With the 2017 NBA Draft around the corner, pressure on projected lottery picks continues to grow. Will the early picks lead their struggling team to the a playoff berth, will they find themselves playing a role behind developed superstars, or will they be considered a bust? How will their first year in the NBA reflect on their career?
Here’s a season review of the first and second pick from the 2016 NBA Draft, with a few notable mentions.
First pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons
LeBron James‘ second coming. Can Simmons be the next LeBron? Can Simmons be the final puzzle piece to a rebuilding 76ers squad? We won’t find out until the 2017-2018 season. Before the rookie was able to make his claim in the NBA, Ben Simmons suffered a Jones Fracture in his foot resulting in surgery and thus, no playing time in the 2016-2017 season. Before the season-ending injury, he showed incredible promise during the Summer League.
At 6’10”, Simmons displayed a skill to pass the ball some have compared to Magic Johnson. The lefty has demonstrated a lethal post game and ability to score inside, shooting 56-percent in college over a year ago, while holding one of the most athletically promising frames since LeBron. With a young team stacked with raw talent, Simmons will run the point-forward, making his case for rookie of the year in 2017-2018.
Second pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, Brandon Ingram
Early comparisons to possibly the best scorer of all time, Kevin Durant, set this rookie up to fail from the day he was drafted. With Ingram playing alongside D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, the Lakers young core seemingly had a bright future in the 2016-2017 season. Ingram would add to an offense packed with potential while adding some much needed length on defense. While his strength was questioned along with defensive consistency and playmaking, his ability to shoot was valued enough to land him in the second pick.
Ingram showed very little promise in the first half of the season. Before the All-Star Break, Ingram averaged only eight points a game on a depressing 36.3-percent field goal percentage. Analysts across the NBA were labelling him a bust – thankfully coach Luke Walton did not agree. The rookie coach gave the young shooter more playing time after trading away sixth man Lou Willliams, showing his confidence in Ingram’s growth.
After the All-Star Break, Ingram averaged nearly five more minutes per game resulting in an increased 13.2 points per game on 47.5-percent field goal percentage. Walton has been revered all season for his unique, tactful coaching style but perhaps his most important takeaway from the year is Ingram’s growth and newfound confidence. Going forward, Ingram will be a key player in the Lakers success. His ability to shoot the ball will be complimented by defensive intelligence and a few pounds Ingram has already begun to add.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 25, 2017
Notable Mentions –
3rd pick to the Boston Celtics, Jaylen Brown
Brown has progressed throughout the season averaging only 17.2 minutes per game at 6.6 points, 45.4% field goal percentage and three rebounds per contest. However, most of the rookie’s potential is not reflected on the stat sheets. The forward is very skilled at moving off the ball, allowing space for his superstar teammate, Isaiah Thomas, to go to work. As a wing player, his ability to set screens for cutting teammates and patience in offensive sets is extremely valuable. His defense was exceptional throughout the season, but he really came alive in the postseason, efficiently acting as the primary defender on offensive studs like John Wall and LeBron James. Jaylen Brown has the potential to be a superstar in the league once he solidifies a starting position on a team and earns some confidence with the ball.
10th pick to the Milwaukee Bucks, Thon Maker
The Bucks signed Maker on an investment. At only 19, Thon has some rough edges, but as a 7-foot-1 forward, his potential is through the roof. Kevin Garnett, a future NBA Hall of Famer, has admitted to Maker’s potential and has worked one on one with him to help him develop. If Maker can learn how to utilize his uncanny pairing of size and shooting, he will become a perennial All-Star.
The LEGEND of Thon Maker is just starting!! pic.twitter.com/u0gW04w6kh
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 21, 2017
36th pick to the Milwaukee Bucks, Malcolm Brogdon
Another young Buck that will lead the franchise to a Finals appearance in the near future. The second round pick, Rookie of the Year candidate emerged on the scene in the latter half of the season. The chemistry between Brogdon and his teammates such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker allows him to exploit defensive breakdowns. Although the Buck’s offense primarily runs through Antetokounmpo, Brogdon is a patient scorer while his true value lies on defense. He has great balance and reflexes to stay in front of a driving guard, quick hands averaging over a steal per game and great size at 6-foot-5. Brogdon is a great number two in Milwaukee behind a budding superstar.