Last week: No. 2And they said it couldn't be done ... It would have gotten incredibly boring if Ben Simmons went the entire season as the No. 1 rookie in these rankings, so thank goodness for Donovan Mitchell. I contemplated putting Mitchell at the top last week, but I'm sure glad I didn't because he truly earned it this week, shooting 52 percent from the field and 44 percent on 3-pointers. Mitchell has become the talk of the league with his play recently, and has taken complete control of the Jazz offense to the tune of a 35 percent usage rate in four games this week. Mitchell's ability to shoot and drive off of screens has made him incredibly effective on hand-offs, particularly at the top of the key. He and Derrick Favors run a ton of them, with a very high success rate because of Mitchell's ability to score from all three levels. Mitchell has improved considerably as both a scorer and a playmaker since the season started, and he's made himself a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender.
Stats this week: 29.8 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds
Last week: No. 1Simmons nearly averaged a triple-double this week and still fell from the top spot -- that shows you just how great Mitchell has been. It also shows you how incredible Simmons has been, since we consider a 12-10-9 week a "rough patch." Simmons was a bit under the weather this week and played through it, but at times you could tell he wasn't his normal self out there. The end of the loss to the Lakers did highlight a specific problem that Simmons and the 76ers will have to deal with eventually -- how can Simmons take over games down the stretch if he is incapable of shooting outside of the paint? He didn't attempt a single field goal in the final five minutes, and had just one assist. The Sixers were pounding it in to Joel Embiid late, but sooner or later they'll have to put the ball in their point guard's hands and ask him to go win them a ball game.
Stats this week: 12.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 9.3 assists
Last week: No. 4Last week I said that Tatum was in a bit of a mini-slump. Yeah, that's not happening anymore. Tatum had a scorching hot week in which he shot 78 percent (not a typo) on 3-pointers, and he now leads the entire NBA at an absurd 51.9 percent from deep. Largely thanks to his incredible 3-point proficiency, he's on pace to have the highest true shooting percentage of any rookie in NBA history who's taken nine or more shots per game. His marksmanship has been particularly surprising given the fact that he shot only 34 percent in his one season at Duke last year, from a considerably shorter 3-point line. He had arguably the lowest floor of any player in the 2017 draft class, but if he can continue to shoot like this, Tatum might have the highest ceiling as well.
Stats this week: 16.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals
Last week: No. 6Smith played slightly fewer minutes this week, and he was far more effective, particularly on the defensive end. It's no secret that defending at the point guard position is no small task in the NBA, and Smith has had his troubles this season. But this week the Mavericks' defensive rating when Smith was on the court dropped from 111.7 to 100.2, a significant improvement. His offense didn't seem to suffer from being more effective on the defensive end, either, which is a good sign for the Mavs. Smith was a plus-15.3 in net rating this week as his team went 2-1.
Stats this week: 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists
Last week: UnrankedOG is often overlooked because his numbers don't jump off the page, but he's been incredibly consistent and a crucial part of a Raptors team that is third in the NBA in net rating, ahead of both the Celtics and Cavs. He's been able to consistently knock down corner 3s, which is a bonus at this point given his tremendous defensive impact. Anunoby is a huge asset because he can guard the other team's best perimeter player, allowing Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to conserve their energy for the offensive end. He's also among the best players in the NBA at contesting spot-up jump shooters, who are hitting just 29 percent of their shots with Anunoby closing out on them. Take this sequence, for example, where Anunoby first helps on the cutter, then gets all the way back to Marco Bellineli to force him off his 3-point spot. To cap it off he turns around to contest on the shot, backwards, with his left hand. Plays like this are why Anunoby has become a vital part of the Raptors' starting unit, and isn't going to give up that spot any time soon.
Stats this week: 10.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals
Last week: No. 3The return of Larry Nance Jr. has been the biggest roadblock to Kuzma's ascent so far. Luke Walton starts Nance because of Kuzma's deficiencies on the defensive end, and the rookie had some trouble adjusting to once again coming off the bench this week. His best statistical game of the week (22 points, 12 rebounds) came in a blowout loss to the Rockets, so take that with a grain of salt. In his other two games, a loss at Denver and a win at Philly, Kuzma was a combined 6-for-20 from the field and 2-for-7 on 3s. Every rookie will have ups and downs, but Kuzma needs to find ways to contribute when he's struggling offensively, or he could begin to lose minutes to the emerging Julius Randle.
Stats this week: 12.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Last week: No. 5It's almost becoming clockwork. Lonzo has two or three games where he has pretty much no positive impact, then he does something that makes you a believer. This week it was his stat sheet-stuffing 10-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist, four-block, three-steal performance in a tough road win over the Sixers on national TV. Ball controlled the tempo from the start, and played with a confidence that seems to come and go depending on the game. Ball appears to have come to grips with his shooting problems and found a solution: Don't shoot as much. Coming into the week, Lonzo had attempted six or more 3-pointers in eight games this season -- this week, he shot just over three per game (and made only one of 10). He took a hero 3 toward the end of the Philly game looking to put the Lakers ahead (it was excusable because it was a 2-for-1 opportunity), but he followed that up by showing poise and patience you don't often see from a 19-year-old when he found Brandon Ingram for the game-winning 3-pointer. The skills are clearly there -- now it's just a matter of getting more consistent.
Stats this week: 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists
Last week: No. 9Mason continues to be the Kings' best rookie, as he leads the second unit with his tenacity and confidence. The Kings' net rating is 20.6 when Mason has been on the court this season, which is impressive for a 7-17 team. He had 15 points and three steals as Sacramento nearly pulled off an upset against the Cavs on Wednesday, and continues to show that he's not scared of big moments.
Stats this week: 11.0 points, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals
Last week: No. 7Markkanen's scoring has dropped off since his opening couple weeks of the season, but it's hard to stay motivated when you're losing by 20 points every night. A bigger concern for the Bulls is that Markkanen is shooting just 23.1 percent on "open" 3-pointers (defender 4-6 feet away) this season, and was just 1 of 9 on those types of shots this week. As a stretch-four (or stretch-five, eventually), Markkanen's offense is dependent on him being able to knock down open 3s. As that's become more of a problem for him, his numbers have continued to decline.
Stats this week: 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals
Last week: UnrankedThis is a bit of a speculative add on our part, here. Jackson entered the starting lineup on Thursday in the Suns' first game since Devin Booker was sidelined for at least two weeks with a groin injury, and was actually a plus-six for the game despite his team losing by 10 to the Wizards. He still can't shoot or produce consistent offense, and sometimes he runs around like a chicken with his head cut off, but given enough playing time he might become one of those guys who just inexplicably makes your team better. He's sound defensively, particularly in pick-and-roll situations, so he'll stay on the court. And with Booker out, the Suns will use this as a time for Jackson to experiment more on the offensive end -- which could go really well or really, really poorly. We'll have to wait and see.
Stats this week: 9.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists