Being a rookie in the NBA can be tough.
While some players like LeBron James (2003-2004) and Blake Griffin (2010-2011) are able to make quick adjustments and thrive right off the bat, the vast majority need time to figure things out – need to become more strong mentally and physically.
Here’s a rundown of Year 2 players who possess the talent to develop their rookie performance and burst into Year 2:
Josh Giddey, PG/SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Did Giddey have a standout rookie season? Yes. But there is still plenty of room to grow. As one of the league’s hottest prospects in the 2021-22 season, he was the NBA’s second-youngest player. While his rookie campaign was partially derailed after 54 games due to a season-ending hip injury, he was phenomenal from November to February, scoring 12.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 6 .5 APG and 1.0 BPG. During this period, Giddey was recognized monthly as Western Rookie of the Month.
There are, however, two key areas where he can improve: field goal percentage (41.6%) and turnovers (3.3 GPT). With six sophomores on their roster, the Thunder are a young team and with rookie Chet Holmgren out for the season (Lisfranc), Giddey will be counted on to play an increasingly important role. He is excellent value in fantasy drafts.
Bones Hyland, PG, Denver Nuggets
Denver had high hopes for Hyland’s long-term potential after selecting him 26th overall in the 2021 NBA draft, but didn’t expect him to contribute in his rookie season. Hyland stepped in in a big way. He finished with 10.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 2.8 APG and posted a true shooting percentage of 55.8. Hyland was named to the league’s All-Rookie team.
With the departures of Monte Morris and Will Barton, Hyland is solidifying as a backup playmaker. Playmaker Jamal Murray’s health is also precarious, so the Nuggets will likely take their time with him. Plus, Hyland has what it takes to play both guard positions this season, so he’ll likely share the court with Murray at times. Hyland should significantly exceed his average draft position, especially if the Nuggets have more injury problems.
Davion Mitchell, PG, Sacramento Kings
Mitchell was a very productive player last year in the Summer League and was named co-MVP with Cam Thomas. Although smaller, he showed defensive prowess, high basketball IQ and offensive skills. Mitchell’s success also continued in the regular season. In 75 regular season games, he averaged 11.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and 4.2 APG in 27.7 MPG.
The thing to watch out for, though, is what Mitchell did in the final 11 games of the season when De’Aaron Fox was stopped with a hand injury. If you recall, Mitchell filled the void and had a stellar play streak, averaging 18.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 9.3 APG. As a replacement for Fox, Mitchell will be the Kings’ sixth man this season and is a fantastic solid option, but most formats will struggle to see him finish in the top 100. His blocking, stealing and shooting percentages were under -optimal, but the possibility of the Baylor product finishing in the top 150 cannot be ruled out.
Herbert Jones, SF/PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Jones was widely considered the best waiver-thread picker in fantasy basketball last season; his defensive skills helped him finish just outside the top 75 in category formats. Jones started 69 of 78 games, averaging 9.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 SPG and 0.8 BPG in 29.9 MPG while shooting 47.6% from the field .
With the return of Zion Williamson, Jones is likely to start with a small forward and should play an important role given the Pelicans are thin on the wings. Look no further than Jones if you want a steal and crash specialist who can contribute to other statistical areas as well. He’s a great pick who’s currently drafted just outside the top 100.
Joshua Primo, SG, San Antonio Spurs
While Primo showed his potential early on, he was unable to provide reliable contributions as last season progressed. When rookies first enter the league, Spurs tend to shield them from pressure to better position them for future success. That was good news for Primo, who only played 50 games and finished with 5.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 0.5 BPG.
Fast forward to the present day, and Primo is in a better position. He looked great in this season’s Summer League and, with Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, the sophomore will have more opportunities on the perimeter. Primo’s role in the Spurs rotation is secure. During training camp, he suffered an MCL sprain, but he’s in line to return for the start of the regular season.