usually translates at the NBA level.
Tyler Ulis, Phoenix Suns: Malcolm Brogdon was a 2nd round pick. So was Ulis, who has been spectacular during the last month for a rebuilding Suns team who has plenty of young talent. Ulis has scored over 30 points once, and has multiple 20 point scoring games to his credit. Despite his 5’9″ height, he is already one of the league’s fastest players with the ball in his hands. While his size might prevent him from ever being a full-time starter, we can see him emerging into one of the better back-up point guards in the NBA for a while. He is tough, gritty, and plenty talented. Quite simply, if he played more in the beginning of the year, he would have been one of the NBA’s top rookies this season.
Questions for the Readers:
What do you think of our NBA Rookie Rankings list?
What changes would you have made?
Please leave all comments in the section below for discussion.
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