NBA Rookies under the radar for the 2018-2019 Season

Grayson Allen – Utah Jazz

Utah is quickly recovering from losing Gordon Hayward in last season’s free agency frenzy. Donovan Mitchell comes in his rookie year and leads Utah into the playoffs with a series won over the Oklahoma City Thunder. How do the Jazz follow-up in this year’s draft? Taking on Allen despite his tripping incident could be a draft steal. We can take the Summer League with little to no weight however, Allen displayed some eye-opening passing and solid defensive rebounding. He finished the Las Vegas Summer League averaging 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

The potential for Allen to come in immediately earn significant minutes shouldn’t be considered unrealistic. Allen is listed as a Shooting Guard and at 6’5 he has some size over Mitchell, who is listed at 6’3. If the Jazz roll with Mitchell as the primary ball handler then, Allen can play the off-guard spot as a gritty defender and playmaker.

The only concern here would be to consider how much of an impact Donte Exum will bring to the Jazz lineup. Exum is coming off last season where he was able to play in 14 regular season games and 10 of Utah’s playoff games. A large part of why Exum’s name was called upon was due to Ricky Rubio’s hamstring injury.

Allen will certainly allow for the Jazz roster to become flexible and competitive for minutes at the guard spot. How well defensively he can perform and create plays for his teammates will be the driving factor in seeing minutes on the floor. While he did average double figures scoring in the Summer League his shooting efficiency will be a concern as he shot 38-percent from the field (21-percent from three).

Lonnie Walker IV – San Antonio Spurs

We always seem to praise the San Antonio Spurs from a draft perspective and this year it doesn’t change much. At the time of the draft in June, Kawhi Leonard was still a Spur and no idea of his future with the team came to light. Here we are today and the Spurs have DeMar DeRozan in exchange for Leonard.

Last season’s Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell has given his support that Walker is the next, well, Mitchell. Walker serves as a 6’5 Shooting Guard and has an All-Star in DeRozan in his way. The Spurs can take the traditional approach and ease Walker into the lineup slowly. With the exit of Danny Green due to the trade with the Toronto Raptors and the loss of Kyle Anderson, this opens the door for Walker to fill in for back up minutes for the guard-forward position.

Coach Pop is playing a game of chess among those playing checkers. Walker could see valuable minutes early in the season to get a quick taste of the NBA but also with DeRozan in the line-up as a primary focus. The Pop experiment means Walker will have to be ready upon his name being called. Similar to Grayson Allen in Utah, he has a fair chance to compete for significant minutes.

Collin Sexton – Cleveland Cavaliers

Sexton is coming out of the 2018 Draft as one of the top guards overall. He also will have one of the biggest opportunities out of the lottery picks to showcase his talent. The Cavaliers signed Kevin Love to a max deal this summer, however, lost Lebron James. Of course, there will be no replacing the King but Sexton now has the opportunity to become the primary ball handler for the Cavaliers.

The biggest competition for the point guard spot? George Hill is standing in the way however, Sexton’s potential is a focus. Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman has already suggested that the team’s direction is now focused on player development. Unfortunately, for most of the Cavaliers veterans outside of Love, this could be bad news. For Sexton, this is uplifting to have the backing of the front office and a focal point.

Sexton’s defense is his strongest attribute coming in the draft while his offensive game generated curiosity of transitioning to the NBA level. In the Summer League, he was able to score at the basket and averaged 19.6 points per game. While the Cavaliers do not have much of a distraction on the offensive side beyond Kevin Love, it will certainly be interesting how well Sexton can score against defenses focused on stopping him from penetrating. All eyes will be on Trae Young as the guard to watch however, Sexton should be in the conversation by midseason.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Los Angeles Clippers

Shai had one of the best all-around showings in the Summer League. His ability to show an overall complete game on both sides of the offense and defense drew a lot of Chris Paul comparisons early. The concern for Gilgeous-Alexander is getting minutes on a roster with Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and Avery Bradley.

Depending on the direction where the Clippers are headed, Doc Rivers will have his hands tied to showcase Shai. The blessing in disguise could be an injury opening more minutes up to the guard spot. If Rivers would like to see more of a defensively minded line-up, inserting Gilgeous-Alexander next to Beverley would give the Clippers a nice combo to share with Bradley in the backcourt.

Jaren Jackson Jr. – Memphis Grizzlies

The lookout for Jackson may be overshadowed by the big men DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, and Mo Bamba. While those three look to fill a more significant void for teams in desperate need of talent, the Grizzlies still hold a roster with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. in place. Jackson is a suitable match next to Gasol as he can space the floor with his shooting. He shot 40-percent from the three-point line in the Summer League.

While his upside is promising, Jackson’s growth will all depend on how much patience the Grizzlies are willing to be with him. Vice President of Basketball Operations, John Hollinger advised that there is no immediate rush on expecting Jackson to become a franchise player anytime soon. Of course, easier said with Gasol leading the frontcourt for Memphis.

“We don’t see it as too big of an issue. The big roles on a lot of teams are interchangeable. We don’t want to put him into overtly physical matchups yet, because he’s 18 and his body is still filling out. I think once he’s more fully developed physically, I think he probably can be a 5 most of the time. That said, with his defensive ability, he can guard on the perimeter, so you don’t really have to be as caught up in definitions, because he’s shown such a flexibility in the types of roles he can play offensively and defensively.” – John Hollinger

Again, this may not sound promising as the main focal point for the fourth pick of this summer’s draft, however, a bit of comfort for an 18-year old who does not have the expectation for immediate production. While the Grizzlies hardly have to see a Joel Embiid in the Western Conference there still are some big worries for them. LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela, Steven Adams, and Nikola Jokic are a few of the NBA’s best big men that can set the bar for Jackson.


Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times Contributor

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