Young, talented, and hungry – these three adjectives are the defining words for the most talented young ballers in the 2018-2019 rookie basketball class.
First-year hoopers are spending their inaugural season in the NBA in a variety of landscapes. Some have been immediately slotted into their squad as heavy-volume key players, whereas some are being utilized in smaller roles with hopes of development over gradual increases in playing time.
Regardless of how they’re being rolled out, a dream of any rookie that gets his NBA chance is to be granted a spot on the All-Star roster at some point in their career, and what better time to start than in year one as some achieved before. While a sizable group of this year’s rookies have been efficient in their opportunities, the young men who’ve burst onto the scene with All-Star productivity thus far this season deserve the majority of the rookie spotlight.
Let’s go over what rookies most deserve an All-Star nod in their first season.
All statistics in this article are provided by InsideHoops.com, BasketballReference.com, & ESPN.com
Luka Doncic, SF (Dallas Mavericks)
One of the most talented players to come out of the Euroleague in recent years, Luka Doncic’s performance in Slovenia netted him third overall pick honors in June’s draft, and he has not disappointed. Doncic leads all rookies in both points per game and minutes per game, averaging 17.8 and 32.3, respectively.
Next to that, he can fill up the stat sheet relatively well, and averages 6.8 rebounds per game to go with 4.5 assists, placing him at second in the rookie class in both rebounding and passing. While Doncic doesn’t provide the same eye-popping scoring statistics as top rookies in recent years, he’s excelled in a role that the Mavericks have been longing for the past few seasons, that being a floor general and a true #1 option on the floor.
Dave Joerger's entire quote on Luka Doncic: pic.twitter.com/zrMqBK3AYK
— James Ham (@James_HamNBA) December 17, 2018
His shooting percentages have been modest, as he’s shot 43% from the field overall, as well as a dependable 36% from deep. Doncic has certainly performed himself into All-Star consideration, as well as a franchise corner-piece role in the long term future of the Mavericks.
— Nitrogen Sports (@NitrogenSports) December 17, 2018
Deandre Ayton, C (Phoenix Suns)
A textbook example of the “blessing and a curse” cliche is the implications that come with being a number one pick. While only the perceived best-in-class players are chosen first over every other option in a rookie class, the number one nod can get inside a lot of young player’s heads and pressure them into unsatisfactory performance (Anybody remember Kwame Brown?).
Ayton, however, has indicated in his play, and in his attitude, that he wears his first overall selection as proudly as the number 22 on the back of his Suns jersey. The young big man is the only rookie currently averaging a double-double (as of December 16th, 2018) with 10.1 boards per game, plus 15.6 points.
He’s molded his offensive game to the fit of his fellow Deandre as well, and has shot a blistering 58.5% from the floor, showing efficiency that can be likened to Deandre Jordan’s.
Karl-Anthony Towns' first 27 games of his rookie season:
15.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, .586 TS%
Deandre Ayton's first 27 games:
15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, .620 TS%
— krishanson.bsky.social (@krishansonRCF) December 11, 2018
In his attitude, Ayton has always been confident and unshaken in where he would be selected. In an interview with Sports Illustrated before the 2018 draft, Ayton was asked if he was worried about where he would be drafted. “Most definitely No. 1, not changing my mind. I worked too hard for that. I worked my ass off.”
Ayton isn’t a lock to make the all-star game this season – he still needs to improve his scoring ability, as well as his defensive prowess. However, he’s proven to be a high-upside post scorer with a lot of room to improve, and has indicated to Phoenix that they did well to use their first overall pick on the Arizona product.
Some encouraging defensive moments from Deandre Ayton during his 18-point, 12-rebound, 2-assist game (26 minutes) vs Minnesota. He did a great of being physical with Karl Anthony Towns (11-for-26) and altered quite a few shots in the paint. Making progress https://t.co/5LLS6wJ9Sb pic.twitter.com/YVHL8cU5ZK
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) December 16, 2018
Trae Young, PG (Atlanta Hawks)
Arguably viewed as the most electric player in this season’s rookie class, former Sooner Trae Young was selected 5th in the draft by the Atlanta Hawks. While he has provided a spark for a stagnant Hawks offense, Young still has a ways to go in regards to his basketball IQ, shot selection, and scoring ability.
Among rookies, Young has averaged the second most three point field goal attempts per game as well as sitting in the top 45 in the league in three point attempts per game, with good reason – Young was drafted as a premiere three-point threat, and showed spectacular range in his college campaign.
However, he has canned a putrid 24% of his shots beyond the arc this season, and his efficiency has plummeted because of it, as he sits at 244th in the league in player efficiency rating among qualified players.
Luka Doncic just REJECTED Trae Young 👀 pic.twitter.com/xUR8eOIHqg
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 13, 2018
Obviously, some of the blame can be attributed to Atlanta’s weak roster and lack of offensive weapons, allowing defenses to key in on limiting Young’s quality three point attempts. To counter that, though, Trae would be best suited to continue to hone his game as a passer (he leads all rookies with 7.1 assists per game), as well as find more ways to create better looks for himself in hopes of increasing his efficiency from deep, and giving himself a more well-rounded offensive game.
Young most likely will not make an all-star roster this season, but he’s got the best shot as a rookie behind hopefuls Doncic and Ayton. Though his efficiency is down, Young has flashed greatness in his rookie tenure, with a 35 point, six three-pointer effort against Cleveland, and a selfless seventeen assist game against the Clippers. The first-year guard should continue to grow, and be continuously exciting to watch as the season goes on.
D3DMON, off a pro setup by Trae Young. pic.twitter.com/qDsWprAHa9
— Bally Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnBally) December 16, 2018
Though every single player in the NBA is an All-Star hopeful, it’s always wise to check in on the next generation of ballers who plan on taking the reigns of our favorite squads in the years to come.
With the talent of rookie stars like Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, and Trae Young, fellow NBA fanatics can rest easy knowing that the future of the game is in competent, highly-skilled hands.
Hopefully, NBA fans will be able to see some of their favorite rookies get some run in this year’s all-star game, giving us the chance to watch young greatness happen, as well as giving the rookies a chance to flourish under the spotlight.
— BasketBlog.com (@BasketBlog_com) August 12, 2018
Who do you think should become the next rookie in an NBA All-Star Game?
— justallstar.com (@JUSTALLSTARcom) December 18, 2018