By: Kyle Morgan
Week 5 of the 2018-19 NBA season has come and gone. With the most recent crop of rookies heralded as one of the most talented in recent memory, KCOU Sports’ Kyle Morgan looks at who has stood out above the rest, and who is still finding their game.
Studs: Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings- The Kings front office is so high on Bagley III that head coach Dave Joerger is officially hot seat because he won’t give the 2nd overall pick more playing time, despite the team having an impressive 9-8 record. Joerger is starting to give in, though, as Bagley III has seen his minutes increase to 27 and 26 per game the past two contests. The 19-year old has posted stat lines of 16 points & 8 rebounds, and 15 points & 13 rebounds in his last two games, respectively. Sacramento has cooled off slightly since its blazing hot start to the season, but the team is still overachieving. If Joerger can find a consistent role for Bagley III in the Kings offense, then expect the rookie and the team to continue to feast on the competition.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Los Angeles Clippers- Along with Sacramento, the Clippers are among the most pleasantly surprising teams in the Western Conference. They’ve mixed together a healthy blend of veteran leadership and youthful energy to catapult themselves into the top 5 in the conference. Much of that youthful spark has come from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has displayed incredible maturity and leadership at the ripe age of 20. The Kentucky product is now up to 27.5 MPG and is posting a 10.5/3.2/2.8 line. His ball security remains a steadfast part of his game- he has not committed more than 2 TOs per game. I’m sure head coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the staff would like to see “SGA’s” shooting numbers improve a bit (47 FG%, 31 3P%), but his facilitating and the fluidity at which he plays the game are among the highest in his class. There are no signs that show he will slow down his production anytime soon, and if that’s the case, expect the Clippers to continue to make noise in a crowded Western Conference.
Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls- Zach LaVine has been the talk of this Bulls team, and with good reason, but Wendell Carter Jr. is quietly placing himself as one of the best in this draft class. Enjoying a plethora of playing time due to the absence of Lauri Markkanen, the 19-year old out of Duke is making his biggest impact on the defensive end. Carter Jr. is 2nd among rookies in BPG at 1.9 and has been a nice complementary piece next to center Robin Lopez. His stat line is moderately impressive (11.3/7.4/2.3) and he has been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise putrid Bulls team. Markkanen is expected to be out another 2-4 weeks, so until then, Carter Jr. should continue to flourish.
Duds: Kevin Knox, New York Knicks- The 19-year old from Kentucky has struggled to find his footing since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for a few weeks. Knox has posted 8.6 PPG in his last 5 games, and he’s shooting a putrid 36 FG% to get there. His MPG seems to have settled between the high and low 20s, and Knox may need to work out his ankle all the way through until he’s 100% healthy. In the meantime, consider him one of the more disappointing rookies on a squad that features three of them.
Omari Spellman, Atlanta Hawks- Spellman was the last of 3 rookies taken in the first round by Atlanta, and he was perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the trio. The 21-year old made significant strides in his lone season at Villanova, and the Hawks snatched him with the final pick of the 1st round. Alas, the success Spellman enjoyed in college has not transferred over to the pros. Tucked away on the bench behind Miles Plumlee and John Collins on the depth chart, Spellman hasn’t yet gotten the playing time to prove he’s capable of sticking around. For a man who spends most of his time around the rim, Spellman is shooting an awful 39 percent from the floor, and has yet to make any sort of impact defensively. Over his last 5 games, he’s shooting just 26.5 percent and has barely eclipsed the 4 PPG mark. Spellman was considered intriguing because of his skilled duality to play inside and outside, but until he can show that he is even remotely a threat on offense, he’ll continue to ride the bench.
Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks- Congratulations to the Atlanta Hawks, who feature not one, but TWO rookies in the “Duds” category this week. The 19th overall pick out of Maryland saw some extended minutes last week when Taurean Prince missed two games with an ankle injury, and Huerter promptly went 6-19 with a combined 15 points in those contests. The 20-year old is struggling mightily from the floor in his last 5 games, shooting 36.8 percent and averaging just 7 PPG. His role has since been reduced due to Prince’s return, and perhaps that’s exactly what Huerter needs to get things back on track.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org