Snubs. That word gets thrown around a fair amount this time of year. This term can be used when referring to candidates for league MVP, the selection of the All-Defensive team’s, Coach of the Year, etc. However, for the sake of this article, the word snub will be used to personify several notable rookies who were left off the first and second All-Rookie teams. The 2017 NBA draft class was filled with talent throughout the first and second rounds and choosing ten of them to represent the first and second teams must have been hard to choose from. With that being said, here is a potential All-Rookie third team if you will, built off the players who missed the cut.
G – Frank Ntilikina – New York Knicks
Stats: 78 GP, 5.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 36.4 FG%, 31.8 3PT%, 0.8 SPG
Notable Stat: Ntilikina ranked a league-best .65 points per possession percentage when defending the pick and roll
Frank Ntilikina was selected with the eighth overall pick by the New York Knicks in last June’s draft. The Knicks took Ntilikina over highly touted guards such as All-Rookie first and second team members like Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell. Ntilikina struggled out of the gate, going scoreless in his debut versus the Oklahoma City Thunder and then missing the next two games due to sprained right knee suffered in practice. After that, Ntilikina was able to settle in and prove that the Knicks brass would not regret choosing him
The defensive mind and skillset that Ntilikina possessed in his first-year warrants more recognition than he may have received. In no way did Ntilikina have a dominant offensive presence in his rookie season, scoring a season high of 17. However, his offense can be developed, but it his defense that makes him special. In the 78 games in which he played in this year, Ntilikina had 14 games where he collected two or more steals. His best defensive game came against Eastern Conference juggernaut, Cleveland Cavaliers, where he pilfered six total steals.
Outside of being the best in the NBA at defending the pick and roll, the 6’5″ guard with a 7’0″ wingspan gave floor generals across the league fits on a nightly basis. The bright spot in all of this comes from the fact that he is only 19 years old and will turn 20 this summer. The Knicks primary core is built off of foreign players, with the obvious emergence of Kristaps Porzingis, and Ntilikina coming around in occasional minutes last season, it will be quite the sight to see when both are healthy and on the court together.
Going into his second year, the defense of Ntilikina will need to stay relatively similar but he may need to build more muscle to defend more positions on the court. As far as his offense, he will get better and more confident in his game. The only way for him to get better is by actually playing. New Knicks head coach David Fizdale should make that his number one priority next season. Regardless of signing a big name free-agent (insert LeBron James thoughts of him wearing blue and orange here) or being without Porzingis all of next year due to the torn ACL suffered last season, the development of Ntilikina is key.
The case can be made for him being snubbed because although he was not as sexy a pick as Lonzo Ball, one could argue that his rookie season was a bit more of a success. Ball played in only 52 games (26 fewer games than Ntilikina) and recorded a lower field goal, free-throw, and three-point percentage than Ntilikina. As stated previously, Ntilikina may not have been the popular pick but he was the right one.
G – De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings
Stats: 73 GP, 11.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.4 APG, 41.2 FG%, 30.7 3PT%, 1.0 SPG
Notable Stat: Fox ranked in the top 10 in PPG, APG, and SPG amongst all rookies.
The backcourt of Sacramento is a young, crowded, and one of the more scary ones in the NBA. The Kings carry three rookie guards. They have All-Rookie second team member Bogdan Bogdanovich, the offensively talented Frank Mason III and obviously the dangerous De’Aaron Fox. To go along with these rookies is second-year player Buddy Hield who has already established himself as a serious scoring threat, Among all rookies, Fox ranked in the top 10 in points (9th), assists (5th), and steals (7th.)
The argument can be made that Fox should have made it in over teammate Bogdanovich. The difference between Bogdanovich and Fox statistically was minimal. Fox averaged more assists and steals while Bogdanovich got the edge over Fox in points (Bogdanovich 11.8 PPG, Fox 11.6 PPG), rebounds (Bogdanovich 2.9, Fox 2.8), field goal percentage (Bogdanovich 44.6 FG%, Fox 41.2 FG%) and three-point percentage (Bogdanovich 39.2 3PT%, Fox 30.7 3PT%).
While the stats may ever so slightly favor Bogdanovich, Fox’s still showed he was just as capable on offense. Fox played five fewer games than Bogdanovich and still was able to manage fewer single-digit games (Bogdanovich with 27 single-digit games, Fox with 25). Fox also got the nod over Bogdanovich in terms of starts. Fox started in 60 of 73 games played while Bogdanovich only started in 53 of 78 games.
Fox also managed to achieve a greater season-high than Bogdanovich this season. Fox scored 26 versus San Antonio on January 28th and Bogdanovich scored 25 against the Utah Jazz on January 17th.
