The second season for NBA players is a crucial one, as players usually go in a couple of different directions. You usually either see continued development, or a sophomore slump. With Ben Simmons counted as a sophomore due to his rookie year injury, this class may have more than a few future all-stars. The top-5 players on this list were incredibly hard to differentiate, as each are having very solid sophomore seasons. Without further ado, here are the top-ten sophomores in the NBA, based on the season they are having this year.
1. Ben Simmons, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Season Stats: 33.4 MPG, 15.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 57.4 FG%, 0.0 3PT%, 59.0 FT%
Ben Simmons has followed up his 2017-18 Rookie of the Year season with another solid campaign, currently helping to lead the Sixers to a 20-11 record, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference. He’s thrived in that point-forward spot as he’s had 19 double-doubles, and two triple-doubles on the season. In addition Simmons has thrived on defense, ranking 44th in the NBA in defensive efficiency this season. There’s no doubt he’s on his way to his first career all-star appearance this season, as he’s cemented himself as a top-25 player in the NBA.
2. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Sacramento Kings
Season Stats: 32.4 MPG, 18.5 PPG, 7.5 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 48.2 FG%, 39.6 3PT%, 73.2 FT%
The leap from Fox’s rookie season to sophomore season has been absolutely incredible to watch. He’s been phenomenal, leading the Kings to a 15-13 record, when some barely expected the Kings to eclipse 20 wins all season. His shooting percentages are extremely good, and he’s spreading the ball around quite well too averaging 7.6 APG. Furthermore, De’Aaron Fox has scored over 20 points in five of his last eight games. It’s clear that the Kings have found their franchise point guard in De’Aaron Fox.
3. Kyle Kuzma, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Season Stats: 31.8 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 48.5 FG%, 31.1 3PT%, 77.6 FT%
Kyle Kuzma shocked everyone as he averaged 16.1 PPG in his rookie season after being selected 27th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s gotten even better this season, as he’s scoring more, and shooting at a higher FG%. Kuzma has scored over 20 points in seven of his last eight games, and has established himself as the second best player on a very good Lakers team. While Kuzma is ranked below De’Aaron Fox on this list, I almost think of Fox as 2a and Kuzma as 2b. That’s how well both guys are playing as of late. Kyle Kuzma will have to continue his strong play the rest of this season for the Lakers to make the Western Conference Finals.
4. Jayson Tatum, SF, Boston Celtics
Season Stats: 31.2 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 46.6 FG%, 39.5 3PT%, 84.1 FT%
Jayson Tatum flashed his potential as he dominated in the playoffs last season, even dunking on LeBron James in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. He’s followed that up with a very solid start to the season, scoring well, shooting well, and defending well. Tatum ranks 27th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, something that will be very important in the playoffs when he matches up against players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard. The athleticism of Tatum is another aspect of his game that stands out, and a reason why I think his potential is so high. The Celtics are in good hands for the future with a player like Tatum, who’s only 20 years old, on their roster.
5. Donovan Mitchell, SG, Utah Jazz
Season Stats: 31.2 MPG, 20.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 42.6 FG%, 30.6 3PT%, 82.7 FT%
Donovan Mitchell came out of nowhere last season to not only give Ben Simmons a run for his money for the Rookie of the Year award, but also lead the Jazz to a four seed and first round playoff win. However, Mitchell has been slightly less impressive this year as his shooting percentages are a bit low, and the Jazz are off to a 14-16 start, good for 13th in the Western Conference. His win shares are also down from 5.2 last season to 0.8 this season. Mitchell still has plenty of time to improve this season, and get the Jazz back into the playoff race.
6. John Collins, PF, Atlanta Hawks
Season Stats: 29.0 MPG, 18.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 59.2 FG%, 22.6 3PT%, 68.0 FT%
John Collins might be the most overlooked player in the NBA right now, just because he’s playing for the 6-23 Atlanta Hawks. However, the big man out of Georgia Tech is nearly averaging a double-double with over 18 PPG. He’s been extremely efficient offensively as well, putting up these numbers in only 28.7 minutes per game. While he’s been a great offensive player, his defense needs a tremendous amount of help, as he ranks outside the top-200 in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Despite the defensive struggles, the Hawks certainly got a steal in Collins, who has a double-double in six of his last eight games.
7. Dennis Smith Jr., PG, Dallas Mavericks
Season Stats: 28.4 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 43.7 FG%, 35.4 3PT%, 66.7 FT%
Dennis Smith Jr. had a solid rookie campaign, but his stats have slightly declined this season, largely due to the arrival of Luka Doncic. On the bright side, Smith’s shooting percentages have increased from last season. Moreover, his defense has been solid with his defensive efficiency inside the top-65 in the NBA. I still think that Smith has a very bright future, but it will take some time to get used to playing with Doncic.
8. Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Season Stats: 28.9 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 39.1 FG%, 30.7 3PT%, 56.0 FT%
The stats may not show it, but Lonzo Ball is a good player, and very valuable to this Lakers team. I’ve bene extremely impressed with Ball’s passing and defense, but he still needs to find his rhythm shooting the basketball. In Saturday’s blowout win vs. the Hornets, Lonzo Ball had 16 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds, and him and LeBron became the first two teammates since 2007 to each have a triple-double in the same game. People forget that Lonzo Ball is coming off offseason knee surgery, so I expect his stats to end much closer to 11, 7 and 7 than 8, 5 and 5.
9. Jarrett Allen, C, Brooklyn Nets
Season Stats: 27.3 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 59.6 FG%, 14.3 3PT%, 73.6 FT%
Like John Collins, Jarrett Allen’s play has been overlooked by the majority of NBA analysts and fans. Allen is nearly averaging a double-double while starting at center for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s also been efficient on both ends of the floor, especially on the defense end, as he’s ranking in the top-80 in defensive efficiency. Allen may be a franchise center for Brooklyn as he’s performing at this level at only 20 years old, but only time will tell.
10. Josh Hart, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
Season Stats: 25.2 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 44.1 FG%, 37.8 3PT%, 65.0 FT%
The Lakers ended up selecting three top-ten players in the 2017 draft, which is extremely impressive. Josh Hart was picked 30th in the 2017 draft, and has turned into a perfect role player for this Lakers team. He’s a great defender, and can shoot the ball from three-point range as well. There’s no doubt the former national champion at Villanova has exceeded expectations in the NBA thus far.
Next Up: Bam Adebayo, OG Annouby,
Injury Exception: Lauri Markkanen
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