There's no real value given to players who make the All-Rookie Team. And, as the tweet below shows, it's not an end-all. be-all to who the best players in the class are and who projects as the best players down the line.
Buddy Hield made the All-Rookie team over Jamal Murray last year, Jahlil Okafor made it over Myles Turner 2 years ago, and Nerlens Noel made it over Zach LaVine in 2015.— Mark Strotman (@markstrot) February 19, 2018
Mason Plumlee made it over Giannis in 2014. So, anyway. Moving on with mine and everyone's lives.
But it's still nice rookies to hang their respective hats on, which makes it interesting that Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith Jr. might be battling for the final two spots on the list. Here's a look at the realistic six players battling it out for five spots on the All-Rookie Team. (Note: We didn't include Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox or Bogdan Bogdanovic, who are playing well lately but likely don't have the full-year credentials to make the team).
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia: Apologies to the man following him on this list, but Ben Simmons is your Rookie of the Year. And it shouldn’t really be close. Simmons, who missed his entire first year with a broken foot, has averaged 16.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.4 assists on 53 percent shooting. Six other players have ever reached those thresholds: Larry Bird (once), Michael Jordan (once), Oscar Robertson (once), Wilt Chamberlain (twice), LeBron James (five times) and Magic Johnson (six times). That would be 6-for-6 on Hall-of-Famers, if you’re counting at home. Simmons, also with Joel Embiid, also has the Sixers in position to make their first postseason since 2012. He’s your Rookie of the Year. There’s no argument.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah: Two years ago Karl-Anthony Towns was named Rookie of the Year despite a fantastic season from Kristaps Porzingis. 2018 has a similar feel to it, in that Mitchell would be a frontrunner for the award most seasons, but likely won’t win it. Mitchell has all the makings of a superstar at the NBA level and has been remarkable in Year 1, leading the Jazz back from the dead and into playoff contention. He’s averaging 19.6 points, and that’s after a relatively slow start. Since Nov. 1 he’s averaged 21.0 points on 44.6 percent shooting, 2.5 3-pointers and has the Jazz back in playoff contention. He’s going to be the face of the Jazz for a long time.
Jayson Tatum, Boston: His numbers won’t jump off the page, but that’s how it goes for a guy who’s the third or fourth option, at best, in an offense. But simply put, Tatum has been incredible. Thrust into a much larger role when Gordon Hayward suffered that gruesome ankle injury on Opening Night, Tatum has averaged 13.3 points on 47 percent shooting, 43 percent from deep (sixth in the NBA) and has started all 63 games for the No. 2 seed in the East. He just looks the part, making plays and defending veterans like he’s been in the league 10 years himself. The only other rookie to average 13 points on 47/43 percent shooting was Steph Curry. Solid company for Tatum.
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers: OK, so he’s probably not a lock to make the All-Rookie Team, but for the sake of tonight’s Bulls-Mavericks game just go with it. Kuzma has been this class’ biggest surprise, averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds after being the No. 27 pick in the first round. Kuzma has hit a serious wall since the calendar flipped to 2018, which coincided with teammates Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram thriving. But Kuzma’s numbers are still impressive for a guy who joined the Lakers with the loudest rookie in some time in Lonzo Ball. Instead, Kuzma has been the talk of the Lakers rookie class and has a solid shot to earn All-Rookie honors.
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago: Thrust into a starting role after one power forward in front of him on the depth chart punched the other in front of him in the face, Markkanen has exceeded expectations. He hasn’t simply been a 3-point threat, and he’s shown some flashes of being a plus defender. Markkanen is solid off the dribble, is improving in the past and has shown he’s an able passer. He’s got some kinks to work out, and he had an atrocious February after a stellar January, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can work past the rookie wall (and the becoming-a-father wall). Regardless of how he finishes, he’s proven to be a versatile scorer who rebounds well and is capable of depending. The Bulls couldn’t be happier with his rookie season to date.
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas: The Las Vegas Summer League first teamer came to Dallas with sky-high expectations, and he’s met most of them – albeit in wildly inefficient form. His raw averages look solid on the surface: 14.6 points, 4.8 assists, 1.0 steals in 29.4 minutes. But he’s also shooting 38.8 percent on 14.4 attempts (the worst percentage of anyone shooting that often; Zach LaVine is second), 30.6 percent from deep, 69.0 percent from the free throw line (nice) and 2.9 turnovers. But his flashes of greatness – usually in transition or well above the rim – have made him a fan favorite and show just how good he can be down the line. He just turned 20 years old. The Mavs are giving him the keys to the car down the stretch of his rookie season, meaning he might put up some big volume numbers that earn him a spot on the All-Rookie Team, potentially over Markkanen.