NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Point guards shoot past lackluster Lonzo; Tatum rising
While Lonzo continues to struggle with his shot, other rookie point guards are making strides
One of the best things about tracking rookies is that they tend to have wild fluctuations throughout the NBA season. A player will average 20 points one week and drop to six the next -- or vice versa. It's all part of the growing up process.
To that end, there is plenty of movement in this week's NBA Rookie Power Rankings, despite the familiar face on top. Sixers rookie Ben Simmons has been the pinnacle of consistency with his statistics and tenacity, which means that even when he has an off week he's still capable of being the league's best rookie.
Meanwhile players like Dennis Smith Jr. and De'Aaron Fox showed glimpses of their potential last week, while we try to figure out whether or not Lonzo Ball will ever make another shot. Kidding ... sort of.
Without further ado, here is the second installment of the NBA Rookie Power Rankings.
Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers G
Stats last week: 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists (Last week: Ranked No. 1)Simmons had a rough week by his standards, but the 76ers went 2-1 so we won't dock him too much. One thing that jumped out this week was his five turnovers per game, up from his season average of 3.7. He had a career-high 11 assists in his second career triple-double in Friday's win against the Pacers . He followed that up with a horrible shooting night in a gritty win against an elite Utah defense (7-for-22), but pulled down 13 rebounds and had three blocks for the second straight game. On Thursday he got into foul trouble and only played 27 minutes, but still put up 18 points and six assists on 6-of-8 shooting in a loss to the Kings . Even in an off week, Simmons is still the best rookie in the league.
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics F
Stats last week: 13.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists (Last week: Ranked No. 3)The metronome kept on ticking for Tatum, who's become a consistent piece to the red-hot Boston Celtics . He scored 21 points in a win over Atlanta, and provided the signature moment of his young career with a dagger 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in the game. Tatum hurt his ankle in Wednesday's game against the Lakers , and were it not for the injury he probably would have been in the No. 1 spot this week.
Kyle Kuzma Los Angeles Lakers F
Stats last week: 14.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists (Last week: Ranked No. 5)Kuzma entered the starting lineup due to injury to Larry Nance Jr. and played more minutes than any rookie except Simmons last week. He had a rough shooting night against the Wizards on Thursday in the second night of a tough Boston-Washington back-to-back, but still put up 13 points and nine rebounds. With the way Kuzma's playing, Nance might not get his starting job back.
Dennis Smith Jr. Dallas Mavericks G
Stats last week: 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists (Last week: Unranked)Smith had a great week scoring-wise and improved his 3-point shooting to 33 percent, well above his season average of 28.9. The Mavericks are still really bad, so his plus/minus doesn't look good, but it's clear Smith is making strides and finding his comfort zone as the potential future of the franchise. He was the best player on the floor at times during a road win against the Wizards, when he scored a career-high 22 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists.
Lauri Markkanen Chicago Bulls F
Stats last week: 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists (Last week: Ranked No. 2)Markkanen cooled off a bit last week after a hot start to the season. He's still shooting well (40 percent 3-pointers last week) but a 5-for-16 performance in an overtime loss to the Pelicans was the first truly inefficient night of his NBA career. The Bulls are going to keep losing, but Markkanen continues to be a solid scorer and rebounder.
De'Aaron Fox Sacramento Kings G
Stats last week: 11.7 points, 6.3 assists, 2.0 rebounds (Last week: Ranked No. 8)Fox capped off the week by hitting the first game-winner of his career with seven seconds left to beat the 76ers at home. He improved his efficiency, shooting 43 percent from the field as the Kings went 2-1. Fox has still yet to find the 3-point range, but he is brutal on defenses in transition and his pull-up jumper is looking smooth.
Lonzo Ball Los Angeles Lakers G
Stats last week: 8.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists (Last week: Ranked No. 7)Lonzo Ball's shooting woes continue to be historically horrific, yet the Lakers continue to play near-.500 basketball with him at the helm. He shot an atrocious 24 percent from the field this week (13-for-55), including 13 percent (3-for-23) on 3-pointers. Lakers coach Luke Walton wants Lonzo to shoot his way out of the slump, but we have to start asking ourselves if this is really a slump, or if Lonzo really just can't shoot. Either way, his other numbers are strong and the Lakers are winning more games than they should, so we'll keep him right where he was last week.
Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz G
Stats last week: 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists (Last week: Ranked No. 9)Quin Snyder has given Mitchell the green light, and he's certainly using it. Mitchell averaged 18 field goal attempts per game last week, trailing only Dennis Smith Jr. among rookies. Last Friday Mitchell had 25 points against the Raptors , and followed that up with a 17-point outing against the Rockets . But a dreadful performance against the Sixers (eight points, 3-for-21 shooting) takes him down a few pegs in these rankings. The Jazz went 0-3 last week and Mitchell was a minus-13.2, which makes you wonder whether him shooting that much is the right thing for the Jazz.
Dillon Brooks Memphis Grizzlies F
Stats last week: 7.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists (Last week: Ranked No. 4)Brooks hasn't put up gaudy stats, but he's a rookie playing over 30 minutes per game for the 7-4 Grizzlies . He had a defensive rating of 96.7 and a net rating of +8.0 to help Memphis go 2-1 last week, and he scored 13 points in 26 minutes in Sunday's loss to the Lakers. While other rookies put up bigger stats for bad teams, Brooks knows his role and contributes to wins for Memphis.
Frank Ntilikina New York Knicks G
Stats last week: 5.3 points, 6.8 assists, 2.3 rebounds (Last week: Unranked)Ntilikina finally started getting some regular playing time after dealing with injuries to start the season, and he's giving Knicks fans some hope that he and Kristaps Porzingis could be a formidable one-two punch at some point down the road. Ntilikina hasn't shown the ability to score just yet, but his nearly seven assists per game in just 22 minutes per game this week helped lead the Knicks to a 3-1 record. He led all rookies this week with a +16.0 net rating, and had a career-high nine assists and four rebounds in Wednesday's loss to Orlando.
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