The NBA changes so fast. Last night, Mike Malone was the head coach of the feel-good Sacramento Kings. Now he's no longer the coach. What that has to do with these rankings, well, nothing exactly given that Nik Stauskas hasn't been lighting the world on fire.
However, as things change throughout the season, so do the circumstances our rookie class faces. Now seven weeks into the season, the rookies are well-scouted, strengths and weaknesses have mostly been identified, and the ways in which our rookies learn and react to those changes is an important part of their development.
1. Jabari Parker - Bucks
Number of Note: 62% of FG attempts come within 10 feet of the rim.
Change: Starting alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Parker/Giannis forward duo is Milwaukee's future, and the team decided to start playing them together more often starting late in November. The results have been positive, so far, with the duo combining for 25 points per game on over 49% shooting. Additionally, having the two swing-forwards works well with Jason Kidd's switch-everything style of defense, and the team ranks 10th in defensive efficiency (not necessarily because of Parker, as individually he's a bit of a mess on defense, but his size lets Milwaukee play their preferred style).
2. Nikola Mirotic - Bulls
Number of Note: Averaging 14.8 points, 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes played
Change: Injuries and roles
Mirotic is bound to bounce around the rankings due to his playing time situation, as alluded to before. The Bulls have not experimented with Mirotic as a three, so
if when Thibs overuses one of his bigs again (Pau Gasol or Joakim Noah, likely) he'll be back in the rotation and the league's most valuable rookie.
3. Andrew Wiggins - Timberwolves
Number of Note: Averaging 37+ mins/game over his past five games
Change: Becoming more of a go-to guy
In the win-loss column, this season has been disastrous for Minnesota overlord Flip Saunders, mostly due to unforeseen injuries. The injuries have led Minnesota to turn to Wiggins, who has hoisted up double digit shot attempts in eight straight games, an unexpected rise given his tentative shooting nature. Given these circumstances, Wiggins has struggled with efficiency, but showed more of his now-patented signs of potential. Wiggins had his best game of the season last week with a 23-9-4 drool-worthy line.
Also a better development - Wiggins has gotten more comfortable with his passing, and his absurdly bad assist-to-turnover ratio has improved.
4. K.J. McDaniels - 76ers
Number of Note: 5.0% Block Rate
Change: Teams respecting K.J. as a shooter
McDaniels' role hasn't changed - still first wing off the bench, which looks to continue with Robert Covington getting the promotion to the starting five. But teams play K.J. differently now, due to his strong opening month as a shooter, and close out hard on his shots. His dribbling deficiencies have been exposed, and in forcing threes his season's three point percentage has dropped to under 32%.
5. Nerlens Noel - 76ers
Number of Note: 45.2% true shooting percentage
Change: Moving to Center
Let's hear it for the two greatest words in the English language! Noel, despite falling apart as an offensive player, maintains his standing because (1) he's still an excellent defender despite his youth, and (2) no one played well enough to replace him that's starting. Bojan Bogdanovic got benched for Sergey Karasev, Elfrid Payton is playing behind Victor Oladipo, and Marcus Smart just returned from injury. Meanwhile, guys like Tarik Black have found niches, but Noel's playing far more of an important role.
In an attempt to improve the team's offensive spacing, Noel has shifted frontline spots. The results have been mostly positive, though that's more on Robert Covington's emergence as the second cog in the starting five. Defensively, Noel's made just as much of an impact at both big spots.