If the 2017 NBA rookie class taught us anything, it’s that the future is bright for the NBA. We had rookies soar high for highlight dunks, lead their teams to the playoffs, and posterize King James himself. Although the ROY wasn’t even a rookie, last year’s draft class was special.
While some teams scored with their draft picks, others are left wondering what could’ve been if they drafted someone else. With that in mind, here’s how last year’s draft should’ve gone if everyone knew how the rookies would turn out.
#1 Draft Pick (Philadelphia 76ers)- SF Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum wasn’t the best rookie last year. Donovan Mitchell hands down had the better year hence why he came 2nd in ROY voting and Tatum came in 3rd; but when it comes down for who you would rather have for the future face of your franchise, Tatum and his well-developed skill set are too hard to pass up on.
Tatum had a solid rookie year; averaging 14 PPG and 5 RPG, with the 11th best defensive win share in the NBA. Tatum really shined in the playoffs when he carried a young Celtics team to the ECF without Kyrie or Gordon Hayward. Along with an absolute obliteration of a dunk on Lebron, the 20-year old from Duke led the Celtics in scoring in the playoffs, shooting 47% from the field and averaging 18.5 PPG.
Tatum highlighted his scary potential last year with his spectacular defense and efficient offense. A big small forward who shot 43% from three and ended the year with a 100.3 defensive rating, Philly could’ve had a big three with him, Simmons, and Embiid. Donovan Mitchell would’ve been a great pick for Philly, but their need at SF is a lot more than an SG when they already have a knockdown shooter in J.J. Reddick.
Not only did Mitchell average 20.5 PPG, but he carried a Jazz team, who just recently lost their best player, to the 5th seed in a stacked western conference and an appearance in the conference semifinals. If you aren’t yet hip, let me tell you. The kid from Greenwich, Connecticut is up next.
Mitchell had a stellar rookie year with the Jazz; filling up the stat sheet with 3.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.5 SPG and shooting 44% from the field. The 2018 NBA dunk contest champ also was known for making frequent appearances on House of Highlights. As the evidence shows, Donovan Mitchell can touch the sky.
Like Tatum, Mitchell exploded in the playoffs with an average of 24.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 1.5 SPG. In a critical game six against the Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder, Mitchell scored a whopping 38 points that included 5 made 3 three-pointers and a 22 point 3rd quarter that propelled the Jazz to the conference semifinals.
As consistent as Lonzo’s stat line was, LA would’ve been much better off with the offensive beast in Mitchell. Just imagine the number of highlights that could’ve been with Mitchell in LA with Lebron. Also, don’t forget how blessed LA would’ve been without LaVar Ball on their back.
Averaging 16 PPG and 6.3 RPG while shooting 45% from the field, Kuzma proved why the NBA should keep an eye on him. Standing at 6’9″ Kuzma makes for an athletic small and power forward who’s shown he has a perimeter game with 159 made three-pointers last year. Unfortunately, we weren’t given the chance to see how well Kuzma would do in the playoffs, but something tells me that this year we might just get a glimpse.
With an already stacked team and barely any needs, Boston made the right choice with drafting an SF/PF. If Tatum wasn’t available, however, Kuzma has to be the clear choice to fill in that spot given their similarity.
Kuzma is arguably the biggest surprise of the draft and he’s trying to prove that he “Should’ve been picked higher.” So far, he’s proven more than that. And also, I wouldn’t catch him in your Fortnite lobby.