Rookie Survey: Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young takes flight, but others on his tail

2018-19 NBA.com Rookie Survey

It will be difficult for this year’s rookie class to live up to the standard set by the class of 2017. Last season, we saw the debuts of Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum, future All-Stars who not only put up good numbers in the regular season, but also impacted in the playoffs as well. De’Aaron Fox averaged more points and assists than 2016-17 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and didn’t even make Second Team All-Rookie last season.

This year’s class, at least according to the class itself, has the potential to be just as deep. In the annual Rookie Survey, 20 different players were tabbed as the answer for one — or both — of the first two questions: “Who will be the Rookie of the Year” and “Which rookie will have the best career.”

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Big men were taken with five of the first seven picks in the Draft, but a lot of eyes will be turned toward Atlanta, where 6-foot-2 guard Trae Young will hope to make Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk look smart for trading the No. 3 pick (Luka Doncic), picking up an extra pick, and selecting Young at No. 5. For now, Young has the support of his fellow rookies, who named the 19-year-old former Oklahoma star as the class’ best shooter and best playmaker.

For the 10th time in the last 12 years, NBA.com sat down with the rookie class at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot at the New York Knicks’ practice facility. This year’s group (of 36) answered seven questions about their class, as well as a few about the current player they most admire and what they’re expecting as they make the jump to the NBA.


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CATEGORIES: Kia Rookie of the Year pick? | Best career? | Biggest draft steal? | Most athletic? | Best shooter? | Best defender? | Best playmaker? | Toughest adjustment to NBA? | Skill to develop in NBA? | Favorite player in NBA?

NOTE: Players were asked not to vote for themselves, college teammates or NBA teammates. (Some still did, and those votes were discounted.)

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Who will be the 2018-19 Kia Rookie of the Year?

1. DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix — 18%

Collin Sexton, Cleveland — 18%

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas — 9%

Kevin Knox, New York — 9%

5. Mohamed Bamba, Orlando — 6%

Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte — 6%

Michael Porter Jr., Denver — 6%

Trae Young, Atlanta — 6%

Others receiving votes: Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento; Troy Brown Jr., Washington; Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago; Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City; Harry Giles, Sacramento; Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis; Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio

Last year: Dennis Smith Jr. – 26%

Worth noting: In the first nine years of this survey, at least one player got at least 24 percent of the vote. The only time the rookies got this right was in 2007 (the first year of the survey), when Kevin Durant received 54 percent of the vote.

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago — 13%

2. Kevin Knox, New York — 10%

Jerome Robinson, LA Clippers — 10%

3. DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix — 7%

Mohamed Bamba, Orlando — 7%

Mikal Bridges, Phoenix — 7%

Collin Sexton, Cleveland — 7%

Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio — 7%

Others receiving votes: Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento; Miles Bridges, Charlotte; Troy Brown Jr., Washington; Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City; Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers; Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte; Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis; Michael Porter Jr., Denver; Trae Young, Atlanta

Last year: Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum — 18%

Worth noting: This is the fifth straight year that a Duke guy has earned the most votes on this question, with Carter joining Jabari Parker (2014), Jahlil Okafor (2015), Brandon Ingram (2016) and Tatum.

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Keita Bates-Diop (48), Minnesota — 13%

2. Michael Porter Jr. (14), Denver — 10%

Lonnie Walker IV (18), San Antonio — 10%

4. Jalen Brunson (33), Dallas — 6%

Gary Trent Jr. (37), Portland — 6%

Others receiving votes: Grayson Allen (21), Utah; Mohamed Bamba (6), Orlando; Miles Bridges (12), Charlotte; Bruce Brown (42), Detroit; Jevon Carter (32), Memphis; Hamidou Diallo (45), Oklahoma City; Donte DiVincenzo (17), Milwaukee; Luka Doncic (3), Dallas; Jacob Evans (28), Golden State; Devonte’ Graham (34), Charlotte; De’Anthony Melton (46), Houston; Svi Mykhailiuk (47), L.A. Lakers; Jerome Robinson (13), LA Clippers; Mitchell Robinson (36), New York; Mo Wagner (25), L.A. Lakers; Robert Williams III (27), Boston; Trae Young (5), Atlanta

Last year: Donovan Mitchell — 19%

Worth noting: This question got the biggest variety of answers, and we’ll see if Bates-Diop gets a chance to crack Tom Thibodeau’s typically-short rotation in Minnesota. Last year’s rookies certainly got this one right.

