The NBA Rookie of the Year race has everyone excited this year. Although there is some stiff competition, Jayson Tatum has been quite efficient on both sides of the ball thus far. Does he have shot at winning? Let’s discuss:
Tatum’s Smooth Transition
Celtics’ small forward Jayson Tatum has been nothing short of impressive. Coming out of Duke as the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, he averages 14 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. This kid is also leading the league in three-point percentage at 51.9 — as a rookie. His ability to get to the hoop, shoot the mid range and even the three has his teammates in awe. Kyrie Irving admits to being a fan since Tatum was a sophomore in high school. Al Horford also can’t help but praise his rookie. He refers to Tatum’s level of play on offense AND defense as one of the best he’s seen from a first year player. No issues with transitioning over here!
I think we can all agree that this year’s NBA rookie class has an insane amount of talent. Let’s take a look at some of the other top performing rookies from around the league:
- Ben Simmons of the 76ers averages 18 points, 7.1 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game. Just last week he put up 31 points and had 18 rebounds against the Wizards. He’s shooting 50% from the floor.
- Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has found his stride and is averaging 17.2 points per game. He became the first rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011 to score 40+ points in a game. He’s shooting 53.3% from the floor so far in December.
- Kyle Kuzma, the unlikely breakout star of the Lakers, has outplayed fellow rookie Lonzo Ball. He averages 16.8 points and 6.5 rebounds. He was the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in November.
- Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks averages 14.4 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds a game. His style of play has even garnered praise from LeBron James.
So Who Wins?
Jayson Tatum deserves the nod. His overall season stats are modest but admirable, while the other rooks have some work to do. Tatum is the only one shooting 50% or more from the floor AND from three. Mitchell is right there with him when it comes to free throws, with both players shooting roughly 82%. But other than that, Tatum is the clear front-runner so far if we’re going to look at the numbers. Just last night he put up 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win against the Mavs. Unfortunately, there are people who already want to give the nod Simmons. This is mainly due to how ‘The Process’ has revived the 76ers, with him being a crucial part of it.
My gripe: Ben Simmons is technically not a rookie, so everyone needs to take him out of the conversation. It’s not our fault he missed his first season due to a foot injury. No do-overs allowed.
But if you’re going to look outside of Tatum, keep an eye on Donovan Mitchell. His performance has helped to revive the Jazz since Gordon Hayward’s departure. He’ll continue to excite.
Really though, you should just root for Tatum. If he continues to play at this level, he’ll have Simmons’s bandwagoners jumping ship.