Reliable rookies are usually tough to find in any sport, with basketball being no exception. They usually show flashes of fantasy goodness only to disappear for a similar amount of time, ultimately hitting the rookie wall and hoping to ‘come back strong next year’. Roughly 20 games into the season for all teams and I’m just about ready to make that claim on several players this year. Some are just reliable, while others are truly special talents. Dynasty owners who grabbed them will be happy for years.
Luka Doncic – This first one is obvious. 17 PTS, 6.3 REB, 5 AST, and 2.7 3PM. All of this all while only shooting 38% from the field. His comfort level is rising and his basketball IQ and talent are allowing him to do basically anything he wants out there. Absolutely a reliable rookie.
Jaren Jackson Jr. – I know I try to point out when a rookie gets a 5 BLOCK GAME. JJJ got an OMG 7 BLOCK GAME!!!! The minutes and foul trouble are the only things holding him back at this point, and I don’t expect the recent Joakim Noah (GOAT) signing to impact him much if at all. Absolutely a reliable rookie.
Deandre Ayton – Putting up double-doubles on the regular with a handful of assists and very good FG%. I’m still bored though. Considering he was the number 1 pick, I guess I just expected his numbers to have more substance to them than “Good stats on a bad team” type of numbers. Phoenix has been a huge disappointment overall after their flurry of offseason moves though, so maybe that is carrying over into my opinion of Ayton here. All that said, he is absolutely a reliable rookie.
Marvin Bagley III – While I wasn’t the biggest fan of his coming into this season, and I’d still rank him as the fourth-best big in the class, he has definitely surprised me. The minutes have been increasing steadily, and the production has matched. Bagley is even protecting the rim a little bit! If he can keep a grip on his rotation spot and maybe improve his shot selection a bit, he could change my mind even more. Reliable Rookie!
Trae Young – My guy. Young can put up 25 PTS and 17 AST in one game, then barely eclipse that in the next 3 games combined. He is still my guy, but he seems to have hit the wall a little earlier than most rookies. That wall being NBA defensive schemes designed specifically to stop him. Basketball is all about the adjustments, and it is on Trae to make the next one. He will be reliable, but just not yet.
Wendell Carter Jr. – My guy 2.0. Have I mentioned how bad the Bulls are? With WCJ seemingly their only willing defender out of their bigs, he tends to end up in foul trouble more often than not. That happens when Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine are letting their guys blow past them constantly and someone else has to protect the rim. WCJ is a stud. He is just currently surrounded by a poorly constructed group of duds. Like Trae, he will get there but don’t count on him to be a lineup mainstay for you just yet.
Collin Sexton – He really doesn’t want to lose his spot in the rotation does he? Set his career high with 29 PTS on 67% shooting the other night in a truly impressive performance. I was tempted to put him in the Reliable! section above but I need to see a little bit more from him. He is certainly trending in the right direction though.
Not quite yet
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – It hurts to put him down here, but I don’t know if he will be consistent enough on a Clippers team trying to win as much as possible. My fear is that the team has heightened expectation, and will correspondingly lean on the vets to grind out some wins. I hope I’m wrong, but for now be happy you own him. Just don’t expect the world.
Aaron Holiday/Miles Bridges/Landry Shamet – If they get the minutes, they have all shown they can produce. The problem is getting the minutes! Out of the three, I would rank Shamet the best for this season only simply because of Philly’s need for 3’s. An injury for any of these teams could spell big numbers for these guys, so keep an eye out for them.
The fact that I can consider this many rookies as reliable, only 20 games into their careers, is another testament to just how good this draft class is and how much fun this season has been already. They won’t all be like this, so enjoy it while it lasts and acquire as many of them as you can!