Summer Dreaming: Who will be named Kia Rookie of the Year in 2017-18?

Fran Blinebury

Fran Blinebury NBA.com

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Aug 22, 2017 9:32 AM ET

Markelle Fultz has the game to make a serious run at Kia Rookie of the Year in 2017-18.

With the season-opener less than two months away, we’re  looking farther out over the horizon for an early peek at the 2017-18 NBA official award winners.

Our annual Summer Dreaming Series continues with a look at our top five picks for Kia Rookie of the Year.

De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

The way John Calipari keeps shipping talent off to the Kings, we might have to start referring to the capital of California as Kentucky West. The door is open for Fox to be the starter on Day One and that opportunity to log time and put up numbers could have him as an early contender for the rookie honors. He torched Lonzo Ball in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in March and was a big time performer in big games.

He’s a lightning fast, athletic point guard with quick hands and knack for distributing the ball to teammates in scoring position, which has drawn comparisons to fellow Wildcat and perennial NBA All-Star John Wall.  But the weak spot is what’s de rigueur in today’s game -- the 3-point shot.  He shot just 24.6 percent from the shorter arc in his lone college season and will have to spend time in the gym get his range up to an acceptable level.

 
Relive De'Aaron Fox's play at the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League.

Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

In what the rest of the world regarded as destiny since early last season, the Hollywood Lakers have their next leading man to put on the marquee. There is every reason to think that Ball will push the pace, fire up 3-pointers and do what endeared him to Magic Johnson -- raise the curtain on 21st century Showtime by getting his teammates the ball to get them engaged.

The jump shot looks funny and his stage managing father is a comic sideshow act. But if Magic can put enough of the right pieces around him, Ball is the kind of fire-starter that can burn down the house with enthusiasm and make the Lakers hot, hot, hot again. Making the playoffs might be too big a hill to climb, but starring in L.A. be the edge that puts him over the top for the award.

 
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka let Lonzo Ball know he's Lakers-bound.

Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers 

Trust the process. It’s been such a long time coming, but the Sixers faithful finally have reason to  not only show their faces in public, but actually get outside and dance in the streets. The club paid a high price to move up for the No. 1 pick in the draft, sending the No. 3 pick this season and another first-round choice down the line.  But that’s why the departed Sam Hinkie started the process to accumulate all those assets in order to deal for bigger talent.

He says he wants to be Rookie of the Year and Kia MVP. He has the skills with a good handle, can get to the basket and was good from the college 3-point line. The best player in a strong Draft class. It may take an adjustment period to blend his talent with 6-10 point forward Ben Simmons as they learn about the NBA together find an offensive rhythm that lets them share the ball while developing as scorers. Fultz, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Simmons mean the FEDS will be coming in Philly.

 
The Starters have some fun with rookie Markelle Fultz.

Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns

When the player that most experts said was the best two-way talent in the bunch watched three others go before him in the draft, he got a look on his face that said he was bothered and then a thought in his head that could carry him for years: “I love competition,” Jackson said.  “I love proving people wrong ... And those teams who didn't draft me, one day they will be sorry.”

He’ll definitely need to improve his shot in the move up to the next level. But Jackson is a top-flight defender, a skill that doesn’t get lost in the step up from college to the NBA. With great athleticism, he should fit in nicely with the Suns ball-handlers Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe and could get Phoenix back on the path toward its first playoff appearance since 2010.

 
Take a look back at Josh Jackson's play at the 2017 Summer League!

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

GM Danny Ainge insists he’s the player the Celtics wanted above all and, if so, that means trading down to No. 3 spot and picking up a future No. 1 from Philadelphia was an absolute bonanza. The long, lanky forward out of Duke could blossom into a star at both ends of the court. He’s got a 9-foot standing reach, which he might use at the training table to put some meat on that 204-pound frame. He’s great at creating his own shot off the dribble, has a wonderful touch on the fadeaway and can play either the 3 or 4 spot on the Celtics front line. 

Boston took Jaylen Brown with their No. 1 pick a year ago for his defensive potential and now Tatum can give the offense a youthful boost, especially when the little dynamo Isaiah Thomas goes to the bench for a spell. He’ll need to work on improving his range, but everything else looks like a smooth fit into a lineup that already took the No. 1 seed in the East last season.

 
Jayson Tatum put on a show at the Utah and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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