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The 2018 NBA draft class is off to an encouraging professional start, from the top of June’s board to the No. 30 pick.
The majority of last year’s first-rounders have already carved out roles with their respective teams.
We graded each based on their production, efficiency and impact relative to where they were selected, though there are a handful of rookies who’ve earned incomplete marks due to limited playing time.
Philadelphia 76ers wing Zhaire Smith and Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. were left off, as they both continue to recover from injuries.
Stats are updated as of Friday, Dec. 21.
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DeAndre Ayton’s stats haven’t looked empty during the Phoenix Suns’ four-game winning streak.
He’s coming off a signature 23-point, 18-rebound effort Wednesday in a road victory against the Boston Celtics, who had trouble containing the No. 1 pick’s size, strength and foot speed around the basket. Ayton won most battles at the rim, buried jumpers and flashed footwork and body control that hint at plenty more upside for coaches to unlock.
Already with seven games of at least 20 points and 10 boards, Phoenix’s new anchor is also shooting 58.9 percent. He’s become an immediate scoring threat out of the post, where his 1.4 made shots per game are tied with Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond. His 49.5 percent mark on those attempts is the highest in that group. Ayton does a nice job of getting into balanced one-handers.
He’s also been a competent mid-range shooter, knocking down 41.3 percent of his catch-and-release opportunities.
Occasionally out of position and unaware of how to read certain plays, Ayton hasn’t been as sharp defensively. Opponents are scoring right through him, shooting 65.0 percent against the rookie at the rim.
And his energy and intensity levels have wavered. Coach Igor Kokoskov even demoted him from the starting lineup for a game and said Ayton “didn’t come ready to play” during Phoenix’s previous game, per the Arizona Republic’s Duane Rankin.
Still, his scoring efficiency and rebounding consistency can’t go overlooked. He’s a Rookie of the Year contender whose case will keep improving if the Suns continue winning.
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Overshadowed early and getting outproduced by the other four top-five picks, Marvin Bagley III has still been effective in his role as an athletic energizer.
Fifth on the team in scoring (12.7) and second in rebounding (6.1), shooting 53.6 percent, the draft’s second pick has played to his strengths, with 74.2 percent of his offense coming inside 10 feet.
He’s making 70.8 percent of his attempts in the restricted area, while his 2.9 points per game off putbacks is good for 10th in the NBA. He’s tapped into his quickness and bounce to create and convert easy-basket opportunities.
Shooting 41.0 percent out of the post and 30.3 percent off the catch outside 10 feet, the rookie’s offensive skills still remain well behind his athletic ability, however. Through 26 games, he’s also totaled just 24 assists to 43 turnovers. And he’ll now have to miss time with a knee injury, which could disrupt the rhythm he was building since mid-November.
Even at his floor, however, Bagley has still managed to give the lineup a spark and source for off-ball scoring in the paint.
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The early favorite for Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic leads the 2019 class in scoring (18.8) and threes per game (2.2), ranks second in assists (4.9) and third in rebounds (6.6).
He’s coming off a career-high night with 32 points against Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley and the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.
Compared to the EuroLeague, the NBA’s superior speed and athleticism haven’t affected Doncic, who’s overcome his lack of explosion with positional size, ball-handling skills, unpredictable change of speed and shot-making.
Despite his slow motion, the No. 3 pick has had no trouble creating shots. And he’s converting the contested ones, shooting 43.2 percent with a defender within two feet and 47.9 percent when he’s within two to four feet.
Doncic has already established a signature move using the step-back, and he’s making jumpers (2.7 pull-ups per game) and threes off of it comfortably.
Averaging more assists than Dennis Smith Jr., the rookie also continues to impressive with his vision and passing ability, particularly off ball screens while he freezes defenses and picks them apart.
Doncic does try to do too much at times, which has led to 3.5 turnovers per game. But the Dallas Mavericks, who won just 24 times a year ago, are sitting at .500 and are in playoff contention in the West. The arrival of 19-year-old Doncic has immediately changed the team’s identity and helped justify the front office’s decision last June to trade a future first-round pick to acquire him.
