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Sunday, 09 July 2017 18:35

Can Jayson Tatum Earn Rookie of the Year Honors With Boston Celtics?

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Coming into a winning situation, as he is with the Boston Celtics, does Jayson Tatum have the makeup to be great right away? Or does a player like Lonzo Ball, who will likely receive plenty of playing time from the beginning, have a better chance at earning the Rookie of the Year Award?

The NBA Draft is long gone, and Summer League is upon us.

Teams like the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Indiana Pacers (all in the Eastern Conference, “coincidentally”) are left to pick up the pieces from complete and utter mismanagement, while teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Lakers have the pleasure of watching their top-picks showcase their skills in summer league action (AKA, Glorified Pickup Games).

(Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s poor injury luck with young players continued Saturday, when Markelle Fultz left the game with an apparent ankle injury).

The kings of the NBA – the Golden State Warriors – were left barren of any picks in the draft, yet managed to perhaps come away with thebiggest steal of the night in Jordan Bell. Meanwhile, their arch nemesis to the East – the Cleveland Cavaliers – came away with zero selections in a loaded draft (even the second-round was littered with first-round talent), and appear to be on the verge of combustion.

The 2017 NBA rookie class is ripe with players who could conceivably produce high-volume numbers in their first seasons of play.  Celtics fans should be very excited with the selection of Jayson Tatum.  However, Despite being arguably the most gifted rookie, Jayson Tatum will have to really stand-out against the rest of the Celtics - to win the rookie of the year award.

Who has the best odds of taking home 2017 Rookie of the Year honors? Which player will have the easiest transition to the rigors and the grind of an NBA season? And, which rookie will have the steepest learning curve.

The odds are out.

Here is my personal favorite…

Lonzo Ball

Put aside thehaywire jump shot, a father who is actively marketing his son’s name – while simultaneously digging his ditch, and a Lakers squad that – next to Brooklyn’s and Chicago’s – looks to be the worst in the league.

Also understand that the Lakers now have ZERO reason to tank now.

Despite being rented out to Russell Westbrook and Sam Presti, a one season detour in Oklahoma City won’t prevent Paul George from goingwest to Los Angeles next summer. The Clippersmade their bed with the Danilo Gallinari signing. The Lakers –as presently constructed – will have ample salary cap space to offer George.  

It’s on the young players – including Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and of course, Ball – to take the next steps and make the necessary impressions to theirfuture teammate/s.

The Lakers also don’t own their own first-round pick in 2018 (a selection that goes to Philadelphia or Boston. Lottery selection night next May will be a nerve-wracking endeavor for Celtics fans).

The onus for the purple-and-gold will fall on the 6’6 passing genius from Chino Hills, CA.

The depth behind Ball in Los Angeles will be predictably slim next season (does Tyler Ennis excite anyone?)

Would it shock anyone to see Ball put up a similar stat line toJason Kidd’s 1994-95 rookie of the year performance (a player Ball has drawn comparisons to)?  

Playing for a 36-win Dallas Mavericks team, Kidd averaged 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game in 79 games of action (all started).

He also shot 39 percent from the floor, 27 percent from distance, and 70 percent from the charity stripe.

Remember, the Rookie of the Year Award often favors volume over anything else (see previous winners: Michael Carter Williams, Tyreke Evans).

Ball will get ample playing time under second-year head coach Luke Walton (a coach who grew up in the midst of thebest passing team ever assembled), and the opportunity to generate easy buckets for his teammates.

For those favoring other ROY candidates, allow me to throw cold water on your choices:

- Ben Simmons (5/1) and Markelle Fultz (13/2) will cancel each other out. They also have a next-generational big man to keep happy.

- De’Aaron Fox (8/1) will have a steep learning curve in Sacramento. The Kings also have the George Hill safety valve, a player who Fox can slowly learn under.

- Dennis Smith Jr. (8/1) has Rick Carlisle watching over his shoulders.

- Jonathan Isaac (10/1) needs to fill his body out a lot.

- Josh Jackson (12/1) is an interesting choice, yet his learning curve will likely be much higher than Ball’s (the Suns could also be sneaky good (pesky) next season).

If you need any more convincing, just ask this guy about Lonzo’s (6/1) chances.

Cory Prescott

Cory Prescott is the Editor at Large for Boston Celtics coverage on CLNS Radio. 

Cory is a graduate of Susquehanna University, graduating with a degree in Communications - Journalism.  While at Susquehanna, Cory spent three years as the sports editor for the school's weekly newspaper.  He also worked for the Crusaders Athletics Communications Department.

Following graduation, Cory spent time writing for the Maine Hockey Journal, as well as Boston Sports Then & Now, in addition to his own blog, Brain Freeze.

A native Mainer, Cory has been residing in Boston for the past few years.

Follow Cory on twitter @CLNS_Prescott.