By Hocine LOUKKAF on 1/1/2020
While the NBA fans are still waiting for Zion’s debut in the league, Morant is dominating the ranking while his top 10 classmates are struggling.
#1 Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies (15.5pts pts 6.5as in Dec)
After missing early December, Morant came back winning four games in a row and leading the Grizzlies to a 7-4 record. He could have better defensive numbers but has worked on limiting his turnovers and improving his FG %. Becoming more consistent from three (five games without a 3pt made) and in the passing (three games with less than 5 assists) could help him and his team make a step toward the right direction
#2 Kendrick Nunn, SG/PG, Miami Heat (15.5pts 3.9as)
Being the second best scorer for a team which went 11-4 in December makes up for Nunn’s lack of offensive efficiency. His 42% FG and above all 29% 3pt are less than average (seven games under 40%) while, like Morant, his 0.5st in 32min are weak. Nunn remains a solid scoring option and averages a nice 2+ a/to ratio.
#3 Brandon Clarke, PF, Memphis Grizzlies (13.7pts 4.5rbds)
One of the other nice picks of the last draft for the Grizzlies, Clarke still is the same super-efficient option from the bench. Clarke has averaged a stunning 64% FG and had two games with 25pts or more despite never playing more than 26min. With seven games out of eleven without a 3pt made and only 0.7bl and 0.3st, Clarke has room to improve.
#4 Kevin Porter, SG/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (11.5pts 3.6rbds 2.2as 37% 3pt)
The 30th pick of the last draft is starting to show why he was once a projected top 10 pick. Porter could limit his turonvers but his 37% from three on 3+ attempts per game and overall 47% FG are good signs. He may become Cleveland’s best outside scoring option if Sexton or Garland (who are not showing they are true passing PGs) were traded.
#5 Michael Porter Jr, SF, Denver Nuggets (6.4pts 3.2as)
Despite having inconsistent playing time, Porter is starting to stay a bit more on the court and displays the potential to be a steal. After a good 11pts 4rbds perf in 19min against the Grizzlies, Porter celebrated his first start against the Kings with 19pts and 6rbds in 28min. The Nuggets will keep careful but may have found their starting SF.
#6 Tyler Herro, SG, Miami Heat (12.1pts 4.3rbds)
Herro is far from being the more consistent player (38% FG 36% 3pt, nine games with 33% or less from three), he doesn’t shy away from taking his responsability (three games with 18 attempts or more, 23.7pts average over these games) and plays for a playoff-bound team. Yet, the former Wildcat will need to attack the rim more (ten games withouy any FT attempt) not to become unidimensional.
#7 Jaxson Hayes, C, New Orleans Pelicans (8.1pts 4.9rbds 1.3bl)
Despite his nice stats over December, Hayes’s good perfs haven’t matched NOP’s wins. After starting the month with six 10+pts games over the Pels’ nine-loss-stretch, Hayes hasn’t scored more than 5pts in the last six games, including five wins for his team, where Favors played more. At least, Hayes, is always efficient when on the court and could learn from the starting center.
#8 PJ Washington, PF, Charlotte Hornets (14pts 5.3rbds 1.3bl 38% 3pt)
Despite the Hornets’s disappointing results, Washington has been consistent with only one game under 10pts. He still has room and needs to work on his IQ to make up for a lack of size/explosivity which limits his playing time (four games with 4 fouls or more) and overall efficiency (four games with 40% or less FG, only 5.3rbds in 33min).
#9 Rui Hachimura, PF/SF, Washington Wizards (17.3pts 6.6rbds)
Out for more than two weeks now, Hachimura, despite having far better stats in December, displayed the same limitations that tended me to consider him a reach when he was drafted. 17.3pts and 6.6rbds look nice, but for a modern PF, what Hachimura is for the moment, it’s weak. Indeed, Hachimura’s defensive numbers are very weak (6.6rbds 0bl 0.6st) considering his playing time and physical tools which in some way lead to losses (2-6 including losses against Orlando, Charlotte and Memphis). Moreover, the fact that he can’t shoot from three (22% on two attempts) force the staff to play him at the four while he could be a better option at the three.
#10 Matisse Thybulle, 6-6 SG, Philadelphia Sixers (6.4pts 1.5st 54% 3pt)
Playing for a team that went 7-4 with Thybulle on the court, the former Huskie has perfectly understand what the staff expected from him. 1.5st 0.8bl with 54% from three on three attempts look like the perfect 3andD. Thybulle, who is out with a sprained knee, could improbe his poor 1.1rbd and use his length and athleticism to score around the rim (four games with 3pt or less, only five FT attempts)
Honorable mention :
Phoenix’ Cameron Johnson (8.9pts 43% 3pt) has been as inconsistent as his team (five games with 6pts or less) but is your perfect shooting forward if you need one. Terence Davis (7.4pts 37% 3pt) has found his spot coming from the bench for the last champion playing both guard positions. Eric Paschall (9.5pts 3.4rbds) really need to step up inside or the Warriors will find other cheap options to replace him. Finally, Daniel Gafford, like Hayes, is making the best of his limited minutes with 4.9pts in 12min on 72% FG and a more impressive 1.7bl.
Top 10 struggles :
In my first Rookie report, I was afraid many top 10 picks could turn into bust and that seems to get verified in December. RJ Barrett has averaged a poor 11.7pts with a terrible 35% FG as the Knicks are awful as usual. DeAndre Hunter has been a better scorer (13.8pts) but his 40% FG and 30% 3pt are not good. Moreover, he was supposed to be a top-tier defender but his 3.6rbds/0.8st/0.3bl are far from what was you expect from a top defender considering his physical tools. Darius Garland (11.8pts) has been a decent scorer (43% FG 35% 3pt) but he was expected to be the best PG, which means averaging better than 2.7as for 2.3tos. Jarrett Culver‘s offensive game was already doubted and he’s proving why (7.2pts 36% FG 19% 3pt 41% FT), playing for very disappoiting Wolves (2-11). Coby White (9.4pts 2.4as 40% 3pt) is as inconsistent as you can get with six games out of fourteen with 3pts or less and only 37% FG, which means he only averages 36% inside the 3pt line. Last but not least, Cam Reddish (7.9pts 3.1rbds) is struggling as much or more than his draftmates with terrible FG percentages (32% FG 28% 3pt) despite playing 23min per game.