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After averaging 3.4 made field goals and 3.2 fouls per game in college, Jaren Jackson Jr. was viewed as a project entering the draft. The narrative has shifted, however, with the No. 4 pick catching on quickly and emerging as an impact player right away for the Memphis Grizzlies.
He’s started 29 of 31 games, ranking third on the team in scoring with 12.8 points on 50.8 percent shooting. His 50.0 percent mark on post-ups is higher than Ayton’s, Bagley’s and Wendell Carter Jr.’s.
Jackson has also hit 26 threes, more than the other top rookie bigs combined. And he’s flashed a budding ability to attack closeouts and finish on the move.
Blocking 1.8 shots in just 25.3 minutes, the rookie is allowing opponents to only shoot 49.7 percent at the rim, tied with Serge Ibaka for the second-lowest rate among NBA players who face at least 4.0 field-goal attempts per game inside.
He’s still fouling at a wild rate (3.7 times per game). His shot-creation skill remains in the early stages, and he isn’t ready to shoot with consistency from distance.
But even at 19 years old and still much closer to his floor than his ceiling, Jackson has managed to be an efficient scorer and disruptive defender during his first two months. Based on his start, he’d earn serious consideration at No. 1 overall if the NBA redrafted the 2018 class.
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Given a green light to play (29.2 minutes per game) through mistakes, Trae Young is producing like a legitimate NBA starter, averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 assists.
He’s put pressure on defenses with his change of speed and tight ball-handling, ranking No. 5 in the league in drives per game and converting a solid 52.7 percent of those drives. His penetration and vision have also translated to playmaking and setup passing.
But despite predraft questions about his athleticism, plus the hype over his shot-making, Young has been most effective getting to the basket, while his jump shot has been the biggest disappointment. He’s shooting 27.1 percent on 6.0 pull-ups per game, 25.0 percent from three and 30.9 percent on catch-and-release attempts.
A heavy workload and audacious decision-making have led to low-percentage shots and 3.9 turnovers per game.
It is a difficult situation for a ball-dominant rookie point guard. Young doesn’t have strong enough surrounding talent to take pressure off. Struggles were to be expected, but Young’s shot-making woes have been uncharacteristic and disappointing.
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The Orlando Magic haven’t attempted to fully unleash Mohamed Bamba with the team in the playoff hunt and Nikola Vucevic playing at an All-Star level.
The rookie will need time to strengthen his body and offensive fluidity. Meanwhile, he’s still useful for his finishing and rim protection. Bamba has shot 72.4 percent inside the restricted area and blocked 3.0 shots per 36 minutes.
He’s also flashed promising shooting mechanics and touch, having already hit 18 threes in limited action (38.1 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers).
But after struggling to consistently convert from the post at Texas, he’s had similar issues in Orlando. He’s made just 28.6 percent of his shots on post-ups.
And despite the strong shot-blocking rate, Bamba hasn’t been a major intimidator, allowing opponents to shoot 64.8 percent.
Bamba still represents the future for the Magic, but he hasn’t justified stealing many minutes from Orlando’s veteran bigs.
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Despite an ugly situation in Chicago, Wendell Carter Jr. has given the Bulls steady two-way play and occasional flashes of upside.
He’s only hit double-figures in scoring once this month after averaging 12.0 points per game during November. But he’s remained efficient, shooting 49.1 percent in December and 47.4 percent on the season.
The elbows have been a comfortable scoring spot (63.0 percent shooting) for the No. 7 pick. Carter is also knocking down one catch-and-shoot jumper each game, though he’s struggled behind the NBA’s deeper arch (five of 26).
And though polished-looking playing back to the basket with the ability to seal and drop-step into quality hooks, he’s struggled to execute out of the post (26.5 percent).
Carter has caught on quickly defensively, however, blocking 1.5 shots per game and only allowing opponents to shoot 54.4 percent against him at the rim. For a rookie, he’s impressed with his help and timing.
Overall, he hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s been reliable while flashing enough glimpses of what’s likely to come over the next few seasons.
