Rookie Battles to Watch
Find out which head-to-head encounters have the most potential to be an exciting battle on the hardwood.
Sacramento will debut five rookies in the upcoming 2017-18 season, including four selections from the 2017 NBA Draft (De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Frank Mason III) as well as international star Bogdan Bogdanovic.
With each of these players finding success in their programs outside of the NBA, the sights are now set to produce on the highest level of professional basketball. They will be met with challengers from around the League, many of whom will be rookies themselves.
The 2017 Draft class has been heralded as one of the most talented pools in recent memory, meaning that there is great potential for many memorable matchups throughout the season.
Below are some of the most anticipated for the upcoming campaign:
Many are aware of the budding rivalry between Fox and Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers and that should only continue to heat up as these teams collide four times next season. As these two have joined rival teams within the same state and with the star potential between these two floor generals, these battles could continue long into the future.
Another point guard in the West that has been making waves already is Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks. The NC State product caught eyes around the nation in his college days and even more as he turned in an impressive stint at the NBA Summer League this past July. His explosiveness and elite athleticism combined with similar characteristics in Fox could make for a must-see matchup when Sacramento and Dallas square off.
The ACC Player of the Year and NCAA Champion carries an impressive collegiate resume with him into his rookie season after three standout years with North Carolina.
Jackson’s shooting touch and scoring ability will be two major components to translating his game to the next level and could make him a difficult player for opposing wings to guard. There is also a considerable amount of noteworthy wings from this Draft class, including top-five selections in Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Phoenix’s Josh Jackson.
Jackson was able to face off against Josh during Summer League, scoring 18 points in the contest while Phoenix’s Jackson turned in 18 points of his own. This could be a sign of things to come between these talented forwards who will be looking to best each other throughout the four showdowns in 2017-18.
Additionally, No. 25 will also be squaring off with Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic, a player who has built a reputation on being a hard-nosed defender who utilizes his athleticism and length to pester his opponents. Among the rookies, this could wind up being the smooth shooting rookie’s toughest task to generate offense against a player who has potential to be an elite defender in the Association.
The sky is the limit for Giles, who was once the number one high school recruit heading into his freshman campaign at Duke. Though previous injuries have hampered the 19-year-old forward, there’s plenty of reason to believe that he can be special in the NBA.
Before Giles was selected at No. 20 overall, there were several other big men taken off the board, including Atlanta’s John Collins - who could provide an interesting adversary for Harry in his first season. Both players bring eye-opening measurables being lengthy big men who have versatility that can make a difference on both ends of the floor.
Additionally, Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers will be worth noting as the aforementioned Sacramento-Los Angeles rivalry continues to re-emerge.
Frank Mason III
There were few players in all of college basketball with as impressive as a career as Mason III, who capped off his time at Kansas with one of the most outstanding seasons in his program’s history – being recognized with multiple accolades including National Player of the Year.
Even with this recognition propelling him, Mason III will be looking to prove that his draft position (No. 34 overall) does not align with what he can accomplish on the court.
The 2017 selections include a massive amount of talented guards, but one of the most undeniably exciting talents is the No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fultz is set to be an offensive weapon to be reckoned with in Philly and the two occasions where he meets with Sacramento in 2017-18 may provide Frank a chance to put on a back-and-forth scoring showdown.
While Bogdanovic was drafted in 2014 by the Suns, his highly-anticipated arrival to the NBA will be in the purple and black following a championship season with Fenerbahce Istanbul in the Euroleague.
The Serbian guard has demonstrated a valuable all-around offensive game with a balanced attack of shooting, driving, and distributing the rock. Playing at the two-guard spot means that Bogdanovic could encounter players like Malik Monk from the Charlotte Hornets - a player with a dangerous offensive skill set, as well.
Monk proved to be one of the more prolific scorers as a Kentucky freshman and him facing off with Bogdanovic could make for some exciting offensive basketball. On top of that, Luke Kennard from the Detroit Pistons presents a challenge with his own versatility on offense. No. 8 is scheduled to face off with each of these teams twice in the coming season, with each of those contests containing a level of intrigue to see how the Serbian product fares against his fellow rookies.