NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Celtics' Jayson Tatum surges past two Lakers

Rookies have it tough. They're simultaneously trying to prove that they belong in the NBA and trying not to disturb the previously established chemistry of their brand new team. It's a tough balance to strike, and so far this season Jayson Tatum has walked the line perfectly.

If there was any knock on him, it's that he hasn't been aggressive enough. While players like Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons have been given the keys to their respective teams' offenses, Tatum has done his best not to disrupt the culture that the Celtics have built over the past few seasons.

As a result he's been incredibly consistent, but has only yet to crack the surface of his potential. The next step is to start using his impressive offensive skill to take over games, something that rookies like Kuzma and Mitchell have no problem doing, albeit for less talented teams.

Tatum finally started getting more aggressive this week, and his efficiency didn't suffer in the process. He did enough to unseat Kuzma and earn the No. 1 spot for the first time this season.

This week's NBA Rookie Power Rankings
1
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics SF

Last week: 4
Stats this week: 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals

We've been waiting for Tatum to finally realize how good he is and take a more aggressive role in the Celtics offense, and -- while he's still probably not taking as many shots as he should -- this week he took over for stretches of games to help get his team wins. Tatum did something else this week that has to have the Boston front office excited -- he got to the free throw line. After averaging less than four free throw attempts per game this season, he's taken 23 free throws in his last three games, including a career-high 11 attempts in the Celtics' improbable comeback victory over the Rockets on Thursday night. Take this play for example, where Tatum sees nobody but James Harden between him and the basket, and he goes right after the All-Star to seek out the contact.
Tatum doesn't yet like to take shots outside of the flow of the offense, so he likely won't be putting up 15 shots a game any time soon. But he has a large arsenal of moves that should allow him to get to the line much more frequently as the season goes on.
2
Kyle Kuzma Los Angeles Lakers PF

Last week: No. 1
Stats this week: 21.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals

Kuzma officially arrived last week, but this week he found out what it's like to be the focus of the opposing defense. After shooting around 50 percent from the field all season, Kuzma's field goal percentage dropped precipitously to 35.5 percent in four Lakers losses this week, thanks largely to the added attention. He had the worst game of his young career against the physical Memphis Grizzlies, who held Kuzma to nine points on 4-of-24 shooting, including 1-of-11 3-pointers. Yikes. He was short on nearly all of his 3s, indicating that there was probably some fatigue in a busy week, but even worse than the horrid shooting was the fact that Kuzma had only one assist in the game, showing that he's not yet figured out how to get teammates involved when his shot's not falling. Watch how he misses a wide-open Andrew Bogut on a drive to the basket and instead puts up the shot, which promptly gets swatted out of bounds by Marc Gasol. Bogut lets him know about it, too.
Kuzma immediately recognized that he should have thrown the lob, but it's clear that at this point his instinct is to score first, which is fine. But if he wants to progress into more than just a scorer, these are the type of things that need to become second nature.
3
Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz SG

Last week: No. 5
Stats this week: 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists

After a toe injury sidelined him for two games last week, Mitchell returned to the lineup with a fury by putting up 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting against the Thunder. The Jazz continued their struggles with an 0-3 week (they've lost 10 of their last 12), but Mitchell is still producing the kind of efficient offense he's made his trademark so far this season. With Rudy Gobert injured and the Jazz struggling, this season's focus is slowly shifting towards developing Mitchell rather than trying to make the playoffs.
4
Lonzo Ball Los Angeles Lakers PG

Last week: 3
Stats this week: 17.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists

Ugh. Lonzo's shoulder injury came at the worst possible time, just as he was starting to gain confidence by stringing together several good games. He played in only two of the Lakers' four games this week, so that's why he's not higher in the rankings, but it's clear that Lonzo has turned the proverbial corner offensively. He made seven of his 12 3-point attempts, including a career-high five in six attempts against the Warriors, so the Lakers are hoping his horrific shooting days are behind him. Lonzo's effect on the offense was clear in the two games the team played without him this week -- the Lakers' league-leading pace of 104.08 slowed to just 99.26 without him.
5
Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers PG

Last week: 2
Stats this week: 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists

Simmons had probably his worst week as a pro, and it's no coincidence that Joel Embiid wasn't on the court for two of the team's three games. Defenses have completely disregarded Simmons as a shooter, even from the closest of distances, which makes things very difficult without Embiid on the floor. The defense sticks to shooters and forces Simmons to become a scorer, something that he's just not yet comfortable with. It's no surprise that Simmons' best game of the week (17 points, 8 assists, four rebounds) came in Thursday's loss to the Blazers with Embiid back on the court. It'll be interesting to see the adjustments Simmons makes as teams continue to develop more complex scouting reports to defend him.
6
Jordan Bell Golden State Warriors PF

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 10.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists

After being called out by coach Steve Kerr for not running hard down the floor, Bell responded by averaging a double-double for the week. More impressive than the points, rebounds and hustle is the fact that Bell continues to improve his playmaking, averaging 3.8 assists for the week and nearly putting up a triple-double off the bench with 11 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists against the Jazz. Zaza Pachulia started that game but played only 13 minutes, and Bell may eclipse him in minutes and occasionally pop into the starting lineup as the season progresses. He's certainly earned it.
7
Bogdan Bogdanovic Sacramento Kings SG

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 13.3 points, 4.0 assists, 1.7 steals

The highest-paid rookie in NBA history finally makes an appearance in the rankings with three strong performances this week. A lot of fans view Bogdanovic as a shooter, but he showed his underrated playmaking ability in the Kings' shocking win over the Cavs on Wednesday night, dishing out a career-high eight assists. He's comfortable in both the half-court and in transition, as you can see here. First he hits Willie Cauley-Stein with a perfect pocket pass as he rolls to the rim, then he recognizes Zach Randolph's mismatch and gives him a beautiful lead pass toward the rim.
He'll have some struggles defensively, but Bogie could actually start receiving more and more minutes as a point guard given his ability to make his teammates better.
8
John Collins Atlanta Hawks PF

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 12.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks

Collins appears to be back at full strength after missing the first two weeks of December with an injured shoulder, and he's back stuffing the stat sheet for a Hawks team that's starting to show signs of life. They nearly beat the Thunder on the road, then took care of the Mavericks and Wizards for a 2-1 week. Collins continues to put up insane per-36 minute averages (18.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks this week), and he's as efficient as they come offensively (71 percent from the field). If he can keep evolving on the defensive end, he's going to start hitting the 30-minute mark regularly for Atlanta.
9
Bam Adebayo Miami Heat C

Last week: 10
Stats this week: 10.3 points, 8.0 rebounds assists, 1.0 blocks

Adebayo remains a force in the middle for the Heat, though he may not stay in the rankings long due to the return of Hassan Whiteside. The rookie put together his most complete offensive game so far with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Friday's win over the Mavericks, and his net rating was a plus-18 for the week. While he may not get 30-plus minutes moving forward, Adebayo cemented himself into rotation with the way he played as a fill-in starter.
10
Milos Teodosic Los Angeles Clippers PG

Last week: 8
Stats this week: 8.5 points, 7.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds

Teodosic sat out one of the Clippers' games this week for routine maintenance, but his impact was strongly felt in the two games he was out there. The biggest thing he does for this current iteration of the Clippers is take over ball-handling duties to free up Austin Rivers and Lou Williams to be the scorers that they need them to be. Teodosic has hit just enough 3s to open up his brilliant passing game, and he'll only get better as he builds chemistry with his teammates (Blake Griffin's coming back soon) and gets used to the pace and athleticism of the NBA.

Dropped out

On the bubble

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