Which rookie is the most athletic?

1. Zhaire Smith, Philadelphia — 24%

2. Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City — 15%

Josh Okogie, Minnesota — 15%

Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio — 15%

5. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento — 6%

Miles Bridges, Charlotte — 6%

Others receiving votes: DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix; Mikal Bridges, Phoenix; Bruce Brown, Detroit; Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee; Michael Porter Jr., Denver; Collin Sexton, Cleveland; Robert Williams III, Boston

Last year: Dennis Smith Jr. — 44%

Worth noting: We’ll have to wait to see just how athletic Smith really is. He just had foot surgery to repair a Jones fracture, the same injury that forced Simmons to miss the season after being drafted.

Which rookie is the best shooter?

1. Trae Young, Atlanta — 47%

2. Kevin Huerter, Atlanta — 13%

Svi Mykhailiuk, L.A. Lakers — 13%

4. Gary Trent Jr., Portland — 9%

5. Grayson Allen, Utah — 6%

Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee — 6%

Others receiving votes: Aaron Holiday, Indiana; Kevin Knox, New York

Last year: Luke Kennard — 49%

Worth noting: As usual, this question garnered the closest thing to a consensus. In fact, Young received more votes on this question (15) than any other player received on the first seven questions total.

Which rookie is the best defender?

1. Jevon Carter, Memphis — 29%

2. Mohamed Bamba, Orlando — 14%

3. Josh Okogie, Minnesota — 11%

4. Mikal Bridges, Phoenix — 9%

5. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis — 6%

Collin Sexton, Cleveland — 6%

Others receiving votes: DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix; Bruce Brown, Detroit; Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago; Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City; Melvin Frazier Jr., Orlando; Mitchell Robinson, New York; Omari Spellman, Atlanta; Gary Trent Jr., Portland; Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio

Last year: Josh Jackson — 26%

Worth noting: Carter is another rookie who just had surgery. But it was to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb and he’s such a good defender that his fellow rookies gave him twice as many votes as any other player despite his absence at the Rookie Photo Shoot.

Which rookie is the best playmaker?

1. Trae Young, Atlanta — 35%

2. Jalen Brunson, Dallas — 15%

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas — 9%

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — 9%

Collin Sexton, Cleveland — 9%

6. Troy Brown Jr., Washington — 6%

Aaron Holiday, Indiana — 6%

Others receiving votes: Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte; De’Anthony Melton, Houston; Michael Porter Jr., Denver; Jerome Robinson, LA Clippers

Last year: Lonzo Ball — 72%

Worth noting: Young is the first player in the 10 years of the Rookie Survey to get the most votes in both the “Best shooter” and “Best playmaker” questions. He’s also one of five rookies – Diallo, Porter, Sexton and Walker are the others – to receive votes on five of the first seven questions this year. Sexton was the only one to receive more than one vote on at least four questions.

What will be the biggest adjustment for you, playing in the NBA?

1. Speed or pace of the game31%

2. Schedule/Length of season24%

3. Physicality (size and strength of opponents)19%

4. Travel10%

5. Lifestyle/Time management8%

Also receiving votes: Conditioning, Playing NBA defense, Not having the ball as much

Last year: Physicality (size and strength of opponents) — 37%

Worth noting: The top four answers on this question have been pretty consistent over the last few years.

What is the most important skill you need to develop?

1. Ball-handling — 19%

Shooting — 19%

3. Defense — 14%

4. Playmaking/Reading the defense — 11%

5. Everything — 8%

6. Motor/Work ethic — 6%

Strength — 6%

Time management — 6%

Also receiving votes: Basketball IQ, Communication, Confidence, Leadership

Last year: N/A

Worth noting: Good news for coaches: “Defense” got five times as many votes as it did last year.

Who is your favorite player in the league?

1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers — 29%

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State — 9%

Kevin Durant, Golden State — 9%

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee — 6%

Chris Paul, Houston — 6%

Dwyane Wade — 6%

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City — 6%

Others receiving votes: Kobe Bryant; DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State; Anthony Davis, New Orleans; Paul George, Oklahoma City; James Harden, Houston; Jrue & Justin Holiday, New Orleans/Chicago; Kyrie Irving, Boston; Jusuf Nurkic, Portland; John Wall, Washington; Nick Young,

Last year: LeBron James — 31%

Worth noting: James has been on a different team each time he has led this category, while Bryant is still getting votes two years after his retirement.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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