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Grading 2018 Lottery Picks on Preseason Performances

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Grading 2018 Rookies on Preseason Performance

When watching the NBA preseason, often the most talked about players are rookies. It’s the first time we are able to see them play against the stronger competition of the NBA. Some rookies shine, while others just can’t seem to find a rhythm. Preseason play is often not an indication of future performance, but it can definitely offer insights into how a first year player is adjusting to the League. Below, we grade rookies based on their preseason performance on an A-F scale relative to their draft position.

1. Deandre Ayton: A-

After a rough start in his first game, scoring only nine points and grabbing four boards, Deandre Ayton has taken the preseason by storm. In his last four games, he’s averaged 20.5 points and 11.3 rebounds on 60.3% shooting. He hasn’t attempted a three-pointer yet, making shooting more of a long term goal for Ayton, but concerns about his defense look unwarranted. He has averaged 2.5 blocks per game, now that he is able to play his natural position at center. Ayton has looked like the same dominant, offensive weapon that we all thought he would be, with better defensive instincts, earning him an A-.

2. Marvin Bagley III: B-

Marvin Bagley did not look like the dominant player he was at Duke during the preseason. He averaged just 13 points and 6.7 rebounds on 44.8% shooting. He’s just one-for-eight on triples and averaged less than one block per game. He’s also third to last in defensive efficiency rating for rookies. These are definitely not numbers the number two pick should be putting up. Bagley has struggled to create for himself, but because of his freakish athleticism and second jump ability, he’s been able to score in transition and on put backs. His saving grace this preseason is one 19 point, 10 rebound game, keeping him out of the C range. Expect Bagley to struggle a little this year, as he can no longer rely on his physical gifts.

3. Luka Doncic: A

The Slovenian wonder boy has been a monster in the preseason, filling the stat sheet in every category. Doncic has averaged 15 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on 48% from the field. His lack of elite athleticism hasn’t been a problem thus far, as he’s been able to score at all three levels, showing off his elite handles in the process and shooting 43.1% from three.  The future for the Mavericks looks bright with Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. in their backcourt.

4. Jaren Jackson Jr.: B

Jaren Jackson Jr. has been mediocre– not special but not a bust. He’s averaged a solid 13.4 points and 3.8 rebounds. Those scoring numbers are sound, especially considering that Jackson is more of a defensive prospect than an offensive standout. His shooting numbers have been good as well, going 55.6% from three. What lands Jackson at a B is that his foul rate doesn’t seem to have improved much, as he’s fouled out of two preseason games in limited minutes. Jackson still looks like an impactful shooting big man prospect, but he still needs to cut down on his fouls in order to fully reach his potential.

5. Trae Young: B

The Oklahoma product has kept up with his high volume of shots from college, taking on average 14 per night. Young has averaged 15 PPG, but has been pretty inefficient in getting there, shooting a paltry 39% from the field. Averaging 5.4 assists, his numbers all around have been fairly average. His defense has also been similar to what it was at Oklahoma; nothing special. His lack of length and elite athleticism/explosiveness really hinders him on that end of the court, but that was something we all knew about Young when he was coming out of college. Young will produce offensively this season, however, as he is an elite shot maker on a weak Hawks team.

6. Mohamed Bamba: B+

Mo Bamba has done a little bit of everything this preseason. He’s been efficient from the field, scoring at a 58.6% clip and hitting 50% of his shots from long range. While the preseason is a small sample size, Bamba’s three point percentage has shot up from 27.5% at Texas, where he only made 14 threes all season. His shot form looks much more fluid than it did in college. Bamba has also pulled in 5.3 rebounds per contest, as well as displayed the stellar defensive instincts he’s known for. Mo will come off the bench for the Magic, but expect him to be an efficient rim protector.

7. Wendell Carter Jr.:  B-

After a standout summer league performance, Wendell Carter Jr. has struggled in the preseason. His scoring numbers have dropped to 7.0 PPG and 5.6 RPG from 14.6 and 9.4 respectively. Carter Jr. has shown flashes of the player he can and will be with strong post moves, rebounding instincts, and an improving face up game. The numbers Carter Jr. has been putting up do not reflect the kind of player he is. The Duke product will most likely bounce back in the regular season and earn the starting job for the Bulls, making a formidable front court of the future next to Lauri Markkanen.

