By Norm Elrod
(CBSDFW / CBS Local) – The rookie class of the 2018 NBA is already making its presence felt on the court and in the headlines. Each of the best rookies to date – Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Wendell Carter Jr., Deandre Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr. – record a lot of minutes for the losing teams. These teams play hopeless seasons with an eye on the draft NBA 2019 when the process begins again.
Team leaders and potential contributors appear in every NBA draft, and teams that are unlikely to play in the playoffs have a vested interest in playing for the next lottery and another selection. The hope, of course, is to find a rookie talent that can help bring the team back to relevance or at least become another part of the puzzle.
The rookie season is a first opportunity for the team to evaluate their talent at the highest level. Here's an overview of the top five NBA rookies to date.
Doncic landed in a good situation with the Dallas Mavericks (20-23). The Mavericks were ready to give him a few minutes. Dirk Nowitzki, an NBA legend, who has also gone from high-level basketball in Europe to the NBA since his youngest age, is completing his playing career with the team. The young guard played at a high level as soon as he arrived on the field with an average of 20.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and five assists. He also proved to be an ideal player for the clutch. And although he did not go through the match against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, he still impressed their various stars. The consensus is that Doncic is not playing as a rookie and will likely be a star sooner than later.
Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be compared forever. Young, who the Atlanta Hawks (13-30) traded against Doncic, began his career in the NBA a bit more slowly. This was not a surprise, since it had only played a year at the university. His departure has always been lively, but now his three-point shot also seems to be in focus. Its catastrophic start to the season beyond the bow (22.6%) is a little more respectable since (35.5%). The book is still on the leader, though his 15.8 points and 7.1 assists certainly helped lift the humble Hawks a little.
Wendell Carter Jr.
The Chicago Bulls (10-33) are in disarray, but Wendell Carter Jr. seems to understand the situation after a gloomy December. His month began with the dismissal of head coach Fred Hoiberg, replaced by Jim Boylen, whose drastic coaching tactics almost led to the team's mutiny. The seas have calmed down a bit in Chicago, as the Bulls head for another lottery pick. And Carter's production resumed, including a 22-point run and six rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers last week. Duke's central / powerful expert is part of a lineup of young talents that the NBA's top teams regularly dislodge from the building. Trouble early in the game sometimes limits his minutes and production, but Carter continues to improve and find more consistency.
The first pick in the NBA 2018 draft was a positive point in another dismal Phoenix Suns season (11-33). The Suns missed the playoffs of the NBA for eight consecutive seasons and they work for the ninth. But now, Devin Booker has a little help. With a solid average of 16.6 points and 10.7 rebounds, Ayton seems to be another productive player capable of competing with the big men of the NBA at both ends of the field. Although his offensive output has been consistent throughout the season, his defense continues to improve.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson Jr., of the Memphis Grizzlies (19-24), is another NBA rookie who is trying to regain some consistency in his game. And he recently, scoring at least 12 points per game and shooting 55.3 % in the last five games. But his season has been ruined by big problems. The Michigan State product leads the league in number of fouls per game (3.9), which limits its minutes. Recent explosions of scores suggest that his numbers will improve if / when he knows how to stay on the field. With the Grizzlies sitting just ahead of the Suns at the bottom of the West, although only five games below .500, he will likely have that chance.