Last ranking: UnrankedWelcome back to the party, Lauri! After falling out of the last set of rankings, Markkanen earned the top spot by putting together a huge week, punctuated by outplaying fellow Euro 7-footer Kristaps Porzingis on Wednesday. With Nikola Mirotic out, Markkanen scored a career-high 33 points and pulled down 10 boards in the double-overtime win, and he became the only 7-footer besides Dirk Nowitzki to hit eight 3-pointers in a game. The 20-year-old from Finland shot a blistering 17-of-31 (55 percent) from beyond the arc this week, but it was his ferocious dunk over Enes Kanter that had his team most excited. "I damn near passed out," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. Here's why:
Markkanen will have his ups and downs as a shooter, but it's clear that he's going to be around 40 percent from 3 for the duration of his career. If he can continue to take it to the rack like this, he's going to be a real problem for opposing defenses.
Stats this week: 19.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.8 blocks
Last ranking: No. 3Mitchell's sky-high usage rate continues (27.4 percent this week), and it might be taking a toll on him. He shot 43 percent from the field and 31 percent on 3s this week, but more concerning was the fact that he took 26 3-pointers compared to just one free throw attempt. That's right, ONE free throw attempt in three games. For a player as dynamic and athletic as Mitchell, that's simply unacceptable. The Jazz's lack of shooting from the wings sometimes clogs the lane, making it difficult for Mitchell to find his way into the teeth of the defense to draw fouls, but the fact that he's hoisting so many 3s and not getting to the line could also be a sign of fatigue from having to carry the offense night after night. Take for example this end-of-game situation against the Wizards, where Mitchell has a chance to put the game away with a basket. He gets an iso against John Wall, and takes the bait as Wall clearly backs off him to entice him into taking a pull-up 3-pointer. Can Mitchell make that shot? Absolutely. Would he have been better off going to the basket and trying to draw contact on a night where he was 7-for-20 and 2-for-10 from the 3-point line? Probably. The Jazz still hung on for the win, but they'd love to see Mitchell get to the free throw line more than the 2.9 attempts he's averaging this season.
Stats this week: 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Last ranking: No. 5The Sixers only played two games this week thanks to a mid-week trip to merry old England, where they blew a 22-point lead to the Celtics. Simmons didn't put up his normal triple-double stats this week, but he shot 68 percent from the field and, more importantly, got after it on the defensive end. If Simmons continues on his pace, he'll become one of a handful of players to average at least 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one block per game -- the others are Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Russell Westbrook and Fat Lever ... you know, pretty good company. No rookie has ever accomplished the feat. Simmons has been an elite rim protector all season long for the Sixers. Per Synergy, he leads the league in defending non-post-ups around the basket (min. 60 possessions), allowing just 0.742 points per possession. Watch as he slides his feet to stay with Suns forward T.J. Warren, then keeps his arms straight up and uses his length to pick up a block once he gets near the rim. Simmons' defensive versatility is almost as exciting as his incredible offensive potential.
Stats this week: 17.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 2.0 blocks
Last ranking: No. 4Despite some major, um ... distractions, Lonzo picked up right where he left off before a shoulder injury sidelined him for six games, scoring in double digits in three of the Lakers' four games this week. After losing nine straight -- and all six with Lonzo out of the lineup -- the Lakers have now won three in a row including an improbable win over the Spurs on Thursday night. Lonzo's been shooting better, and capped off the week by making 7-of-11 field goals against San Antonio, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Perhaps more impressive, however, was how he managed to dominate Tuesday's win over the Kings despite having a horrific shooting night. He went 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 on 3s, but put up a rare rebound-assist double-double with 11 in each category, and added five steals with just one turnover. Everyone in L.A. is thrilled to see Lonzo finally starting to make some shots, but it's clear that even when he's not scoring, he can still have a positive impact on the game.
