BLOGTABLE: Early picks for Rookie of the Year?

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Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball listens to the national anthem before the team’s NBA summer league basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

NBA.com blogtable

Name your top three, ridiculously early Kia Rookie of the Year candidates.

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David Aldridge: Good Lord. Okay, for purposes of this ridiculously early exercise, I think you have to go Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith Jr. No particular order.

Steve Aschburner:

1. Lonzo Ball

2. Ben Simmons

3. Dennis Smith Jr.

Ball grabbed an early lead with his strong showing at the Las Vegas Summer League, and if he’s able to meet or exceed the lofty expectations his team, Lakers fans and the NBA overall have for him, he could win the ROY running away. Ben Simmons figures to be Philadelphia’s latest second-year Rookie candidate, owing to his injury-zapped 2016-17, but like the Sixers’ Joel Embiid and Dario Saric last season, Simmons could wind up splitting votes with teammate Markelle Fultz. Smith Jr. strikes me as a perfect blend of talent, opportunity, drive and need, in that Dallas might basically flip the new point guard the franchise keys and let him drive serious minutes all season long.

Fran Blinebury:

1. Lonzo Ball

2. De’Aaron Fox

3. Dennis Smith Jr.

And that will likely change week to week. Unlike last season, we’ll have a real rookie race.

Scott Howard-Cooper:

1. Ben Simmons

2. Lonzo Ball

3. Dennis Smith Jr.

But this could be such a great season for rookies that we could go five names and still be leaving out legit candidates. The draft alone was good enough to get excited about the first-year class of 2017-18. And it also includes the guy who would have been the favorite entering last season, Simmons, before getting hurt.

Shaun Powell:

1. Ben Simmons

2. De’Aaron Fox

3. Dennis Smith Jr.

They’re the three players who are most likely to have the combination of playing time and responsibility, which should translate into statistics. Will they be the three best players five years from now? Perhaps not. But it’s hard to see a first-year player being in better situations than Simmons in Philly, Fox on the rebuilding Kings (where there’s little competition at point guard) and Smith (ditto).

John Schuhmann:

1. Lonzo Ball

2. Ben Simmons

3. Dennis Smith Jr.

All three of those guys will have the ball in their hands for teams looking to build for the future around their skill sets. So the opportunities are there for them to put up strong boxscore numbers.

Sekou Smith:

1. Lonzo Ball

2. Dennis Smith Jr.

3. Josh Jackson

It is ridiculously early for Rookie of the Year candidates, but this is the silly season. So why not? Lonzo Ball has to headline anyone’s short list. The Lakers’ face of the franchise showed us exactly what he can do during summer league. He’s joined on my short list by fellow top lottery picks Dennis Smith Jr., who will have the ball in his hands from the first day of training camp in Dallas, and Josh Jackson, who slides into a comfortable role at small forward for the Phoenix Suns. Jayson Tatum would have normally been in my top three, but the competition for playing time at his position in Boston is going to be fierce. It remains to be seen just how many quality minutes are available for the talented wing player in Brad Stevens’ rotation.

Ian Thomsen:

1. Lonzo Ball

2. Markelle Fultz

3. Dennis Smith Jr.

Lonzo Ball enters the year with unmatched hype, the opportunity to make all of the plays for his team, and low expectations for his team — a ROY perfect storm. Markelle Fultz is sure to put up big numbers for the 76ers, though the success of his team may hinge largely on the health of Joel Embiid. Dennis Smith Jr. will benefit from quarterbacking Rick Carlisle’s offense and Dirk Nowitzki’s leadership.

Lang Whitaker:

1. Lonzo Ball

2. Josh Jackson

3. John Collins

At the tip top of my list is Lonzo Ball. I didn’t see much of him at UCLA but had questions about how his game would translate to the next level. But after seeing Ball last week in Vegas, I’m sold. The word I kept coming back to when watching him play was “connectability,” as in Ball somehow manages to act as a link between whoever he is on the court alongside. His shooting is still inconsistent, but his touch and feel and timing were, to me, off the charts. I also really liked Josh Jackson, who has the tools to be a terrific athletic big for the Suns. And if you want a darkhorse pick, how about John Collins of the Hawks? John the Baptist made first team all-tournament in Vegas and is going to dunk on a lot of people this season.



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