It may surprise few, but the top overall pick from June’s NBA Draft is clearly the best rookie so far this season. Karl-Anthony Towns may be more polished than expected, but he was picked first for a reason, and he’s a big part of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ surprising success early in the season. But this rookie class is different than in year’s past — it’s actually deep.
The 2013 class, headed by Anthony Bennett, was full of long-term projects. Some of them are coming into their own as potential All-Stars (Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo), some are just beginning to bear fruit as real rotation players (Otto Porter, Cody Zeller), but it wasn’t much of a Rookie of the Year race.
In 2014, injuries ruined what could have been a great rookie season. Andrew Wiggins was fun, sure, but Jabari Parker and Julius Randle were both in exciting situations to showcase their skills, and are only getting to do so this year. Other rookies, especially Magic picks Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, showed potential for the future but didn’t produce all that much. Undrafted Langston Galloway made the All-Rookie second team in 45 games, for crying out loud.
2015 is shaping up to be a whole different story, even if the pack is just chasing KAT. The class was billed as loaded with talent, and so far a lot of it has delivered. Rookies are making contributions and looking comfortable at an exciting rate, and it’s made the early regular season a ton of fun for fans of young teams. Time will, of course, have to tell about the long-term prospects of all of these youngsters, but from what we’ve seen on the court, our top-five for the Rookie of the Year award would look like this if we voted on it today.