Philly Front Office

NBA Rookie Report: Debut Week For the 2018 Draft Class

One week of the NBA season is in the books, which means another batch of rookies (aside from a Sixers rookie, surprise, surprise) have made their NBA debuts. From No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton to No. 26 pick, Landry Shamet, the first week of rookie performances had its high’s and lows. In this column, we’ll take a look at how some of the NBA’s newest faces fared in their first few games.

DeAndre Ayton (PHX): After a very disappointing season last year in Phoenix, things look to be shaping up for the Suns. Devin Booker is back and healthy and the roster has a nice mix of veterans and young guys, which helps chemistry. Ayton was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and through two games, he has shown some glimpses of the star that he can become. His debut, a 121-100 win over Dallas, was a memorable one as the former Arizona product tallied an 18-point, 10-rebound effort, falling four assists shy of a triple-double. He shot 8-for-11 from the floor. His second game wasn’t quite as good. He got caught up in foul trouble and finished with just five points on 2-for-7 shooting.

Marvin Bagley III (SAC): Bagley is off to a hot start to his NBA career through three games, averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds for the 1-2 Sacramento Kings. After scoring just six points in his debut, Bagley scored 19 points to go along with eight rebounds in a 149-129 loss to New Orleans. In Sacramento’s first win of the season on Sunday against Oklahoma City, the 6-foot-11 big man out of Duke tallied 13 points and seven rebounds.

Luka Doncic (DAL): Acquired by the Dallas Mavericks on draft night, Doncic came into the season rated as one of the best players not to play in the NBA. Now that he’s here, we’ve gotten to see why he was so highly revered going into draft night. After a quiet debut (10 points, eight rebounds, four assists) against the Suns, Doncic erupted for 26 points in a 140-136 win over Minnesota on Saturday night. He shot 8-for-16 from the floor and hit four of nine shots from beyond the arc. Doncic helped Dallas overcome a 15-point deficit and complete the comeback in their home opener.

“I’ve played this basketball for a long time,” Doncic told ESPN, who made his pro debut for Real Madrid at age 15. “I’ve been professional. I had to grow up there, so I was ready for the game here. I mean, the game for sure is more physical. You have a lot more physical guys that can guard you, but at the end of the day, it’s just basketball.”

Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM): Selected fourth overall by the Grizzlies, Jackson is averaging 17 points and six rebounds through two games, shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. He debuted in a 111-83 loss to the Pacers, posting 10 points and five rebounds, but looked more comfortable in a 131-117 home victory against the Atlanta Hawks. In 28 minutes, the 19-year-old out of Michigan State scored 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.

Trae Young (ATL): Through three games, Young leads all rookies in scoring (23.0 ppg) and assists (8.3). The Hawks opened up their season with a 126-107 loss to the Knicks on the road. Young looked a little shaky, shooting 5-for-14 from the floor for 14 points. He looked better in their second game, scoring 20 points to go along with nine dimes against Memphis, and then broke out in game three against Cleveland. Young scored 35 points to go along with 11 assists on 13-for-23 shooting in a 133-111 win over the Cavs, becoming the first rookie since Steph Curry in 2010 to score 35 points and 10 assists in a game.

“Trae is fearless,” Bazemore told ESPN. “Even in the practices earlier in the summer he came in and established himself right away. That’s what you have to respect. A young guy that comes in, he’s not bashful, he’s not shy and who has that kind of caliber talent, he’s going to have ups and downs. I’m proud of him as a teammate.”

Mohamed Bamba (ORL): A wrist injury has slowed Bamba to start his NBA career, but he had a solid debut in Orlando’s 104-101 win over the Heat on October 17. He put up 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes of action. Bamba went scoreless in a 120-88 loss to the Hornets on Friday and was limited to just five points against Joel Embiid and the Sixers on Saturday. Bamba will get time to grow, but is working out of a reserve role behind veteran big man Nikola Vucevic. He’s averaging six point and 4.3 rebounds through the first three games.

Wendell Carter Jr. (CHI): Carter has gotten the starting nod in the middle for the Bulls in their first two games. He’s still getting adjusted to the pace and physicality of the NBA landscape as two of his first games involved head-to-head match-ups with Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. Carter Jr. has combined for 16 points and five rebounds on 8-for-16 shooting. He scored eight points in each of his first two games and has just three turnovers in that span.

‘‘I’m first and foremost trying to execute the game plan,’’ Carter told the Chicago Sun Times. ‘‘At the same time, I’m trying to pick up as many little tricks these guys throw at me as I can […] You kind of have to learn your personnel, got to know what the person you’re going against is good at, find that balance in committing to one or the other.”

Collin Sexton (CLE): Sexton joins a Cavs team with a completely different look than last year with LeBron James leaving for Los Angeles. Still without James, Sexton is starting off with a bench role and has gotten mixed results in his first three NBA games, all of which have been losses. In the 12-point opening night loss to Toronto, Sexton scored nine points (2-7 FG) and had four turnovers in 18 minutes. He rebounded nicely against Minnesota though, tallying 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. On Sunday, the Cavs suffered a 22-point loss in their home opener against Atlanta. Sexton shot just 2-for-11, finishing with four points and four personal fouls.

Kevin Knox (NYK): In somewhat surprising news to start the season, Knox starts the season off the bench for the Knicks. The 19-year-old out of Kentucky had a rough shooting night in his debut, a 126-107 win against Atlanta, scoring 10 points while hitting just four of his 16 shots from the floor. He looked a lot better against the Nets on Friday, dropping 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. He showed his full arsenal, driving to the rim and hitting both mid and long range shots. Unfortunately, Knox left the Knicks’ game against Boston on Saturday after rollin his ankle and is out without a timetable for return at the moment.

Mikal Bridges (PHX): Traded from the Sixers to the Suns on draft night for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-rounder, Bridges joins a Suns teams with a lot of upside with DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker on the roster. Bridges was a DNP – Coach’s Decision during the Suns 121-100 win over Dallas to start the season. He played 15 minutes in a 119-91 loss to Denver, scoring 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Bridges had a team-high +28 in their blowout loss.

“Sometimes we judge about a player’s performance whether they make shots or miss shots, but he did more,” Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov said. “I think the whole staff was pleased that he showed presence on the court and made some shots.”

Now for a look at some notables outside the Top 10…

Alonzo Trier (NYK): Through three games, the former Arizona product is averaging 12.7 points on 42.3 percent shooting overall and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Omari Spellman (ATL): Selected 30th overall out of Villanova, Spellman is averaging 12 points on 75 percent shooting through three games, including a 5-for-7 mark from three-point range.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC): Drafted 11th overall out of Kentucky, the 20-year-old point guard is averaging 8.3 points on 56.3 percent shooting.

Rodions Kurucs (BKN): Plucked with the 40th pick in the draft, Kurucs has combined to score 23 points to go along with 11 rebounds over his last two games for the Nets.

Brandon Apter

Brandon Apter writes about the Sixers and Phillies for 97.3 ESPN and Philly Front Office. A Philadelphia native, Brandon graduated from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania in 2009. After working in Minor League Baseball for nine seasons, Brandon currently does Marketing & Social Media for Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

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