Stats this week: 11.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 3.0 steals
Last ranking: No. 1Tatum struggled on offense this week -- a rarity for the usually consistent rookie -- but the Celtics still went a perfect 3-0 and had an impressive 93.5 defensive rating when Tatum was on the floor. His percentages dropped to 43 from the field and 33 on 3-pointers, but the 19-year-old somehow finds ways to help his team, even when his shot isn't falling. Tatum also showed some scary defensive potential by becoming the first rookie wing to collect at least six blocks in a game since Andrei Kirilenko in 2002. With his length, athleticism and basketball savvy, Tatum has all the tools to become a top-notch two-way player.
Stats this week: 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 2.0 blocks
Last ranking: No. 7As Bogie gets more comfortable with the NBA style of play, he's establishing himself as the Kings' best rookie this season. He was pressed into some point guard duty with George Hill missing time due to the birth of his child, and Bogdanovic showed his ability to get teammates involved while increasing his scoring output in every game this week. He was insanely efficient, shooting 54 percent from the field and 58 percent on 3-pointers, and the Kings' offensive rating plummeted from 103.6 to 92.4 when he was off the floor this week. With Hill back in the lineup on Thursday, Bogdanovic went back to a more traditional off-the-ball role and drilled 4-of-6 3-pointers in a close loss to the Clippers. It's looking like the 6-foot-6 Serbian might be one of the few bright spots in a dismal Sacramento season.
Stats this week: 17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Last ranking: UnrankedWe'll say this for Smith's career so far -- we know who he is. A lot of rookies struggle with consistency and their role on a night-to-night basis, but Smith knows that he's out there to push the tempo and put pressure on the opposing defense. He's still not efficient as a scorer, but he continues to evolve as a playmaker, seeing his assist numbers rise significantly in the past week. Plays like this dish to Salah Mejri are becoming more frequent. If he can use his athleticism and quickness to make the defense commit and then find cutters and shooters, it will take Smith's game to the franchise point guard level the Mavericks need him to land.
Stats this week: 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals
Last ranking: No. 9After a relatively quiet four-game stretch following the return of Hassan Whiteside, Adebayo exploded with a 16-point, 15-rebound, five-block performance in a gritty win in Toronto. He followed that up with 15 points and five assists against the Pacers as Miami continued to roll with its sixth straight win. Adebayo has played so well that coach Erik Spoelstra has even used some lineups with him and Whiteside on the court together -- which seems counter-intuitive in a league that values shooting so highly. When Spoelstra surrounds the two big men with three shooters -- Goran Dragic , Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson -- the lineup has seen a net rating of plus-9.8 in eight minutes, with an expectedly stingy defensive rating of 67.1. It's not something the Heat will do often, but Adebayo has given Spoelstra yet another look to throw at teams for brief stretches.
Stats this week: 9.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
Los Angeles Clippers SG
Last ranking: UnrankedThe Clippers are so beset by injuries that they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for anyone in the country who could play shooting guard or small forward. Luckily for the Clippers, they found absolute gold in Tyrone Wallace, whom they signed to a two-way deal on Saturday. Wallace played the best four games of his career this week because, well, they were the only four games of his career. He played over 30 minutes in three of the Clippers' four games, making the start in Thursday's win over the Kings. It was easy to overlook because of the show Lou Williams put on, but Wallace put up career-highs in points (22), rebounds (six) and assists (four) in the Clippers' unbelievable win over the Warriors at Oracle. He may not be a starter when the team's healthy, but Wallace is certainly doing his best to earn a permanent place on a surprisingly decent Clippers squad.
Stats this week: 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals
Last ranking: UnrankedFox was pressed into starting point guard duty due to Hill's absence, and he responded with his best week as a pro so far. The shooting efficiency still isn't there (shooting 44 percent from the field this week), but he showed that he can handle heavy minutes as a lead guard, notching the first double-double of his career against the Spurs with 11 points and 10 assists. Fox has a long way to go on a very bad Kings team, but he showed enough glimpses this week to give Sacramento fans some hope.
Stats this week: 13.0 points, 6.5 assists, 2.0 steals