Five under-the-radar NBA rookies to watch this season

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AP Images

Five under-the-radar NBA rookies to watch this season

BOSTON -- When the NBA season officially kicks off, you can bank on much of the rookie hype being centered around the top three picks in the draft - Zion Williamson of New Orleans, Ja Morant in Memphis and the New York Knicks’ R.J. Barrett. 

Even with the top picks gobbling up most of the rookie shine, there are always a handful of first-year ballers whose play significantly outperforms where they were taken in the draft. 

And while most of the players we’re going to talk about on this list were first-round picks, you won’t find a lottery (top 14) pick among them. 

Why?

Because by virtue of being among the top 14 players selected, coming into the NBA and making an immediate impact is what’s supposed to happen, right? 

Recent winners of the rookie of the year award serve as a reminder of how the best rookies that float to the surface of success early on tend to come from the pool of players selected in the lottery. 

Since the lottery’s inception in 1985, only two non-lottery pick players went on to win the rookie of the year. 

And while this year’s rookie class has some elite players at the top, there’s no shortage of talented players who are eager to make the transition from being a player with potential to one who proves his worth in this league sooner rather than later. 

 

Must-see NBA games on the 2019-20 regular season schedule

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USA TODAY Sports photos and AP Images

Must-see NBA games on the 2019-20 regular season schedule

With the schedules released, we now know where all those new faces in new places around the NBA will be welcomed by their new fans, and perhaps more importantly, we know where they'll likely not exactly be embraced when they return to face their old fans.

From the Battle of L.A. taking on a whole new meaning with the addition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to the Clippers and Anthony Davis joining LeBron James with the Lakers, to Russell Westbrook returning to Oklahoma City as a Houston Rocket, the intriguing matchups abound.

 

NBA rumors: Thunder trade Russell Westbrook to Rockets for Chris Paul in blockbuster deal

NBA rumors: Thunder trade Russell Westbrook to Rockets for Chris Paul in blockbuster deal

Just when you thought it was one of the slowest sports nights of the year, the NBA had other plans.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to trade superstar point guard Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for veteran guard Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

This means Westbrook, in a stunning turn of events, will be reunited with former Thunder teammate James Harden in Houston.

The move comes on the heels of the Thunder trading Paul George to the Clippers. Oklahoma City acquired guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari, first-round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, and two first-round picks via Miami (2021 and 2023) in that deal.

From a Celtics perspective, they can thank their lucky stars they're in the East (and that 1-16 playoff seeding is still a pipe dream). The West is an absolute war zone and teams in the East can only hope all these stars duos beat each other into oblivion before the Finals. Westbrook staying out west instead of going to Miami is a win, too, for East squads like Boston.

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