8. Collin Sexton: B

The Young Bull has been a solid scorer for the Cavaliers, averaging 9.7 points on 41.7% from the field. He’s shot at a much higher percentage than before, going 57.1% from three. What has made Sexton’s preseason less than convincing is his facilitating. Through the first three games, Sexton averaged 1.7 assists to 2.0 turnovers, resulting in an assist-to-turnover ratio of .83. He stepped up his facilitating in his final game of the preseason, however, dishing out five dimes to only two turnovers. His intensity and defensive motor are aspects of his game that fans and coaches will get behind, but Sexton will need to work on his defensive instincts, as he had zero steals through four games. Sexton will be an obvious favorite for Cavs fans, and looks like a good piece for the post-LeBron era, but expect him to struggle some this season.

9. Kevin Knox: C+

Expectations were high for Knox coming off a summer league where he put up 20 points a night. In his preseason games for the Knicks, Knox averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest on 32.7% from the floor and 15.8% from three. His ball handling skills were also poor, as he averaged 3.0 turnovers. I expect Knox to put up much better numbers than this in the regular season, since he will have ample opportunities with Kristaps Porzingis out. Although he had a dismal preseason, Kicks fans should still be confident in their new prospect.

10. Mikal Bridges: D

At the time of the draft, Mikal Bridges was labeled “the most NBA ready prospect” in the 2018 Draft by some. In his two preseason games (he missed three with an elbow injury), Bridges scored two points and brought in two boards. Total. He was 10% from the field and 0% from three. These are not the kind of numbers someone who is NBA ready should put up. Again, it was just preseason and he was only playing in a small sample size, but the Villanova product’s play did not look convincing.

11. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: B+

Shai has done everything that’s expected of him, and then a little more for the Clippers. Scoring at an efficient rate, he averaged 9.2 PPG on 47.5% shooting this preseason. What has been really intriguing about his preseason has been his facilitating. Shai has put up 3.8 assists per game to only 0.8 turnovers, resulting in an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.75. That’s pretty good. His elite length for a point guard has also resulted in 1.6 steals a night, making him the lottery leader in that category. Gilgeous-Alexander has been an exceptional facilitator, while also playing great defense, making him a long term, early impact prospect Clippers fans should love.

12. Miles Bridges: A-

The other Mi. Bridges has done much better than his counterpart. Bridges averages of 12.4 points and 6.0 rebounds have decreased a little from his summer league numbers, but his efficiency has skyrocketed. After shooting 34% from the field in summer league, his shooting percentage has risen up to 55.6%. Bridges has also not been a liability on the defensive end, ranking within the top seven of rookies in defensive efficiency rating. Bridges athleticism and strength leave a lot to like for a struggling Charlotte team.

13. Jerome Robinson: C+

The scoring guard from Boston College has not done so well for the Clippers this preseason, because he hasn’t been able to do just that: score. Robinson has averaged only 6.4 points per game on 36.7% from the field. He’s been unable to get to the line as well, only averaging 0.8 free throw attempts per contest. He played well in summer league, so expectations were higher this time around. He’s going to get very few minutes in a crowded LA backcourt, especially if he keeps up these lackluster performances.

14. Michael Porter Jr: N/A

The once projected number 1 pick didn’t play a minute of preseason due to his lingering back problems. If Porter ever plays up to his full potential, he would be seen as an incredible steal at 14. However, back problems are never easy to recover from. Porter will most likely not play many minutes, if it all this entire year.

Other Notables

21. Grayson Allen: A-

The polarizing Duke prospect has averaged 12.6 points (51% FG, 52% 3Pt), 1.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists this preseason. Not only has he been able to score efficiently, but Grayson has also had the third highest defensive rating among rookies. Allen looks promising on both ends of the floor, and seems to factor in nicely to the Jazz’s rotation.

36. Mitchell Robinson: B

After a standout summer league, Robinson looked like the steal of the draft. Due to his low draft position and limited minutes (14.3 per night), he’s able to get away with a B after dropping only 5.0 points per game at a 58.3% clip. He looks incredibly talented, but still needs to shake off some rust after not having played in live game situations for 10 months. Robinson looks to shuttle back and forth between the G-League and the NBA, but could end up being a great pick for a rebuilding Knicks franchise.

Harry Giles III: A-

Although drafted last year, Harry Giles did not play a minute of the previous season. Giles was once the consensus number one high school recruit in the country, but hasn’t lived up to it after suffering a series of knee injuries hindering his draft value. He seems to have recovered fairly nicely and, though not as dominant as scouts once thought he could be, Giles has put up solid numbers at 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds on 43.3% from the floor and 66.6% from three. If Giles remains healthy and continues to improve, he could end up being one of the best draft steals (and stories) ever for the Sacramento Kings.

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