This current crop of rookies has looked phenomenal to start. The first five players taken have all had statement games; meaning they have all showed that they belong in the NBA. The rest of the first round has been scattered with talent, guys that were not expected to contribute immediately have dazzled fans and critics alike with their play. As a whole, this might be one of the best draft class in recent memory especially the first round alone.
The first round of the draft is far superior to the second round. While there might be a couple of future All-Stars in the latter part of the draft, the first round has always been home to the future of the NBA. Not only does the first round include the ever prestigious first overall pick, but it has also been a catalyst in major trades falling through with Boston Celtics’ General Manager Danny Ainge being the notorious first round pick collector.
With that said we take a look at how each first-round pick has fared so far in their young careers. Note this is no means a re-draft, but rather a little check up on the rookies.
30 Deandre Ayton (A+)
With the first pick of the 2018 draft, the Phoenix Suns took Deandre Ayton and as of the moment, the pick is justified. Ayton was a dominant force in college as there were times where it seemed he looked too big to be playing against college defenders. So far Ayton is the prime candidate for Rookie of the Year with how well his stats are shaping out. While the defense is not quite there yet, offensively, Ayton is looking like a beast already, as his efficiency is among the NBA’s best.
29 Marvin Bagley III (A-)
Marvin Bagley has looked as good as advertised so far for the Sacramento Kings. The former Duke Blue Devil has been coming off the bench for the Kings but that has not stopped him from producing, especially on the boards. Bagley’s active play has been a perfect fit in the Kings’ offense where they want to get down the floor and run teams out of the building. At the time the pick has been questionable, and while Bagley is not necessarily the second best rookie so far, he has produced and contributed to wins and that alone should be enough for Kings fans.
28 Luka Doncic (A+)
The youngest MVP in the history of the Euroleague has been phenomenal in the NBA; who would have thought? Luka Doncic has captured the attention of media around the world with slick step-backs and jaw-dropping dimes. Doncic is at the forefront when it comes to the Rookie of the Year award along with Deandre Ayton. While the personal race has been tight, Luka and the Dallas Mavericks have won more games than the Suns, meaning he gets a slight edge in terms of who is playing better. Of course, Doncic was traded for by the Mavs back on draft night, and it looks like they got their money’s worth with Wonder Boy.
27 Jaren Jackson Jr. (A)
Probably the most surprising rookie out of the top five, Jaren Jackson Jr. has been solid for the Grizzlies. Coming out of Michigan State, everyone knew what they were getting with Jackson; a defensive specialist who can occasionally hit threes and so far, he has delivered. So far Jaren has teamed up with Marc Gasol to form an old-school defensive frontcourt for the Grizzlies; the rookie has also fit nicely in their offensive scheme as he provides much-needed spacing, and at times, he has been an option down in the post. While Jackson might not be someone you build around, he is definitely a player championship teams need in order to succeed.
26 Trae Young (B)
If you look at Trae Young in a vacuum, he has been good for the Atlanta Hawks but unfortunately, he will be scrutinized with every Luka game-winning step-back jumper. The electric point guard has put up good numbers as far as points and assists per game go, but he has taken a dip in terms of efficiency. Young has been the least impressive out of the top five due to his poor shooting percentage. It might be unfair to judge a player as young as Trae but he was traded for Doncic. This means his performance will always be compared to Luka, and so far, the trade looks like it is skewed in favor of the Mavs as they have seemingly won.
25 Mo Bamba (B-)
Mo Bamba has been good in the limited minutes he has played so far this season. Bamba is playing for head coach Steve Clifford, who is notorious in giving rookies limited minutes, and so far, Bamba has seen less playing time than many hoped. Bamba, a defensive game changer, has looked the part in his limited role; his 7’9" wingspan has certainly been troublesome for opposing teams when they try to run him in a pick-and-roll situation. Bamba has yet to have a breakout game due to limited minutes, and so far, he looks very limited offensively. The Orlando Magic needs to be patient when it comes to Bamba, but the potential reward will be worth the wait.
24 Wendell Carter (A)
The struggling Chicago Bulls look like they absolutely nailed the pick with Wendell Carter. So far, Carter has looked solid for the Bulls; adjusting immediately to the physicality of the NBA, Carter has produced on both sides of the court. Offensively, Carter has been solid around the basket and while the three-point shooting is not there yet, the willingness to take them is a big factor in his development. Defensively, Carter has really flourished for the Bulls; while Carter is by no means the most athletic guy on the floor, his ability to recognize and help off of switches has been a revelation. All in all, Carter has looked like one of the top five rookies so far this year.
23 Collin Sexton (B)
Collin Sexton struggled mightily at the start of the season but lately, he has strung together great performances. Sexton has always been a hyper-aggressive point guard and that aggressiveness might have been his biggest flaw during at the start of the year. Lately, Sexton has been playing under control and the result has been fantastic; there was a 15-game stretch where Sexton scored 20 or more on eight different occasions. While the passing could use some work, Sexton has looked like the floor leader he is capable of being. Cleveland Cavaliers fans can breathe a sigh of relief with this one, as Sexton has looked great.