The length and athleticism that Fox offers for future years are going to pay off for him and the Kings. He resembles John Wall in the open court with his blink of eye speed when going coast to coast. His normally smooth jump shot struggled a bit this year but he was able to adjust his offensive game to be effective and use that speed to explode to the rim. Who knows who will emerge as the best guard out of this Kings roster, but if guards who have come out of the University of Kentucky (like Fox) have taught us anything, it’s that they have a proven track record of becoming superstars at some point within their careers.
F/G – Dillon Brooks – Memphis Grizzlies
Stats: 82 GP, 11.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 44.0 FG%, 35.6 3PT%, 0.9 SPG
Notable Stat: Brooks is the only rookie to play in all 82 regular season games.
An example of a second-round pick panning out for a team, look no further than Dillon Brooks. Brooks was taken with the 45th overall selection and did not take long before he made an impact and became a crucial part in the Grizzlies rotation. He ranked fourth on the team in minutes played and finished eighth out of all rookies in the same category. Being the only rookie to suit up and play in all the regular season games and joined a short list of only 25 other NBA players to do so.
Playing in every game does not make him worthy of this selection, it was his playing those 82 games that made him deserving of a spot. Averaging a healthy stat line of double-digit points and with a high shooting efficiency, he was the gem that most NBA teams missed out on. Brooks recorded the second highest point total in a single game by a rookie this season with 36 points on April 11th versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. As he took it the Thunder and played with the reckless abandonment, it resembled the same approach to the game that we are used to seeing from players like Russell Westbrook and Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell.
Brooks falls victim to a year full of talented rookie and although this snub isn’t something he or the Grizzlies faithful were expecting, he can use this as motivation to prove the voters wrong and grow his game even more than it already is. Memphis has a budding superstar on their hands.
F – OG Anunoby – Toronto Raptors
Stats: 74 GP, 5.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.7 APG, 47.1 FG%, 37.1 3PT%, 0.7 SPG
Notable Stat: Out of the Rookies in the playoffs, Anunoby ranked first in both FG% as well as 3pT%.
Who would have thought that the 23rd overall pick in the draft would play an integral part in locking down a team’s number one overall seed in the Eastern Conference? That is exactly what OG Anunoby provided for the Toronto Raptors this season. Anunoby was used as a three-and-d role player for the Raptors and did a very good job at that. With DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry handling the brunt of the workload on offense, they needed to turn to somebody who could lock in and save that energy for the defensive end. Anunoby did that for Toronto and would occasionally be asked to guard the teams best scoring threat. We saw him go toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the playoffs and although the King got the final word as the Raptors were swept, we saw the toughness and physicality that Anunoby offers.
Although his defense was overlooked by some throughout the NBA, his ability to stretch the floor on offense is what makes him even more valuable. Whether it be coming off screens, being planted in the corner, or just meandering on the perimeter awaiting a pass from the penetration created, Anunoby found ways to be effective scoring the ball. Working his way into the starting lineup, Anunoby started 64 of the Raptors 82 games. His efficiency from the field and from the three-point line ranked in the top seven of all rookies (7th in FG%, 6th in 3PT%).
With the Raptors unable to take advantage of the number one overall seed and former head coach Dwayne Casey being relieved of his duties it is unclear what the next move for Toronto will be. However, one bright area that the Raptors need not worry about is Anunoby and his ability to play at this level. The high ceiling that he is capable of reaching and his ‘floor’ being relatively high as well, Anunoby has set the foundation of what could be a very productive and satisfying career.
C – Jarrett Allen – Brooklyn Nets
Stats: 72 GP, 8.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.7 APG, 58.9 FG%, 1.2 BPG
Notable Stat: Allen ranked 1st in blocks per game and 2nd in FG% amongst rookies
Coming into the draft as a premier shot blocker. Jarrett Allen did not disappoint in his rookie season as he led all rookies in shot blocks and ranked in the top 20 in all of the NBA in the same category. Hoping to solidify the front-court of the Brooklyn Nets who are trying to piece together a winning franchise piece-by-piece, Allen gives Brooklyn a rim protector and high-efficiency shooter. Think of him as a poor mans Clint Capela.
Speaking back to his high efficiency on offense, he finished first amongst qualified rookies in field goal percentage and although he did not qualify to be listed on the NBA’s list of field goal percentage, he would have finished in the top 10.
While All-Rookie second team honoree John Collins may have had better numbers in terms of points and rebounds per game, Allen made up for his statistical deficiencies by being a more reliable offensive weapon had he gotten more looks (7.4 FGA for Collins, 5.5 for Allen) and more minutes than Collins got (Collins averaged 4.1 more MPG). This is not to say that Collins did not deserve to make the All-Rookie second team, but rather a case in which had Allen been voted in, there would have been some logical reasoning behind it.