NBA Rookie Report: Sixers’ Simmons, Bulls’ Markkanen lead the way


By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor

We're two weeks into the 2017-18 NBA season and there have been a ton of surprises early on. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are 3-4 on the year after dropping contests to both the Nets and Knicks at home. The Detroit Pistons are atop the Eastern Conference at 5-2 and Lonzo Ball has had a lackluster start to his NBA career.

This year's rookie class had a lot of talent, and it's taken longer for some to adjust than others. Today, we're going to look at rookie studs and duds through the first week and a half of action. We'll leave guys out that have missed two or more games due to injury since it's still early on in the year.

Stud: Ben Simmons (PHI) 17.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 7.5 apg – 51.2% FG

Philadelphia's Ben Simmons has been the top of this rookie class and it hasn't even really been close. It's his second year in the league, but first actually playing, so the former LSU product had an entire season to adjust to the NBA lifestyle and learn different aspects of the game. He's come out of the gates strong, taking control of the Sixers offense, whether it be scoring the ball, passing it or running the floor after a defensive rebound. Simmons' basketball IQ is noticeable on a game-by-game basis and the 21-year-old is slowly developing more confidence in his jump shot too. If he gets some consistency with it, he'll be even more dangerous than he already is. Simmons leads all rookies is scoring and double doubles (4), ranks second in rebounds and assists, and third in field-goal percentage.

Dud: Malik Monk (CHA) 7.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.5 apg – 23.3% FG, 24.2% 3FG

Known in the rookie class as perhaps the best pure shooter from the draft, Monk has yet to find success in the regular season after putting together multiple strong performances in the preseason. After averaging 15.6 points on 35.6 percent shooting in exhibition play, Monk is averaging just seven points per game through six regular season games, struggling to shoot from both inside and outside the arc. Last week, he put together solid games against Houston (10pts, 3reb, 2ast) and Denver (17pts, 2reb, 2ast, 2stl), but scored just two points in 18 minutes against the Orlando Magic on Sunday. 

Stud: Lauri Markkanen (CHI) 15.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg – 43.1 % FG, 41.7% 3FG

The Chicago Bulls are one of the worst teams in the league at just 1-4 this season and they've had to deal with player altercations, leading to suspensions and injuries. With Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis both not playing, Markkanen has taken advantage of extended minutes. He ranks second among rookies in scoring, leads in rebounds and is tied for sixth in three-point percentage. Markkanen has scored in double figures in each of his first five career games and tallied two double doubles, which ties him for second most in the rookie class, behind Philadelphia 76ers' forward Ben Simmons. Markkanen made history in the Bulls' win against Atlanta last Thursday, becoming the first NBA player to hit 12 three pointers in the first four games of his career.

Dud: Lonzo Ball (LAL) 10.0 ppg, 7.7 apg, 7.5 rpg – 31.1% FG, 28.1% 3FG

Ball's averages actually are not that bad, but his shooting has been very poor to start his NBA career after shooting 55 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from beyond the arc at UCLA prior to getting drafted. His best game came against one of the worst teams in the league, the Phoenix Suns, in his second professional game. Ball scored 29 points to go along with 11 rebounds and nine assists, shooting 44.4 percent overall and from three-point range. Unfortunately, he's averaging just seven points per game in four games since, sinking just 10 shots in 41 attempts, which equals out to 24.4 shooting percentage. Ball leads all rookies in assists and ranks third among first year players in rebounds per game.

Stud: Jayson Tatum (BOS) 15.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.7 apg – 50.9% FG, 50% 3FG

With the injury to Gordon Hayward just minutes into the season, the Celtics seemed to have a significant hole in their offense. Hayward's presence would still be making a difference, but rookie Jayson Tatum has started off his NBA career really strong, shooting the ball well, being active defensively and having the versatility to score in the paint or behind the arc. Over the last three games, he's averaging 18 points on 60 percent shooting. Tatum has also done a good job taking care of the ball, averaging under two turnovers per game. The third overall pick out of Duke ranks third among rookies in scoring, fifth in rebounding, fourth in field-goal percentage and second in three-point percentage. 

Dud: Bam Adebayo (MIA) 3.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg – 36.4% FG

Selected 14th overall by the Heat in the draft, Adebayo hasn't had a great start to his young NBA career. After tallying just six minutes in the Heat's opener against the Magic, the 6-foot-10 forward out of Kentucky has been tossed into the starting lineup with Hassan Whiteside nursing a knee injury. Adebayo hasn't been too effective in his two starts, scoring 10 points (4-10 FG) to go along with 11 rebounds and two blocks in 20+ minutes each game. Abedayo will likely get another opportunity to start on Monday with Whiteside officially ruled out for Miami's game at home against the 3-3 Timberwolves.

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