The 2018-19 season is off to being one of the more interesting ones in recent memory. Though NBA fans are finally free—sorry Cleveland—of the dreaded Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals matchup, the regular season season was still expected be boring. The Warriors and Rockets would decimate the Western Conference, while the now wide-open Eastern Conference would be a parity-filled snorefest.
We're 25 games into the season and the NBA couldn't be anymore exciting, and the 2018 draft class has played a major part.
As the Warriors struggle with complacency and injuries, the Rockets have struggled with their depleted depth. And during all of that, the stellar play of rookie Luka Doncic has pushed the Dallas Mavericks into the playoff race. Doncic's play (18 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG) is awesome for any player, let alone a rookie. If his ceiling is as high as some scouts believe, Dallas won't need to add much more to their roster to be a complete team.
The Suns are awful and dealing with an injury to star Devin Booker, but No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton has shown off much of the skills that made him the top pick in the draft. He has a sky-high 62.5 true shooting percentage and has flashed a great amount of ability as a playmaker. Ayton is averaging a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. The Suns will get another high lottery pick, and it could be the final piece to their core, with Booker and Ayton looking like surefire future All-Stars.
And back on the winning side of the spectrum, the Grizzlies and Clippers are 6th and 2nd in the Western Conference standings. They likely wouldn't have those records at this point of the season without the play of their 2018 1st round picks. No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. posted a monster 36-point, 8-rebound game in a double-overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets last Friday. In that same game he was a team-high +13 on the floor. The Grizzlies are 1st in the Southwest Division and seem to have completed their vision of being a competitive playoff team that simultaneously has an eye towards the future.
For the Clippers—who at the time of publication have a better record than the Warriors—No. 11 overall pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a relief as a reliable starter at just 20 years old. He is averaging 10 PPG, 3 RPG and 2 APG for a team that is scoring over 117 PPG. Gilgeous-Alexander has the 2nd best defensive rating of the Clippers starters and has been great at using his length (6-foot 6) to bother the many smaller guards he goes against nightly.
Less heralded rookies like Donte Divincenzo, Mitchell Robinson, Landry Shamet and Hamidou Diallo have all played well and most have played roles in the success of their teams.
This upcoming week has some great games on tap. Warriors-Cavaliers (sorry again Cleveland), Warriors-Bucks, Sixers-Pistons, Rockets-Mavericks and of course Thunder at Bulls (on NBC Sports Chicago), will help us further with understanding where teams stand in the playoff and (NBA lottery odds) race.
Check out our latest 2018-19 NBA power rankings here.