Both DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic are doing great. And not just for rookies, but for NBA players, full stop.
Ayton is currently averaging 16 points per game, with a 61.5% field goal percentage, and 10 rebounds per game. Only twelve players in the NBA are equaling or exceeding that, and Ayton has the second best FG% on that list (behind Clint Capela). Also, one of those dozen double-double elites is Kevin Love, so he doesn’t really count. Ayton’s in rare company right now, at least offensively (defense, not so much). Per Basketball-Reference.com, 33 players in the history of the NBA have averaged 16+ PPG and 10+ RPG in their rookie year: #1 is Wilt Chamberlain in 1959-60 with averages of, I swear to God, 37.6 PPG and 27 RPG. I should point out that Wilt is the ONLY one of those 33 to average 20 or more rebounds per game. Y’know, as a rookie.
In fantasy, Ayton is currently ranked 24th on the ESPN Basic player rater. (Robert Covington is 25th. He’s 27.6% owned. Ayton’s 95.9% owned. Please don’t get me started on Bob Covington and how good he is. HE’S AS GOOD AS DEANDRE AYTON, WHY DON’T YOU OWN HIM. Sigh, okay, I’m done.) Ayton’s probably going to end the year as a guy who people believe will start getting 20-20 games next season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. He looks like a reliable double-double threat for the foreseeable future. If you drafted him ahead of Luka Doncic in your league, I can’t hate too much. Ayton’s a beast. He and Devin Booker should be a dynamic (offensive) duo for years to come. They also might never be able to guard anyone, ever, but, y’know: Suns.
Having said that, I’d ABSOLUTELY draft Luka before Ayton in real life. Luka’s Dallas Mavericks are angling for a god damn playoff spot! They’re currently in the 8th seed in the West, and it’s mainly because of Doncic. He’s looked every bit an NBA player, and then some. Luka’s averaging 19 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 4 assists per game, on 45.7 FG% shooting. Again, I looked up rookie years for players who met, or bettered, those stats. Here’s what I found:
- Elgin God Damn Baylor, Minneapolis Lakers (a name that actually makes sense), 25-15-4, 40.8 FG%
- Oscar Robertson, ‘60-61, Cincinnati Royals, 30-10-9.7, 47.3 FG%
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, ‘69-70, Minnie Lakers, 29-14.5-4, 51.8 FG% (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
- Sidney Wicks, ‘71-72, Portland, 24.5-11.5-4, 42.7 FG%
- Alvan Adams, ‘75-76, Phoenix, 19-9-6, 47 FG%
- Larry Bird, ‘79-80, Boston, 21-10-4, 47.4 FG%
- Magic Johnson, ‘79-80, LA Lakers, 18-8-7 (close enough, get real), 53 FG% (???!)
- Michael MFing Jordan, ‘84-85, Chicago, 28-6-6, 51.5 FG% (!)
- Grant Hill, ‘94-95, Detroit, 20-6-5, 47.7 FG%
So...uh...whoa. Also, it’s been a while. If Luka keeps this up, we’re probably watching a Hall of Famer. He’s 19 years old.
He’s also the 50th ranked player on ESPN Basic. Not as good as Ayton, so again: no hate. But, Luka’s line of 19 PPG, 6 RPG, and 4 APG is met or matched by the following players in the NBA this season: Giannis, LeBron, Durant, Anthony Davis, Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Victor Oladipo, and Paul George. God. Damn.
But, honestly, both rookies are exceptional if they keep up their current numbers, and they’re both damn good even if they don’t. I think Luka’s probably got the ROY locked up, especially if the Mavs actually make the playoffs. But, there are several other rooks who are looking good, including 3J, Jaren Jackson, Jr., in Memphis; Trae Young and Collin Sexton look like young point guards who have no idea what they’re doing, but can definitely score; Mo Bamba and Mitchell Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are looking like real NBA players; and, Wendell Carter, Jr. and Miles Bridges are looking like guys who will play for the next 15 years. This has been a very good draft class, so far! Congrats to everyone who picked well in their rookie drafts.
But, no one’s like Deandre and no one’s like Luka. It’s still kind of incredible they didn’t go 1 and 2 in the draft, in either order. The Sacramento Kings predictably misjudged talent, and chose ANOTHER power forward. If Luka keeps this up and becomes his best NBA self, then the Kings will never hear the end of it.
Which isn’t to hate too much on Marvin Bagley III. He’s looked really good the past 5 games, scoring in double digits in every game, and getting two dub-dubs. The Kings are 4-6 in their last ten games, and they probably won’t make the playoffs despite their hot start to the season. But, they at least know they have a good backcourt in Fox and Buddy Hield (Steph Curry 2.0, according to their owner), and they might have a piece of their future front court if Bagley keeps improving. (Willie Cauley-Stein, though fun, might not be a piece of the Kings future.)
We may look back on this draft and shake our heads in amazement at how many good players came out of it. Hell, even Allonzo Trier, who went UN-drafted, has looked solid/interesting for the Knicks. Some drafts are seachanges for the league; could 2018 be one of them?
Regardless, if you have Ayton or Doncic, congratulations: you now have two of the best 30 players in fantasy basketball for the next 10 years (hopefully).