Adjusting to the NBA is hard for rookies — unless your name is Karl-Anthony Towns.
It goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway: it’s way, way, way early to be judging the 2016 draft class.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore what’s happened in the first week of the season completely. Some young pups selected later in the draft look like they could play key roles this season and in the future, while a few higher picks clearly have some growing pains to endure.
Let’s take a look around the league at some notable first-year players.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
17.0 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 7.13 PER
Ingram is struggling a bit early on, which isn’t all that surprising. He plays with some ball-dominant guards that vaporize his shot attempts, but the No. 2 overall pick hasn’t been able to put himself in position to get quality looks.
In five games this season, Ingram has only topped six shot attempts once. He’s shooting 41.7 percent from the floor, which is so-so at best. But it’s not as if he’s bricking away for the Purple and Gold. One of the reasons why Ingram needs to add strength is to create separation from defenders. He’s an intelligent player who isn’t going to force difficult shots, and you’re seeing that early on.
Luke Walton is a smart offensive coach, and he’ll think of ways to get Ingram more involved. But it’s a two-way street. Once Ingram adds some bulk, he should be able to come off screens effectively and punish defenses that slot smaller players onto him. He’s not that guy yet, as we’ve seen so far.
Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
18.8 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 14.32 PER
In many ways, Brogdon is symbolic of the 2016 draft class. He’ll never be a star, but he has effective role player potential. He’s already showing it early.
A stud at Virginia throughout his college career, Brogdon was perhaps the smartest player in the country last season. You know who values intelligence in a basketball player? Jason Kidd. The Bucks’ head coach is playing Brogdon almost 20 minutes per game, and the silky wing has been productive. He won’t wow anyone with his athleticism, but he has 3-and-D potential.
It’s clear that Brogdon needs to extend his range. He was an excellent three-point shooter at UVA last season (39.1 percent), but thus far, the majority of his perimeter attempts are long twos. He’s 1-for-7 on threes this season.
Regardless, Brogdon fits in with this Bucks team. He’s long, crafty and has some offensive tricks up his sleeve. If he can become a reliable secondary ball handler and develop his three-point shot, Milwaukee will have a steal.
Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns
16.0 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 11.67 PER
Chriss’ appeal is obvious. He has the potential to become the rare floor-stretching big that can protect the rim, and he’s shown that he can do both of those things, albeit without consistency.
One of the biggest knocks on Chriss coming out of Washington was that, for a 6-10 power forward, he was an abnormally bad rebounder. He certainly hasn’t been DeAndre Jordan in that department for the Suns this season, but he hasn’t been disastrous, as he’s snagging 8.1 boards per 36 minutes on the year. If that number creeps up to around 10, and he develops his strengths even further, the Suns will have an extremely unique toy to work with.
Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans
19.6 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 32.7 FG%, 21.7 3FG%, 6.0 PER
Is it reasonable to panic about Buddy a little bit? I’m panicking about Buddy a little bit.
Hield has a great opportunity in New Orleans right now, as most of its perimeter players are injured and Anthony Davis is sucking in double- and triple-teams by the possession. As a 22-year-old, he’s going to be graded on a tougher curve than someone like, say, Ingram. Thus far, he simply hasn’t been good.
Look, it’s not as if Hield forgot how to shoot overnight. As long as he’s on the floor with Davis, he should continue to see open looks, and he should regress to the mean in that regard.
But the lack of shot creation is a little alarming, and with all the comparisons he drew to J.J. Redick coming out of Oklahoma, he’s not exactly deft at coming off screens, setting his feet and firing.
Hield is a tireless worker, and he’ll do everything he can to work out the kinks in his game. But with the Pelicans in dire need of a second option, it would be nice for him to flash some positive signs soon.
Deyonta Davis, Memphis Grizzlies
8.3 MGP, 4.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 26.91 PER
Frankly, it was really surprising that Davis fell to the second round in June. He’s only gotten extended minutes in one game this season, but he showed his potential as a modern NBA big.
Memphis got destroyed by Minnesota on Tuesday, but Davis was a bright spot. The Michigan State product scored 17 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots in 26 minutes of work.
Davis is in the mold of a Brandan Wright; he’s a nimble rim-runner that dunks anything he can get his hands on, blocks shots and has the quickness to hang with perimeter players on switches. He doesn’t have the muscle to deal with Jusuf Nurkic types, but really, how many “Bosnian Bears” are running around the league these days?
At Michigan State, Davis’ per-40 minute numbers were outstanding: 16.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.9 blocks. It will be interesting to see if he can earn more minutes in Memphis moving forward.