Last year, SLAM PH ran GET HYPED, our way of breaking down the upcoming NBA season. Back then it seemed as if the NBA went through an overhaul of sorts with all the changes that happened in the 2017 offseason.
“That’s cute,” said the 2018 NBA offseason.
LeBron left the East to join the young Lakers. That one move simultaneously opened up the conference for any takers, and turned LA into a sudden contender in the West. That was just the beginning. Kawhi was shipped North, Melo joined the Rockets and Boogie completed the Warriors’ All-Star five.
The new NBA season is gearing up to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable ones in the history of the league. So, once again, get hyped! The NBA is back!
One of the best things about the a NBA season are the rookies. Everyone has seen them play in the Summer Leagues or in the Preseason. But when the season rolls along, the real superstars are separated from the busts.
The 2018 Rookie class has been tagged as one of the most polarizing batches in the past couple of years. There are a lot of exciting names to watch out for. Here are the top rooks heading into the new season:
Luka Doncic: A showcase of polish
The most decorated European prospect coming into the NBA. The Wonderboy. There’s been plenty of mystery that’s surrounded Luka Doncic since he’s entered the radar of NBA scouts, but the reality of it, there isn’t much to dig when making sense of his game. He’s one of the most polished prospects to make it to the league.
Over the last few years, polish has started to become a talking point when discussing top picks in the draft. Upside, potential and athleticism are all interesting qualities. However, slowly but surely, polish has started to become a priority once more in the NBA Draft. The 2017 draft had Jayson Tatum as an example. This year’s batch has Doncic.
Doncic isn’t an exceptional athlete by any means. What he has is functional athleticism. He knows how to use his strengths (strong frame), while making the most of what he can with his limitations (limited length, limited athleticism). Where there is potential with Doncic is his mind. He’s a basketball savant, a genius who has the rare capability of reading plays two steps ahead. He may not have the profile of a typical monster draft athlete, but his polish and flash is going to be a delight to watch for the season to come.
Trae Young: Embracing the Steph Curry generation
Michael Jordan inspired Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Bryant and James have proceeded to inspire an entire generation. Then there’s Steph Curry, the first of his kind to not be in this Michael-Kobe-LeBron line. He isn’t your typical model athlete from a physical standpoint, but his influence cannot be denied.
One of the clearest manifestations of Steph’s influence: Trae Young. Young has been compared endlessly to Curry. The unlimited range. The flashy handles. The unlimited range. Their ability to whip out incredible passes. The unlimited range. Did I forget to mention? THE UNLIMITED RANGE.
To consider Young as an experiment of this Curry generation wouldn’t be a stretch. His athleticism and decision-making are still raw, but that adds to the excitement surrounding Young. He will be learning on the fly.
DeAndre Ayton: Blending in the old with the new
DeAndre Ayton has been called as a sure thing coming out of college. His body is built for the NBA. Broad shoulders. A chiseled frame. The footwork of a ballerina, who can run like a gazelle at the same time. His profile screams new age big man.
Here’s a problem, however: his skillset screams old school. He normally attacks with his back to the basket, and an even bigger issue is his lackadaisical effort on the defensive end. Switch him to a guard off a pick and roll, and Ayton is minced meat.
But that’s what adds to the excitement of Ayton. As old school as he may be, there are qualities of his that can translate to the game today. It’s a matter of blending in those two qualities. Watching whether he’s able to do that is going to be interesting. The first pick always has the most pressure in their first year. It’s on them to prove that they’re better than the names below them.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: New age big man
While Ayton is a blend of the old and the new, Jaren Jackson Jr. is the epitome of the modern big. A good shot from outside, incredibly nimble, and has length for days. He’s going to fit right in today’s game.
There are still some question marks with JJJ, such as his polish and lack of strength. But you can’t deny the upside of Jackson Jr. He’s an elite talent, someone with the capability to change a franchise because of his malleability alone. That’s what matters in today’s NBA: versatility.
While old school big men are slowly blending in new age principles (Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns), Jackson Jr. is the peak new age big man. He’s purely focused on catching lobs, blocking shots and shooting threes.
Even more interesting his how Jackson Jr. blends with an old-school big man in Marc Gasol. Jackson Jr. needs Gasol’s toughness. But Gasol also needs Jackson’s range and versatility. This could be a season where the old guard makes way for the new age.
Kevin Knox: The wildcard
Even with an excellent Summer League performance, there are still a lot of questions surrounding Kevin Knox. Maybe his Summer League performance was just a fluke. Will he succumb to the toxic culture of the New York Knicks?
That’s what makes him so exciting to watch. He’s a wildcard. There are questions to his game, and we can’t wait for him to answer them.
He hasn’t had the rosiest of preseasons, but he’s had some amazing moments. He’s showcased versatility like being able bringing the ball coast to coast in some occasions or scoring off isolations. He’s built for the NBA with his size, shooting and athleticism. There’s definitely potential there.
However, since this is the Knicks, reaching one’s potential will be rushed. He’s playing in one of the toughest cities to play in. Knox will have to grow up fast and prove he belongs in the big leagues playing in the Big Apple.
Photos from Getty Images
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