Last week: 2We got on Mitchell last week for not getting to the free-throw line frequently enough, and it appears he heard us. The Jazz guard had a phenomenal offensive week, using 7.7 free-throw attempts per game to bolster his nearly 31 point per game average. He shot brilliantly (58 percent overall, 35 percent from 3), but he didn't allow himself to fall in love with his jumper. Instead he's using his strong spot-up shooting (91st percentile according to Synergy) to open lanes for him to drive to the basket when the defense over-commits. He's also been using his strong frame and trickery to seek out contact in the lane, in the mold of the master power guard James Harden. Watch these drives to the lane and you have to admit it's pretty Harden-esque. As Mitchell continues to develop his ability to draw fouls, he could become an elite scorer very quickly.
Stats this week: 30.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.3 steals
Last week: 7Smith's biggest weakness as a rookie has been his efficiency, and this week we got a glimpse of the kind of player he could turn into if he starts to figure it out. He shot 51 percent from the field this week while maintaining his massive usage rate of 31.4 percent, second among rookies only to Mitchell's 33.8. Smith's percentages have gone up partly thanks to his improved finishing ability in transition. He's become a more effective scorer in transition by doing one thing particularly well -- SLOWING DOWN. Smith is so incredibly fast that for much of his career so far he's been like a runaway train on the break, unable to control himself when he gets near the basket. But this week he was much more deliberate on the break, making sure to compose himself before putting up the shot. Smith's blazing speed is unteachable, but he can continue to work on getting more controlled shots on the fast break to improve his transition efficiency.
Stats this week: 24.0 points, 4.0 assists, 2.0 rebounds
Last week: 3In was an underwhelming two-game week for Simmons statistically, but the Sixers did win both their games, including a sloppy one in Boston against the Celtics. The "wow" factor has worn off a bit for Simmons, as he's gone from nearly putting up triple-doubles every night to much more pedestrian numbers. He continues to play good defense, but he's turning the ball over at a higher rate (led all rookies with 4.5 per game this week) and shot under 50 percent from the field this week -- something he rarely does. Simmons has the ability to be a transcendent NBA player, but he's clearly going through some growing pains.
Stats this week: 10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.0 blocks
Last week: 1The Finnisher had a slight fall from grace this week, but -- let's be honest -- he wasn't going to stay in that No. 1 spot for long. Markkanen didn't have a bad week, by any means, as he reached 100 career 3-pointers faster than any player in NBA history. With Nikola Mirotic out for a couple of games last week, Markkanen proved that he was capable of stepping up as the primary scorer, but with Mirotic back it's clear that he's also comfortable as more of a role player for the surprisingly decent Chicago Bulls. As Zach LaVine's minutes continue to increase there will be fewer shots for Markkanen, so it will be interesting to see how he can affect the game in other ways.
Stats this week: 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists
Last week: 5Tatum's been great all season, but he's still struggling to assert himself offensively when the Celtics really need him. Thursday's loss to the Sixers would have been a perfect time for him to take on more of an offensive load with Kryie Irving sidelined, but instead he took just 11 shots as Boston fell behind by as many as 21 points. The 19-year-old has been phenomenal, but he hasn't taken more than 15 shots in a game all season. Just once it'd be nice to see what happens if Tatum put up 25 shots. You love to see young players who are unselfish, but unleashing that Mamba mentality could unlock something special in Tatum's game.
Stats this week: 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Last week: 6Bogie's clearly the Kings' best rookie this season, and he's proving it on a weekly basis. He shot a blistering 55 percent from the field and made 10 of his 15 3-point attempts (67 percent) in yet another losing week for the Kings. With Sacramento's announcement that it's going toward a youth movement for the rest of the season, don't be surprised to see Bogdanovic's numbers increase as he gets more and more responsibility as not only a shooter, but also as a primary ball-handler and playmaker.
Stats this week: 17.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists
Los Angeles Clippers PG
Last week: UnrankedTeodosic is a rookie by NBA standards, but for all intents and purposes he's a veteran -- and he's certainly playing like one. He's been the floor leader for a Clippers team that's probably the most surprising in the league, getting the ball to a red-hot Lou Williams and the rest of the Clippers' merry band of misfits. We've all seen Teodosic's insane passing ability, but he's also been deadly from the 3-point line, something that was a question mark when he came over from Europe. He shot 59 percent from the field and 56 percent on 3-pointers this week, which is vital to opening things up for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan inside. Now the trick is just getting them all on the court at the same time.
Stats this week: 12.7 points, 5.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds
Last week: UnrankedAfter dropping out of the rankings last week, Kuz came back strong to get himself back in the mix. Kuzma's shot has evaded him of late, but a 4-of-8 3-point shooting game against the Grizzlies might start to get him out of his funk (overall he shot 40 percent on 3-pointers for the week). Kuzma's scoring has gone down, but he's responding to more defensive attention by getting his teammates involved. He's notched three or more assists in five of his last six games, something he had done only 10 times in his first 37 games. A few weeks ago, there's no way Kuzma makes this pass. Recognizing when making the right pass is better than taking a decent shot is something Luke Walton stresses with Kuzma, so it's good to see him making strides in that area.
Stats this week: 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals
Last week: UnrankedThe Grizz had a 2-1 week and it was partly due to Brooks finally getting more involved in the offense. A prolific scorer at Oregon, Brooks had only scored in double digits once over his past eight games before exploding for 19 and 17 points, respectively, in wins over the Lakers and Knicks. Brooks knocked down 7-of-11 3-pointers in those games, which is crucial for a Memphis team that's toward the bottom of the league in 3-pointers made and attempted. While he's been solid on defense and content to play his role on offense, the Grizzlies could probably benefit from Brooks being more aggressive on the offensive end.
Stats this week: 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals
Last week: 9Wallace is perhaps the best story on a Clippers team full of great stories. He's done whatever Doc Rivers has asked of him, playing both shooting guard and small forward since he was signed to a two-way deal a couple of weeks ago. Wallace has made himself enough of a spot-up threat to pull the defense outside the 3-point line, but he's also been incredibly efficient finishing plays around the basket -- he's averaging 1.32 points per possession on those types of shots, per Synergy, which is in the 82nd percentile. The 6-5 wing has also proven to be an excellent defender and plays with a ton of energy, so he may eventually force the Clippers into converting his two-way contract into a standard one.
Stats this week: 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks