Los Angeles Lakers G Lonzo Ball (Photo via Elsa/Getty Images)
Basketball season is still a little ways away, and yes, the NFL only just got started. But in 2017 it’s fair to say (and many have) that the NBA has succeeded in becoming a year-round sport.
NBA fans are tuned in constantly, and when we get news like the Kyrie Irving trade so late in the summer, it’s no wonder why. In this kind of climate, fans can’t wait for the 2017-18 season to start, so now would be a good time to cover one of the most perennially enjoyable subjects: the new rookies!
The 2017 draft was widely believed to be the best in many years, and that means we’re about to see one of the most hyped rookie classes in recent history take the court for the first time. Chances are, there will be some surprises – a few rookies who come out of nowhere (like 2016-17 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon) and some who disappoint. But for now, as we prepare for the beginning of the season, here are a few names you’ll want to watch very closely.
Lonzo Ball – PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Everything about the Ball family is pretty ridiculous. Lonzo’s father LaVar has become a celebrity in his own right, largely by promoting his three talented children. He certainly helped propel Lonzo to the Los Angeles Lakers, and he recently unveiled a signature shoe for his youngest son, LaMelo, who’s still in high school (sort of). It’s a nonstop publicity cycle, and it’s distracting. Underneath it all, however, Lonzo Ball can play, and he proved as much during Summer League. He’ll be asked to take the reins of a Lakers team that’s trying to win, and it will be fun to watch. He’s an excellent facilitator who should make a young team more productive on offense.
Markelle Fultz – PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Fultz is incredibly easy to overlook, for a number one pick, because of the aforementioned publicity cycle around Ball. Lest we forget, however, Fultz was a strong number one pick. In a loaded draft, he was slated pretty early as a likely top selection, and betting markets went as far as to label him a number one certainty. Fultz is a dynamic scoring guard who will have the ball in his hands as the Philadelphia 76ers finally look past “The Process” and start attempting to win games. Rumor has it passing forward Ben Simmons – another rookie, after missing his entire first season – will be handling some of the point guard duties. But Fultz will be on the floor a lot, and we’ll get to see if he measures up to his number one pick status.
Jayson Tatum – SF, Boston Celtics
We know that the Boston Celtics reloaded in a big way this summer, signing Gordon Hayward and trading for Kyrie Irving. But we also know they have some pretty intriguing young pieces in their own system. Jaylen Brown was a good rookie last year, and now the team will work in former Duke star Jayson Tatum. Tatum is an offensive maestro who could wind up in the Rajon Rondo role of the next Celtics powerhouse – not in that he’s a point guard, but in that he’ll be the young piece working with a more experienced core. What will be interesting is to see if he spends some time at shooting guard, which may be Boston’s only weak position.
Dennis Smith, Jr. – PG, Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith, Jr. may have as much raw talent as any rookie in this class, even though he was picked ninth overall. He also may have about as big an opportunity as any of his classmates, as he’ll run the point for the Dallas Mavericks from day one. The Mavericks don’t make too many high profile draft decisions, and Smith may wind up being the most important player they’ve taken since Dirk Nowitzki. If his Summer League performance was any indication, he’s ready to go.
Terrance Ferguson – SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
The piece ends with a less heralded prospect who could make a major impact. Terrance Ferguson came to the NBA from Australia, and it’s already clear that his fellow rookies think highly of him. In a rookie survey, they ranked him as one of the best shooters and athletes in the class. Ferguson will likely start off playing behind Andre Roberson, but if he’s good enough to become the starting shooting guard, the Oklahoma City Thunder will add another major weapon to a core that already includes Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. If Ferguson is one of the better rookies, the Thunder may easily be the second-best team in the West.