By: Kyle Morgan
Week 2 of the 2018-19 NBA season has come and gone. With the most recent crop of rookies being heralded as one of the most talented in recent memory, columnist Kyle Morgan takes a look at who has stood out above the rest, and who is still working on finding their game.
Studs: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks- The 19-year-old wunderkind from Slovenia has wasted no time stuffing the stat sheet and ripping off quality performances through the first two weeks of the season. Doncic started a tad slow in his first few contests but has quickly made up for it by leading all qualified rookies in at 20.4 PPG. In 35 minutes per game, Doncic has posted a satisfactory 46 percent from the field, including 39% from 3, and has chipped in with 6 rebounds and 4 assists per contest. He has struggled with taking care of the basketball (4.3 turnovers game) and is shooting a pedestrian 72 percent from the free-throw line, but those are short-term factors that Doncic can easily fix. In a crowded Western Conference, the Mavs are still at least year away from scratching the playoff surface- but Doncic is the captain of a young core that looks destined to do big things in Dallas.
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings- The Kings faced plenty of backlash when they selected Bagley, the 19-year-old Duke product, with the second pick of the draft. Through the first seven games, however, Bagley is quickly making the doubters eat their words. Along with young teammates De’Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein, and sharpshooter Buddy Hield, Sacramento has formed a young core that is improving and playing much better than people expected. Head Coach Dave Joerger is still easing Bagley into action, playing the rookie just 23 minutes a game, but his numbers have been impressive even with a small sample size. Along with contributing 12 points and 7 rebounds, Bagley is also shooting an efficient 53 percent from the field. Furthermore, he fits seamlessly into a Kings offense that is rated as the second-fastest in the league. It’s nearly inevitable until the team cools from its rapidly hot start, but Bagley has looked worthy of the No. 2 selection, which is as good a start as the Kings could hope for.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns- The Suns are sputtering to a 1-5 start and look destined to finish the year in the Western Conference cellar once again. One of the lone bright spots is Ayton- the No. 1 pick out of Arizona. While fellow franchise cornerstone Devin Booker has gotten off to a roaring start, he’s struggled with injuries recently, and had offseason surgery that appears as if it may have some lingering effects. Ayton, at 17.5 PPG and 10.3 RPG, is the only rookie averaging a double-double. His defense still looks shaky, and he’s committing a mildly-concerning 3 fouls a game, but his shooting has looked terrific (64 percent field goals, 85 percent FT) and he’s even distributing a pleasant 3.8 APG. There’s a reason Ayton was dubbed the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall, and he’s proven that he’s been worth the pick in nearly facet of the game.
Duds: Harry Giles, Sacramento Kings- Selected with the 20th pick in the 2017 Draft by Portland (then subsequently traded to Sacramento on draft night), Giles essentially redshirted last year, and he’s playing his first NBA minutes in his second season with the Kings. Needless to say, the results haven’t been what Sacaramento had hoped for. Playing in a jammed frontcourt that features several players who have made drastic improvements (hello, Willie Cauley-Stein), Giles has been stuck on the bench for most of the games. He’s posted a paltry 3.7 PPG and is averaging less than 3 rebounds in just under 12 minutes a game. Giles was a sleeper pick by many to make impressive strides this season, but until he can prove that he fits in the Kings up-tempo offense, he’ll continue to watch his teammates from the bench.
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns- Bridges must still be feeling the effects of being traded from his hometown Philadelphia 76ers on draft night, because he has been nothing short of dysfunctional thus far. Bridges has shot an appalling 39 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3PT in just 15 MPG. Granted, the Suns boast a plethora of wings, including the newly-acquired Trevor Ariza, and young playmakers TJ Warren, and Josh Jackson, so it was already going to be a tough fight for Bridges to work his way up the depth chart. An injury or two to any of the aforementioned players could open the door for Bridges to see more court time, but until then, Bridges is all but an afterthought on a Suns team that is off to a slow start.
Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves- On the bright side, Okogie is playing 27.8 MPG and has even started four games for Minnesota. But in those 27.8 minutes, the 22-year-old from Georgia Tech is averaging 9.8 PPG and 5.6 RPG on a disastrous 34 percent FG shooting and 21.7 percent from three. Okogie has contributed nearly a steal and a half per game and is shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line, but his poor shooting numbers from the field have made him a liability for a dysfunctional Timberwolves team. The number of minutes played for Okogie is encouraging, but until he can show some form of improvement in his shot, he’ll continue to struggle from the field.
Edited by Garrett Jones | email@example.com