The Bulls have the league’s worst record, and now Zach LaVine will miss two to four weeks. Carter should be a candidate to see an increase in touches and usage until February.
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Fourth among rookies averaging 15.0 points, Collin Sexton has been a constant source of offense.
Never short on confidence, the No. 8 pick has already put together a pair of 29-point efforts in wins over the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards.
His pull-up game has fueled his scoring attack, and Sexton is making 3.2 such jumpers per game at a 41.7 percent clip. He’s also shooting threes (40.3 percent) with more accuracy than he did at Alabama.
Sexton hasn’t been as effective in the paint, converting just 42.4 percent of his drives and 48.8 percent of his attempts inside 10 feet.
His floor game has raised the most questions. Sexton’s 79 total assists to 75 turnovers don’t reflect the needed playmaking of a starting point guard.
The fact that he’s scoring this easily (44.2 percent FG) so early is a positive sign, but whether Sexton can become the team’s floor general of the future will come down to his development as a facilitator and ability to balance shot-hunting with setting up teammates.
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The game is slowing down for Kevin Knox, who went down with an ankle injury early, missed time and then struggled upon his return.
He’s averaging 17.0 points in December and showing signs of improved confidence by also making 2.5 threes per game during the month. A three-level scorer, Knox has flashed the full package of long-range shooting, mid-range pull-ups, floaters and hard drives to the basket.
He’s still not making any one shot with enough consistency, which his 37.4 percent field-goal clip reflects. Knox has converted just 37.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot chances and 29.2 percent of his pull-up jumpers. And he’s had trouble figuring out how to finish through rim protection, often taking the wrong angle or shot type inside 10 feet, where he’s shooting 42.7 percent.
But Knox has demonstrated admirable poise, never appearing too high or low while maintaining his aggressiveness, even during off nights.
The freedom to play through mistakes is starting to pay off, as the No. 9 pick is suddenly finding a rhythm with six consecutive games of at least 15 points.
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Mikal Bridges hasn’t been a high-usage scorer, but he’s been important, playing the needed three-and-D role in a rotation with mostly offensive-minded players.
Of his 6.7 shots per game, 3.3 are catch-and-shoot attempts. He’s only converting them at a 32.7 percent clip, but he is making 1.2 threes in 24.6 minutes per game.
Bridges has also given the Suns a versatile wing defender averaging 1.3 steals.
He’s playing to his strengths, taking what’s given to him as a spot-up shooter and cutter while adding value on defense. Suns opponents are scoring 6.2 fewer points per 100 possessions when Bridges is on the floor.
However, Phoenix will eventually need him to be more efficient offensively, particularly since he’s a non-creator.
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Inconsistency is usually tied to inefficiency, but not with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s been patient and effective by taking what the defense gives him.
He’s alternated single-digit scoring efforts with double-digit ones for the last nine games. Despite the on-and-off production, the No. 11 pick is still shooting an impressive 48.6 percent by taking quality shots and converting the ones in his shot-making wheelhouse.
Gilgeous-Alexander has converted a respectable 55.6 percent of his attempts inside 10 feet, showcasing the body control, dexterity and length that help him compensate for limited burst.
And though not considered a shooter, he’s making 1.6 pull-ups per game at a 44.5 percent clip, using tight ball-handling maneuvers to create just enough separation. The bar is low, but making 17 of 48 three-pointers should also be considered encouraging based on the questions that surrounded his distance shooting out of Kentucky (0.7 made three-pointers per 40 minutes).
The Los Angeles Clippers logjam at guard, plus Gilgeous-Alexander’s lack of explosion, have limited his playmaking ability and opportunities (2.8 assists per game). And without standout athleticism or high-level perimeter-scoring ability, there will continue to be games where he finishes under 10 points.
But Gilgeous-Alexander’s approval rating has to be high considering where the Clippers drafted him and his immediate effectiveness and versatility at both ends of the floor. Signs point to L.A.’s first 2018 lottery pick emerging as its long-term answer at point guard.
