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NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings: Is Simmons still the front-runner?

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NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings: Is Simmons still the front-runner?

Almost two months have gone by since the start of the 2017-18 NBA season and there have been plenty of surprises surrounding the rookies around the league.

Heading into the season, there was a lot of hype behind the current draft class. The Sixers had the first overall pick and they drafted Markelle Fultz with the idea that the guard would help make the team a playoff contender. Fast forward to December and Fultz has only played in four total games because of a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Lonzo Ball, the second overall pick in the draft, has had a lackluster season topped off with really poor shooting. Ball had a lot of hype coming into the league because of his collegiate success at UCLA and because of his dad, who most people probably already know about.

RELATED: CHECK OUT OUR NBA ROTY RANKINGS

While Fultz and Ball haven't exactly taken the league by storm, several other rookies have emerged as stars on their respective teams. 

There are guys like Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum, who as rookies have already taken up roles as key scorers for the Jazz and Celtics. These are players who have consistently made an impact for their teams.

Then there are guys like John Collins and Lauri Markkanen, who didn't receive much attention before the draft, but have developed into potental stars who their teams can build around in the future.

One special case is point guard Ben Simmons, the "rookie" who's played like a superstar with the Sixers all season. Even though he missed the entire 2016-17 season with a foot injury, Simmons has taken the league by storm with his incredible athleticism and court sense.

It would have been easy to call Simmons the best rookie in the league a month ago, but now that isn't so clear. Plenty of other rookies have made their case for the honor during these last couple of weeks and that's made the season all the more entertaining.

Still the question remains, with all these talented players running around, who's the best rookie in the league? Here's our current prediction for which players will be the front-runners in the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year race.

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Wizards ride huge second half to break through, beat Pistons

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Wizards ride huge second half to break through, beat Pistons

The Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 122-112 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Changes were subtle: Many were surprised when head coach Scott Brooks decided to trot out the usual starting lineup after all the talk about making changes following their blowout loss to the Hornets on Wednesday, but that didn't mean Brooks was going to keep everything the same. He did adjust his rotation, it just took him a few minutes.

Center Marcin Gortat played four minutes in the first quarter before sitting the rest of the first half. After Markieff Morris began the game cold and missed his first three threes, Scott pulled him and got creative with his lineups.

Early in the second quarter we saw Tomas Satoransky, Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter and Mike Scott in a super small-ball set... and it worked. After the Wizards went down by 15 points, that group exploded back by causing turnovers left and right and took the lead. Even Meeks, who has struggled all season, popped off for six points in his first five minutes.

Whether it was those moves or not, the Wizards came out in the third quarter a different team. They outscored the Pistons 45-28 in the frame and shot 16-for-21.

After going scoreless in the first half, John Wall exploded for 10 points in the third quarter and finished with 16 points and 11 assists for the game. Bradley Beal had 13 points in the third and Gortat had eight. Beal had 26 points for the game and Gortat had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The big third quarter propelled the Wizards to the win. They snapped a two-game slump and improved to 26-20 on the season.

PODCAST: SHOULD THE WIZARDS MAKE A TRADE OR BENCH A STARTER?

Otto came to play: Brooks ripped into the Wizards following their loss on Wednesday and early on it seemed like most of the players didn't get the message. Porter was a major exception because he came out on fire.

Porter had 11 points, six rebounds and three steals by halftime. He was 3-of-4 from three and was all over the place on both ends of the court.

Porter ended up with 16 points. It was a great sign for the five-year pro, who hadn't reached double figures in six of his previous eight games. If Porter gets going offensively, the Wizards should be in good shape moving forward.

Oubre, too: Oubre gets criticism from time to time about his mistakes on the court, when he gambles on defense or doesn't make the extra pass on offense. But what is never questioned is his effort, so it's no surprise he showed up when Brooks was looking for more energy from his team.

Oubre lit a spark with 11 points in the first half on 4-for-7 from the field in just under 16 minutes. He ended up with a career-high 26 points for the game. He shot 9-for-14 from the field and 5-for-9 from three. He also added five rebounds.

Oubre has been one of the Wizards' most consistent players recently. He has reached double figures in seven straight games and is averaging 16.3 points per game during that stretch.

Oubre has 15 points or more in four straight games, a career-high. This season he has 13 such games compared to seven in his previous two seasons combined. 

If the Wizards continue to struggle in the big picture, Oubre will be knocking on the door to be inserted into the starting lineup. His improvement is also giving the Wizards a lot of options as they approach the trade deadline because if they want to move a starter, he could step right in.

Stocking up: The Wizards beat the Pistons for the third time this season, meaning they took the season series. That could come in handy if the Wizards need a playoff tiebreaker over the Pistons at the end of the season.

Up next: The Wizards are off through the weekend. Their next game is on Monday night at the Dallas Mavericks. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

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2018 NBA trade deadline: Hornets are shopping All-Star guard Kemba Walker, report says

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2018 NBA trade deadline: Hornets are shopping All-Star guard Kemba Walker, report says

The Charlotte Hornets are attempting a firesale of sorts with the 2018 NBA trade deadline approaching and have made All-Star point guard Kemba Walker available in talks, according to a report by ESPN.

Walker, 27, is having one of his best seasons with averages of 21.7 points, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is a prolific scorer and is on a team-friendly contract of $12 million per year through next season.

Though many teams have good point guards these days, there should be a strong market for Walker. Teams like the Sixers, Pistons, Clippers, Knicks and Nuggets would seem to be great fits. 

PODCAST: SHOULD THE WIZARDS MAKE A TRADE OR BENCH A STARTER?

The Pistons stand out in particular. They are currently ninth in the East and their primary point guard Reggie Jackson is hurt. Even when he does play, they need offense and that's what Walker provides.

The Sixers have Markelle Fultz working his way back from a shoulder injury, but have the assets to trade for Walker and could use some help to make a playoff push. The Knicks could use more talent around Kristaps Porzingis and Walker would certainly help.

There are still about three weeks until the Feb. 8 trade deadline and a lot can change before then. But it appears there is another big name readily available on the market.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS