OK don’t get triggered by that headline. I want to be VERY clear that I am not saying this class is filled with all time great players. That may one day be true, but it’s been about a month so I won’t go that crazy. What I mean is that when you look at how the elite talent of this draft class has started, they are doing stuff that is extremely rare when you look at NBA history. In my opinion the best draft classes of all time are ones like 1984, 1996, 1998, and 2003. Those were filled with Hall Of Fame players and some of the best to ever do it. So while they are still miles and miles away from that group, this has to be the best class since 2003 right? If you aren’t sure, allow me to explain my reasoning.
Ayton is currently averaging 15.9 points on 61.7% true shooting at the age of 20. Guess how many times that has happened in NBA history? Zero. He’s the only one. His full line of 15.9/10.9/3.4 on 59% shooting is so rare that if he were to maintain this the entire season, here are the list of players who have had at least all those criteria during their rookie year
1. DeAndre Ayton
End of list. Now if you take away the 59% FG% it opens it up a little bit, and this is the class of people that have done this well as a rookie
Some pretty decent names in that list if you ask me.
Same thing can be said for Luka. You look historically at who has had at least his production as a rookie, which is 20.2/6.5/4.2 and only 10 rookies EVER have done that. Take a look at this list and tell me it’s not impressive as hell, go ahead I dare you
I mean look at those names! If you factor in his shooting at 47% from the floor, guess what the list is then. Oscar, Jordan, Bird. So yeah, any doubt that he would have problems here in the states getting adjusted to the NBA, well that just looks silly right about now.
Wendell Carter Jr
We have more elite company a rookie finds himself in, and this one doesn’t turn 20 until April. Carter Jr has been on a tear over his last six games, averaging 14.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.0 blocks in only 28.2 mpg. If he was to keep this level of play up, guess where that puts him? In the history of the NBA, only 4 rookies ever have put up that line and they are
1. Chris Webber
2. Hakeem Olajuwon
3. Patrick Ewing
4. David Robinson
Now that Wendell Carter Jr seems to be a full time starter, is it that outrageous to think this is around where he could live as a rookie? I’m not saying to say that’s crazy.
Here’s another guy that entered the league with a ton of hype, and just like all the other high lottery talent seems to be backing that up. How rare is his 18.6/3.4/8.1 on 42% shooting? Well, in terms of rookies, only Oscar Robertson and Damon Stoudamire have ever done it. If you look at guys this season who have put up those numbers, you’re talking about Harden, Westbrook, and Jrue Holiday. Not to shabby either and in my opinion Young’s only going to figure out his outside shot since he’s shooting just 27% from deep so far. Imagine if that jumps to like 33 or 34%?
Jaren Jackson Jr
Like Wendell Carter Jr, Jackson Jr is now a full time starter for the Grizzlies and he’s responded pretty well. He just looked great against both GS and DEN, is averaging 12.1/4.8/1.3 on the year but is also shooting 47% from the field. He’s 19 years old. He hasn’t had the same sort of historic start as some of the other guys on this list, but he’s every bit as good as Grizzlies fans have hoped.
If you look throughout NBA history at rookies who play 19.5 minutes or less (what Bamba gets) that average 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, how many would you think are on that list. A ton right? Wrong.
So even though Bamba is getting a limited sample size in terms of playing time compared to some other high lottery rookies, he’s been able to do some pretty rare things.
Then we have someone like Bridges, who was taken at the end of the lottery, comes off the bench, but is almost at the point where he is creeping up on must watch territory. I’m already ready to declare him a top 5 in game dunker in the NBA right this second. He’s playing just 19 minutes a night but averaging a solid 8.1/3.4 while shooting a crazy 56% from the field. He’s 20. Bridges is a huge part of why the Hornets are having the type of season they are (also Kemba), and why it’s only a matter of time before he too becomes a starter for this team.
Honestly this is just a few from the lottery that have really stood out, but what makes this draft class so great is how deep it looks to be. We didn’t even really talk about Kevin Knox since he’s been hurt, we haven’t seen Michael Porter Jr yet due to injury, Lonnie Walker IV due to injury, and then you have other guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who has been solid for the Clippers, Miles Bridges who seems to have just taken Josh Jacksons spot in the rotation in PHX, Donte DiVincenzo who is a rotation player for the Bucks. You go even deeper to the 20s of this draft, where things historically have been pretty bare and you have talents like Josh Okogie who has looked good in MIN, Grayson Allen in UTA, Landry Shamet who is showing real signs with the Sixers, and then Robert Williams who we all know is probably the steal of this entire draft.
In terms of the second round, this draft also has steals there with Mitchell Robinson who is a BEAST, Hamidou Diallo who has had moments with the Thunder, so it just goes to show you how deep this class has been so far. That’s why I’m willing to entertain the idea that ONE DAY they can be in that elite draft class conversation. The high end elite talents are off to historic starts, and there is depth all the way down the draft board. I know it’s only been a month into their NBA careers, but the league has to be grinning ear to ear with how good all this young talent is right away. This is one of the few drafts where basically every team in the league is pumped about their recent pick, and that’s pretty rare.