It is not often that the best NBA rookies get a chance to shine in the playoffs. Most of the time, the high draft picks who have big impacts are playing for teams that are struggling to get back to winning ways. This season is proven the exception to that rule. Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell were easily the two best NBA rookies this season, and they are both performing at a high level in their first taste of the playoffs. They are not the only rookies to see their first postseason action in the past week. There are multiple first year players contributing as their teams try to make a run to the NBA Finals.
NBA Rookies Getting First Taste of Playoff Action
NBA Rookies – Know Your Role
While there are NBA rookies starring for their teams like Simmons, Mitchell and Jayson Tatum, there are also a few who are just filling their roles when needed.
Bam Adebayo – Forward – Miami Heat
The youngster from the University of Kentucky added size and athleticism to the Miami Heat bench this season. He averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Like most rotation players, his numbers have dipped slightly in the first week of the playoffs. Bam Adebayo has 13 points and 16 rebounds through the Heat’s first four games in their series with the 76ers. With Hassan Whiteside struggling, there is a chance Adebayo could get more time on the court as the series moves forward.
Markelle Fultz – Guard – Philadelphia 76ers
This year’s number one overall pick had a rough season. He missed 68 games due to a shoulder injury, only returning for the last ten contests of the regular season. Markelle Fultz averaged 7.1 points and 3.8 assists in his limited action. He had five points and four assists in the first game of the 76ers playoff series, but has not contributed much in the last two games. As he gets himself back in game shape, he could see his minutes and production increase as the playoffs continue.
Zach Collins – Forward – Portland Trail Blazers
The seven-footer from Gonzaga averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds during his first season. He has seen his numbers increase to 8.6 points and 3.6 boards through three playoff games. Unfortunately for the Trailblazers, they were swept by the Pelicans. Zach Collins was solid, but the first taste of the playoffs did not last long.
NBA Rookies – Blossoming into Stars
Simmons and Mitchell deservedly got most of the recognition among NBA rookies this season. There is a heated debate over which player should be named Rookie of the Year. Tatum has been a key factor in the Boston Celtics’ success this year as well. All three players have stepped right in to their first playoff action as if they were born to perform on this stage.
Jayson Tatum – Forward – Boston Celtics
The rookie out of Duke has been a steady contributor all season in green. Despite the injuries to his high profile teammates, the Celtics were able to secure the second seed in the East. Tatum has as complete an offensive skill set as you will find in such a young player. He averaged 13.9 points and five rebounds this season. In his playoff debut against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tatum had a double-double. His 19 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists help lead the Celtics to an overtime victory. While he struggled shooting in game two, Tatum was still able to contribute with seven rebounds and three dimes. He has scored 19 or more points 10 times in his last 20 games.
Donovan Mitchell – Guard – Utah Jazz
The lead guard from Louisville has the toughest test of any of the NBA rookies in the playoffs. He as the luxury of matching up with triple-double machine Russell Westbrook in the first round. Mitchell has risen to this challenge. His 55 points in his first two playoff games eclipsed Michael Jordan’s record for most points by a guard in his first two postseason games. Mitchell averaged 20.5 points during the regular season, but has raised his play as the Jazz split the two games in Oklahoma City. He had his already ailing foot stepped on and was limping slightly during game two. Mitchell fought thru the pain to score 13 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. The youngster has become the Jazz’s go to scorer this season. Mitchell followed his big game 2, with 22 points and 11 rebounds in game three. The Jazz have a 2-1 series lead.
Ben Simmons – Guard – Philadelphia 76ers
First off, yes, Simmons is among the NBA rookies for the 2017-18 season. After being taken first overall in the 2016 draft, he missed last season with a foot injury. In his first season playing in the NBA, he has shown himself as a future star. While his shooting still remains a work in progress, Simmons has proven he can impact the game in a variety of ways. As the 76ers ended the regular season on a 16-game winning streak, the former LSU Tiger starred. He averaged a triple-double during the win streak. Simmons got his first career playoff triple double in game 4. His numbers were great as a rookie, with 15.8 points, 8.1 boards and 8.2 assists per game. Simmons’ basketball IQ and passing ability stand out when you watch him play. The 6’10 point guard is pouring in 19.25 points, 10.75 rebounds, and 9.75 assists as his team has a 3-1 lead in his first ever playoff series.
The Future is Bright
As the playoffs continue, it will be interesting to see how these NBA rookies perform. Can Simmons, Tatum, and Mitchell continue to star for their teams? Will the rookies merely filling roles get the opportunity to take on more responsibility? Only time will tell us these answers. However, it is clear that this season’s crop of first year guys are prepared to step into the spotlight. Seeing the success of these guys will only motivate fellow rookies like Lauri Markkanen, Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Smith Jr., and Josh Jackson to work hard on getting their teams into the post season moving forward.
CHICAGO, USA – FEBRUARY 22: Ben Simmons (25) of Philadelphia 76ers in action during the NBA basketball match between Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on February 22, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)