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The Charlotte Hornets have used Miles Bridges at both forward spots and center in small-ball lineups. And he’s remained efficient, playing to his strengths as an athlete and shot-maker while resisting the urge to try to create.
He’s shot 47.8 percent with only 20 turnovers through 29 games. Bridges has been most effective tapping into his explosiveness as a finisher off transition and cuts, converting 65.5 percent of his attempts inside 10 feet.
The other chunk of his offense has come off of catch-and-shoot chances, which he’s converting at a 40.3 percent clip. Bridges has hit 27 threes at a 35.5 percent rate, looking comfortable from distance when set.
But he didn’t have much of an in-between game at Michigan State, and so far in Charlotte, he’s made just 16.1 percent of his pull-ups. Bridges still isn’t a threat off the dribble in the half court. Despite his quickness, power and bounce, he takes just 1.1 free-throw attempts in 20.1 minutes per game.
He has had some exciting defensive moments highlighting playmaking (22 blocks, 18 steals) and versatility.
There is no doubt that Bridges has held his own and solidified his image as a key building block long-term. For now, he’ll likely continue to see his minutes and production fluctuate with Charlotte looking to make the playoffs and coach James Borrego trusting his veterans.
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By drafting Jerome Robinson at No. 13, the Los Angeles Clippers overlooked need and fit and presumably took the best available player on their board.
It’s led to their second lottery pick receiving just 40 total minutes of action, though a foot injury has limited his availability.
The Clippers won’t be in a rush to unleash Robinson. They should feel confident after his six-game G League stint in November, when he averaged 25.2 points on 47.7 percent shooting and 46.5 percent from three.
He is 5-of-9 from behind the arc in the limited time he’s played with the Clippers. Robinson has the shot-making skill, along with the size and athleticism to eventually emerge as a scoring weapon. But his big opportunity won’t arrive this season.
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Even with Otto Porter Jr. missing time, coach Scott Brooks has been reluctant to call on Troy Brown Jr.
During his 95 NBA minutes, the 19-year-old rookie has still flashed glimpses, though most of them came in one game against the Philadelphia 76ers on November 30, when he racked up six points, six rebounds and five assists.
A 6’7″ playmaking wing who can slash, make open jumpers and defend multiple positions, Brown’s versatility was a draw before the draft. But with the Wizards starting slow during a potential make-or-break season for the franchise, Brooks has looked past Brown toward his veterans.
Through five G League games, the No. 15 pick has averaged 18.6 points (9-of-24 on three-pointers), 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Brown won’t be a factor for the Wizards this season, but he remains an important building block for the future.
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Donte DiVincenzo’s minutes and impact have fluctuated early.
Coach Mike Budenholzer would likely deem the rookie more playable (and useful) if he was converting more than 26.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts. He’s been worse pulling up (17.6 percent), limiting his scoring ability for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Athleticism and coordination have helped DiVincenzo finish at a strong rate around the basket; he’s making 72.7 percent of his shots inside 10 feet.
His quickness and energy have also led to encouraging flashes of team defense. And given his track record at Villanova, where he made 40.1 percent of his threes last year, his shot should come around eventually.
But with the addition of George Hill, and Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown both in the picture, DiVincenzo won’t have a consistent, concrete role moving forward.
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Knee surgery in October cost Lonnie Walker IV valuable time early in the season. He’s returned to the floor, but so far he’s only played in the G League, where he’s averaging 15.3 points on 46.2 percent shooting (5-of-21 on threes).
Walker hasn’t played yet for the San Antonio Spurs, but that could change if Derrick White continues to struggle.
The rookie could give the lineup a more explosive pop of athleticism compared to White, Bryn Forbes or Patty Mills.
Walker still seems a ways from emerging as a threat to create or shoot with consistency, but he offers far more upside than any of San Antonio’s active guards while Dejounte Murray recovers from a torn ACL. Depending on White’s leash, coach Gregg Popovich could call on the No. 18 pick to jump-start his development and liven up the second unit.
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Averaging 11.6 points on 49.1 percent shooting in December, Kevin Huerter continues to look more comfortable by the month.