22 Kevin Knox (C+)
It takes one looks at Kevin Knox’s stats to judge him as a player. People will take a quick glance and dismiss him as a poor-shooting volume scorer, and that is not fair for the rookie. Earlier this year, Knox suffered from an ankle injury, meaning the poor shooting can be directly tied to his shattered ankle. The Knickerbocker has had a couple of good games giving Knicks fans around New York a reason to be patient with Knox. It will take a while but soon, Knox will start contributing in the win column for the New York Knicks.
21 Mikal Bridges (B)
A lot of these rookies have contributed offensively for their respective teams, but Mikal Bridges has been a defensive savant for the Phoenix Suns, a true 3-and-D specialist. Bridges came in hot as far as outside shooting goes and while he has cooled off, his shooting is still a nightly threat for opposing teams. Bridges’ numbers aren’t impressive, but the impact he has when he is on the court has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns’ season. With Trevor Ariza's recent trade to the Wizards, Bridges will have more minutes to contribute for the Suns going forward. Hopefully, for Suns fans, this means better production for Mikal and the team.
20 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (A)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been the surprise of the lottery so far. With poise and composure of a veteran, the rookie point guard looks like he can, and will be, a starting point guard for the rest of his career. The wiry Kentucky product has put together solid performances in his short rookie year most notably against the Sacramento Kings back in November, when he put up 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. The performance is a good indicator of what he can turn into in his prime; a good solid point guard that can do everything.
19 Miles Bridges (C+)
The Charlotte Hornets took a chance with Miles Bridges and it looks like they were spot on to grab him 12th overall. The high flying wing has seen limited minutes but during the times he played he has looked good; the former Michigan State standout has had a couple of explosive plays at the rim while showcasing a much-improved stroke. The jury is still out on Bridges and there are a lot of questions left for him but so far he has been as good as the position he was taken at.
18 Jerome Robinson (D)
Out of the available players taken in the lottery, Jerome Robinson has played the least amount of games and minutes. Robinson has a nagging foot injury resulting in multiple DNPs in the stat sheet. In the games he played, Robinson saw very limited minutes so it is hard to grasp how good he really is. If the foot injury is taken care of, expect a couple of good scoring games from Robinson.
17 Michael Porter Jr. (N/A)
Once a top-two high school recruit, Michael Porter Jr. fell all the way to the end of the lottery due to a spinal injury. Porter is expected to miss the entire season due to said injury but we might see the high school standout play as early as next year’s summer league. The 6’10" forward is an electric scorer especially at his size; relying on his sweet stroke, Porter is expected to be a scoring threat for the Denver Nuggets next year.
16 Troy Brown (F)
Taken in the middle of the first round, Troy Brown has yet to showcase his abilities for the Washington Wizards. With limited minutes come limited production, and so far, Brown has yet to play in meaningful minutes. Brown’s best performance came against the Philadelphia 76ers where Brown scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists but so far, it has not looked good for the University of Oregon standout.
15 Zhaire Smith (N/A)
The player that enabled Mikal Bridges going to Phoenix, Zhaire Smith is a premier athlete and an outstanding shooter. The 6’5" wing was initially set to return right around Christmas but plans have changed over the course of the season and Smith is expected to return sometime in January 2019. Like Trae Young is to Luka Doncic, Smith’s performance will be criticized for every winning play Mikal Bridges makes. If Smith is as good as advertised, he should be a nice contributor to the championship-contending 76ers.
14 Donte DiVincenzo (D+)
Donte DiVincenzo was initially expected to come in and contribute as a shooter but so far, it has not worked out for both Donte and the Milwaukee Bucks. DiVincenzo has been a poor shooter from beyond the arc this year, not to mention, he is playing behind a deep guard rotation for a championship team, meaning his leash is short even for a rookie’s standard. DiVincenzo has had a couple of nice games for the Bucks, but so far nothing spectacular or noteworthy for the gunslinger.
13 Lonnie Walker (N/A)
Much like Michael Porter and Zhaire Smith, Lonnie Walker has yet to make his debut for the San Antonio Spurs. Walker is a dynamic combo guard who relies on craftiness and a bit of athleticism to leave his mark on the court. Off the court, Walker gained attention with his fun conspiracy theories and overall fascinating character. Walker is expected to share the backcourt with Patty Mills on the second unit when he makes his season debut but so far, Walker has yet to play a second for the Spurs.
12 Kevin Huerter (C)
It was clear as day what the Atlanta Hawks had in mind when they chose Kevin Huerter 19th overall. Huerter is a sharpshooting 6’7 shooting guard, combine him with Trae Young and you get a discount version of the Steph Curry/Klay Thompson backcourt. If you look at Huerter this year, the one thing that will stand out is his sweet shooting stroke which has translated into actual shooting success from deep. Huerter is only 20 years of age, but with a little more experience he has a chance to turn into a Kyle Korver type; a player you run through screens for much-needed three-pointers.
