By: Joe Cardoso
This NBA season is about to hit the halfway mark and it has been full of drama on the court and off with the social media shots and passive aggressive posts. But the action on the court has been good and one of the main reason is the play of rookies who are taking the league by storm and making a name for themselves. These kids have been given the opportunity to hit the court and have grabbed the ball and showed up and showed out. As the Rockets try and give the Warriors an honest fight in the west and the Cavs seem to be sinking into a pit of failure while the Celtics continue to find ways to wins games. Who are the rookies that have quoted Jay Z and said, “Allow me to reintroduce myself my name is________”?
Donovan Mitchell: Utah Jazz
First off, the kid is an athletic FREAK his dunks have been all over the place but get past that for a while. He has shown he can shoot as well hitting a decent percentage from 3. I love his pick and roll play he rarely gives up his dribble. And on the defensive side, his wingspan leads to steals and deflections. In the month of January, the stat line was 22ppg, 4 rebounds, 4 dimes and almost 2 steals. Add in a couple of 40 points games and you can see he is a legit NBA player and should be in the rookie of the year talk league-wide. In a season that not much is expected from the Jazz, he is a bright spot. Wonder how the Nuggets feel having missed out on this baller.
Kyle Kuzma: Los Angeles Lakers
Some would say lately he has fallen off a bit and that’s fine and to be expected but looking at his body of work Kuzma has been EVERYTHING the Lakers could ask for and then some. While Lonzo Ball works his way back on the hardwood and even when Zo was playing I will say this is Kuzma team. He was as an afterthought during the draft by most, and he is now the main reason some people watch Lakers games along with the improvement and Brandon Ingram.I love how aggressive he is and has no fear to take the big shot something that a lot of rookies run away from. Pouring in 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 dimes per game mostly off the bench. Don’t get me wrong anyone who watches hoops has seen a slight dip in production since Lonzo Ball went down but he’s still playing a lot better than the “experts” thought. His grind and grit make him easy to be a fan of.
Jayson Tatum: Boston Celtics
With Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford I figured Tatum was a nice bench player who would have time to slowly grow into a role for the C’s and give them some bench punch. Injuries and the fact he can straight up hoop flipped all that on its head. The development is happening ON the floor and the rest of the league is paying the price. Providing great weakside defensive help and a good overall defender due to his length. It has been so fun to watch him nightly get better and better. And oh, he is only 19 years old people!! A great kid off the court it’s hard not to root for him.
Dennis Smith Jr.: Dallas Mavericks
Bounce is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Smith kid can get UP. But you look past that, and the North Carolina State product has more to his game. With John Wall like quickness, he gets to the basket with ease and finds open teammates for quality shots. The area he needs to improve on and has been already all be it slowly is on defense. His work ethic is never questioned, and he is the lone bright spot on the Mavs this year. He is also my pick to win this year’s slam dunk contest.
These are the young players NOT named Ben Simmons that have caught my eye and I have enjoyed watching ball out this year so far. Simmons has been unreal and is the clear leader of this class, and should be an All-Star. The NBA season is long, and these guys will all face the classic rookie wall, but the great ones jump the wall and keep playing. And with this being such a strong rookie class what names not in this article will be household names by season end. Remember BALL IS LIFE