Over the Atlanta Hawks’ last 14 games, their second first-round pick has hit 28 of 60 three-pointers, raising his mark to 41.6 percent on the season. Huerter has been locked in, showcasing the same effortless release that looked so convincing out of Maryland.
But he’s also provided some secondary playmaking and passing, having totaled at least four assists on six separate occasions since November 25.
Huerter doesn’t put any pressure on the rim by breaking down defenses. He’s scoring just 1.4 points per game off drives, converting only 36.1 percent of his attempts. But at this stage, his role calls for spot-up shooting and ball-moving, and he’s answering that call.
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Josh Okogie has created a new identity for himself playing the role of energizer off the bench. He fell out of the rotation midway through November, but after sparking the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Sacramento Kings on Monday with athletic plays and active defense, the No. 20 pick is rebuilding his case for more minutes.
He’s still behind offensively, shooting 32.0 percent on catch-and-shoot chances, 30.3 percent on pull-ups and 29.3 percent on threes.
A 39.4 percent field-goal mark reflects Okogie missing a bankable skill in terms of shot creation and shot-making.
Energy, speed and explosiveness fuel the rookie’s impact for the Wolves, whose backcourt is already equipped with enough scoring and playmaking. Okogie has made his mark by playing fast and hard. Even if his offense doesn’t click this season, coach Tom Thibodeau may still have enough reasons to set aside regular minutes for the rookie.
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Grayson Allen made a quick case for rookie minutes with strong performances during summer league and preseason. Coach Quin Snyder never bought it, however, presumably due to a lack of confidence in the rookie’s ability to defend.
In 17 appearances, Allen has played just 9.7 minutes per game, never finding a rhythm with his shot (11-of-41 on threes).
Earlier in the month, Utah sent the No. 21 pick to G League, where he’s hit 17 threes through five games. He attempted 43 triples to 17 two-pointers in that span, a reminder that Allen will likely need to hit the three-ball to make a big enough impact.
He should eventually receive another opportunity at some point with the Jazz after they traded Alec Burks.
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The tanking Chicago Bulls have found time for Chandler Hutchison, who’s been hit-or-miss playing 16.9 minutes per game.
He went on an encouraging early run from late October to November, scoring at least seven points on 50.0-plus percent shooting in five of eight games. He’s been quiet since, however.
Based on his four-year career at Boise State, it hasn’t been surprising to see the rookie struggle as a shooter. With no signs of a pull-up (0.1 makes per game), he’s also shot 8-of-26 from behind the arc, though he is in the midst of his hottest stretch of the season, having made four of six triples in December.
Still, his strengths always revolved around athleticism and attacking the basket. Yet he’s only converted 36.7 percent on drives.
Averaging just 8.6 points per 36 minutes, Hutchison hasn’t been a factor due to limited shot-creating skill and a shaky jumper.
With Jabari Parker falling out of favor in Chicago, the No. 22 pick should have an opportunity to build some confidence and rhythm over the second half of the season.
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Quiet until Victor Oladipo went down with a knee injury, Aaron Holiday surfaced midway through November, when he averaged 13.0 points over a five-game stretch.
His minutes have since been reduced, but the streak was enough to spark optimism over his future.
Holiday’s shot hasn’t fallen in December (21.1 percent on threes), limiting his ability to make an impact offensively. But his track record at UCLA, plus the eye test, suggests his jump shot will come around eventually.
Otherwise, he has been relatively effective on the limited drives (57.1 percent) he’s made to the basket.
Holiday has also flashed glimpses of his defensive toughness and ability to pressure ball-handlers.
There aren’t enough minutes to go around in Indiana for the No. 23 pick to earn a consistent role. But he should resurface at some point with his streak-scoring ability.
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Any contributions this season from Anfernee Simons should be considered a bonus. The Portland Trail Blazers drafted him straight out of high school (fifth-year graduate), presumably seeing long-term potential tied to his athleticism and scoring ability.
He’s mostly watched from the bench the last two months since Portland doesn’t have a G League affiliate.