11 Josh Okogie (C+)
Rarely do we see a rookie with the defensive intensity of Josh Okogie. The Minnesota Timberwolves had their eyes set on Okogie to bring in much needed defensive activity and to make timely plays on the offensive side of the court. Unfortunately for Okogie, he plays for Coach Tom Thibodeau, a coach notorious for grinding minutes out of his starters. With Robert Covington coming on board the stacks are against Okogie. In the limited minutes he has seen, Okogie has definitely impressed, especially on the defensive side of the game.
10 Grayson Allen (F)
Grayson Allen was a notorious combo guard coming out of Duke. Making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Allen was labeled a dirty ballplayer even before playing a minute in the NBA. As far as actual basketball skills go, the shooting has not translated and as an athlete, Allen looks average compared to the goliaths in the NBA. All in all, Allen has been the most disappointing draft pick so far, considering how well he played in college.
9 Chandler Hutchison (D-)
If you are not familiar with Chandler Hutchison and his work, he is a glue guy that excels as a passer and thrives in physicality. So far, Hutchison has received good minutes considering where he was drafted, but the former Bronco has struggled mightily, especially with his shooting, which was a big red flag coming out of college. Hutchison is one of the oldest rookies in this class and he needs to start providing valuable minutes, not necessarily as a scorer. However, he needs to unlock the passing that made him a first-round pick.
8 Aaron Holiday (B+)
If you are wondering how good Aaron Holiday is, he is pretty darn good. The youngest of the Holiday brothers had a rocky start in his NBA career as he started with multiple DNP-CDs, but once he got the chance to play, Holiday grabbed the opportunity by the throat. The Indiana Pacers have been so impressed that Daren Collison is suddenly an available trade piece in order to give more minutes to Holiday; that alone is a testament to how good Holiday has been.
7 Anfernee Simons (F)
Anfernee Simons is realizing just how talented the NBA truly is. Simons is playing behind two of the NBA’s best guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum; the talent does not stop there as Simons is also forced to play behind Seth Curry, a dynamic scoring point who has more to offer than Simons currently. It is easy to forget just how young some of these rookies are and Simons is not an exception, as he (technically) went straight from high school to the NBA, which is quite the leap to make. The Blazers need to be patient with him but so far this season he has not shown much outside of a few good summer league games.
6 Moritz Wagner (D-)
Another rookie struggling from injury bugs, Mo Wagner is still feeling out his knee after returning from injury. Wagner is big that can stretch the offense with his outside shooting, something the Los Angeles Lakers heavily need. The former Wolverine has struggled with a nagging knee injury, resulting in a lack of production for the Lakers. If Wagner is indeed healthy, he will soon contribute with his shooting, but that is a big ‘if’ that need to be answered.
5 Landry Shamet (A-)
Landry Shamet is one of those players whose talent alone should have been enough to warrant at least a lottery pick. Coming out of Wichita State, Shamet is one of the most decorated shooters coming into the draft and so far it has shown with his play. While it may be hard to imagine, Shamet has found success in this 76ers team as a three-point threat coming off the bench. Landry is in a perfect situation with the 76ers; he gets playing time on a contending team while learning from J.J. Redick, one of the best shooters in recent memory.
4 Robert Williams (B-)
During draft night, almost all the scouts were baffled on why Robert Williams fell all the way to 27. Williams was considered a lottery pick as he possesses great athletic abilities to match his defensive IQ, a much-needed combination in centers these days. So far for the Boston Celtics, they have yet to field Williams in meaningful minutes as they want to ease him into the rotation. Williams has spent most of the time in the G-League as a way to get his feet wet before playing with the big boys of the NBA.
3 Jacob Evans (D+)
The Golden State Warriors are known to be a great franchise when it comes to drafting but unfortunately, this might be one of the rare times they got a pick wrong. Jacob Evans is a shooting guard out of Cincinnati who is tasked to be a 3-D type of player meaning his role is defend the opposing team’s best player and to spot up and knock down three-pointers on the other end. So far, Evans has failed to do both. The lack of production could be because he plays for the defending champs but nonetheless, Evans has yet to produce.
2 Dzanan Musa (D)
Another player that slipped further than anticipated, Dzanan Musa was once one of the best young scorers in Europe. Musa was expected to play heavy minutes for the Brooklyn Nets, but an ankle injury derailed the plan. So far, Musa is still recovering, but if he gets his groove and rhythm back, expect solid production from the Bosnian.
1 Omari Spellman (B-)
With the last pick of the first round, the Atlanta Hawks chose Omari Spellman. Spellman is a big that can excel in almost any role; he can knock down threes, can defend in space, and he can rebound. Sounds familiar? Yup, the Hawks took him to take on the Draymond Green role. At the moment, Spellman has been good for the Hawks, giving them good defensive activity with a little bit of outside shooting to go along with it. Omari is by no means young for a rookie, but he still has a lot of room left to improve.