The Rookie of the Year award is a one-man race and it’s essentially the Dallas Mavericks’ first-year sensation Luka Doncic’s award to lose.
The award is usually gifted to the NBA novice having the best season. This year, it’s clear that it’s Doncic. Not to say that other rookies aren’t having a good rookie year but more so that the Slovenian native is having that much of an impact.
1. Luka Doncic:
Season stats: 19.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.1 steals
Doncic was a highly acclaimed rookie coming into the year. Some were on the fence about who and what he could be, whereas others were fully on board mostly due to his strong pedigree playing for Real Madrid.
The 19-year old forward has not disappointed the masses throughout the first half of the season.
Doncic has been remarkable on the offensive side of the ball. He’s been able to be effective and get buckets at every level on the floor. Whether it’s getting to the rim, shooting mid-range, or pulling the three, Doncic has been able to get whatever he wants.
Josh Hart was putting the clamps on Luka Doncic late in the game, but Luka really got him with this move. 😬 pic.twitter.com/53Qt2wFoh6
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) January 8, 2019
Not to mention, Doncic has been trying to steal the “Best Stepback” award from James Harden.
He’s been embarrassing defenders all season long with his stepback three, which surprised some who didn’t know he had that in his arsenal.
It’s safe to say Doncic is getting the respect of his peers as well as the fans. He’s currently ranked second in Western Conference votes amongst forwards which could ultimately lead to an All-Star game start. An incredible feat for a young guy in his rookie season.
2. DeAndre Ayton:
Season stats: 16.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 blocks, 60.0 FG%
The season for DeAndre Ayton so far hasn’t been one of surprise. He has given us just exactly what we thought he would.
A suspected double-double guy with a lot of offensive talent that can provide an immediate impact for a young Phoenix Suns team is exactly who Ayton has been.
He also has the respect of his teammates. Jamal Crawford gave some encouraging words on the young center (via Marc J. Spears):
“He has a great understanding of the game for such a young guy. He has no agenda besides wining. He’ll be one of the faces of the league for years to come.”
Consistency is the challenge for the rookie out of Arizona. He’s had games where he’s been close to nonexistent.
For someone with his caliber of talent, he has to make his presence felt on a nightly basis. Players have bad games, but even then he has to find out how to be effective when he’s not scoring.
However, overall he’s been a beast as a rookie. Dominating the boards and scoring the ball well, Ayton has been efficient all season long, shooting 60% from the field. At his best, he’s a tough cover for anyone in the league, rookie or vet.
3. Trae Young:
Season stats: 15.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists
Knowing that Young had a ratchet coming into the league, we expected him to score the ball at a high volume.
He’s averaging 15.5 points per game, good for third out of the rookie class. A lot of people questioned how he’d adjust to the NBA as a scorer, but his shooting is still clearly one of the strongest parts of his game.
Young dropped a career-high 35 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 21, a game in which he shot 6-14 from behind the three-point line.
He found his rhythm from deep but also drove to the basket a couple of times for impressive finishes. He also tallied 11 assists.
At 6’2, he leads rookies in assists per game by a good margin. Young can read the defense well despite his small size.
4. Collin Sexton:
Season stats: 14.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.5 steals
Collin Sexton has taken the responsibility of playing point guard for a LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers team. They’re a team with little to no expectations that are just looking to progress as individuals and as a unit.
This is a good position for Sexton because it gives him an opportunity to get his feet wet and play pressure-less basketball.
Playing point guard in today’s NBA is no easy task, but Sexton is handling his own well.
The young guard produced his season-high, 29 points against two top guards in the league in John Wall and James Harden, which both resulted in big wins for the Cavaliers.
Sexton is a tough-nosed player and you know when he hits the floor, he’s going to provide good effort. He’s that spark plug that the Cavaliers desperately need to provide energy.
5. Kevin Knox
Season stats: 12.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.9 rebounds, 37% field goal
After a sluggish start to the season, the New York Knicks’ Kevin Knox is starting to round into form.
While the start of January hasn’t been kind to him from an efficiency standpoint, Knox has upped his scoring and been more accurate from the field since the beginning of the year, including a nine-game stretch in December that saw him average close to 20 points per game on 40% shooting from downtown.
Knox continues to learn how to navigate the NBA’s tough and rugged seas as a scorer, and while this year has featured it’s ups and downs for the former Kentucky Wildcat, Knicks fans the second half of the season brings more triumphs than they do frustrations for Knox.
Check back in a few weeks for an update on the Rookie of the Year ladder.
This post was completed by DJ Allen and Evan Anderson.