It will likely take an injury to one of the Blazers’ veterans for the No. 24 pick to join the rotation, particularly with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum each playing over 34 minutes per game. However, Nik Stauskas has shot just 17.4 percent from three in December, and coach Terry Stotts may eventually have the urge to mix it up.
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Moritz Wagner totaled seven minutes through October and November before scoring 10 points against the Phoenix Suns on December 10.
He’s scored 31 points through 46 minutes this month, hitting six of 10 threes in that limited action. Wagner has also made 46.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts.
However, limited defensive range, plus the addition of Tyson Chandler, will likely keep the rookie glued to the bench most games when the team is fully healthy.
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An offseason injury to the Philadelphia 76ers’ first draft pick created an opportunity for their second. While Zhaire Smith has been out with a broken foot, Landry Shamet has stepped in and given the Sixers 20.8 minutes per game.
A career 43.7 percent three-point shooter through 71 games at Wichita State, the No. 26 pick has quickly adjusted to the NBA’s arc. He’s held his role by shooting 41.6 percent from deep (17-of-29 over last six games), working mostly as a catch-and-shooter (41.5 percent) to space the floor.
Shamet hasn’t given Philadelphia any penetration or playmaking, having totaled just 34 free-throw attempts and 31 assists through 33 games. But he’s earned a rotation spot for the East’s No. 3 team by playing to his strengths as a shot-making specialist and smart ball-mover.
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After totaling 34 minutes heading into December 10, Robert Williams is suddenly a factor.
Even with Horford and Baynes healthy, Williams adds explosiveness to a lineup that receives little from its veteran bigs. Rim protection will continue to be the rookie’s calling card. He just blocked five shots against the Atlanta Hawks on December 14 and five more versus the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. Williams now has 16 rejections in 90 minutes through December.
He’s been active and able to cover ground using his speed, length and leaping ability.
Offensively, he’s a non-threat to create or shoot, but the No. 27 pick has still been good for easy finishes off transition, lobs, dump-downs and misses.
Williams figures to continue seeing time off Boston’s bench working strictly as a dunker, rebounder and defensive playmaker.
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Jacob Evans was a long shot to crack the defending champions’ rotation, but he didn’t help his chances in July or October. He struggled through summer league and preseason, combining to miss 26 of his 28 three-point attempts.
The No. 28 pick has only played 85 minutes during the regular season. More of a complementary scorer and secondary playmaker, Evans has to make spot-up threes to hold enough value offensively.
He does possess solid defensive tools and toughness, and he checks multiple boxes with his ball-handling, driving and shot-making. But for a role player, Evans is missing a signature bankable skill or strength.
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The Brooklyn Nets have gotten more from Rodions Kurucs, their second-rounder, than Dzanan Musa, the No. 29 pick.
Musa, a 6’9″, 208-pound 19-year-old, never figured to play a major role this season anyway. But he has been one of the G League’s top scorers, averaging 20.1 points and 2.3 three-pointers per game.
He’s unsurprisingly the youngest by multiple years of the 18 G Leaguers averaging 20-plus points. Musa has a knack for creating and making shots in different ways from all over the floor. His chance will come at the NBA level, though it won’t be this season if the Nets keep winning games and manage to stay healthy.
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The last pick of 2019’s first round, Omari Spellman has already earned eight starts for the Atlanta Hawks, who’ve used the rookie at both big man positions.
He’s been up and down, though at this early stage, the positives outweigh the negatives for a No. 30 pick.
The 6’9″, 245-pound power forward/center has has made 19 threes through 22 games, showing promise as a catch-and-shoot floor spacer. And in flashes, he’s demonstrated fluidity putting the ball down and attacking a closeout.
He’s also hit the 14-point mark in four games this season. But Spellman’s lack of explosion and polish have shown inside the arc, where he’s shot 44.8 percent. And now, a hip injury is now forcing him to miss time.
Considering he’s only played one college season, when he was used in just 18.3 percent of Villanova’s possessions, Spellman has still been surprisingly effective so far in stretches. It seems reasonable to expect more of the same inconsistency and sporadic outbursts of shot-making.