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The Wild West, Rookie Of The Year Race And The Wolves Coming Together

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager


Welcome to the second column of the 2017-18 NBA season. My name is Kyle. I write these columns. Hopefully you’re not flying away in this October snow nonsense right now.

As my good friend Pink once said, let’s get this party started (and it's even better if you're reading this on a Saturday night). 

Who Is Leading The Rookie Of The Year Race?

I predicted in my first column that Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. would win the award. This was because of two reasons. The first was playing time. The other point guards on Dallas are J.J. Barea and Devin Harris. The second was because Smith is talented and has the chance to part of the next big wave of point guards in the league. The dude is explosive and the Mavericks are going to give him every opportunity to be the guy with Dirk Nowitzki on the way out.

Through four games, Smith has gotten his opportunity, playing 30.3 minutes per game. And he’s been fine, averaging 13.5 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. The shooting is a bit of a concern, though, with him shooting just 42.9 percent from the field, 25 percent from the 3-point line and just 46.9 percent from the free-throw line.

That brings us to who will probably win the Rookie of the Year Award (I know it’s only five games and I could regret this later). Ben Simmons.

Simmons is the opposite of the modern-day point forward considering he’s shot just three 3-pointers all season and some even think he’s shooting with the wrong hand, which seems like an easy thing to figure out but such is life.

He’s become a triple-double watch guy, averaging 16.4 points, 10 rebounds and 7.4 assist per game. This comes with Simmons being 6-10 and on a pretty good 76ers team.  Sure, he can’t shoot 3-pointers, but if you give him room to drive, hot diggity, Simmons is going to take it and run. Literally.

Unlike last season, there are a plethora of rookies playing well, including Lauri Markkanen, De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum, John Collins, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson. This should be a fun little battle.

As Expected, The West Is Indeed Wild

Let’s break this down.

The Warriors have already lost to the Rockets and Grizzlies. The Rockets nearly lost to the 76ers. The Clippers don’t have Chris Paul, but are undefeated. The Wolves beat the new-look three-headed monster Thunder. Without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs are undefeated. The Lakers just beat the Wizards in OT. The Suns have won two games since firing their coach. Dallas has just one win, but it was against the Grizzlies. The same Grizzlies who beat the Warriors.


I’ve said before that it might take 45 wins to make the playoffs in the West. I think I’m going to take that back. The West is so talented, the group might just beat up each other so much throughout the regular season that we could see some very, very good teams creep around the .500 mark. Heck, I don’t know. I don’t remember a first two weeks quite like this, though.

In the West we have:

  • Two 4-0 teams (Clippers and Spurs) who are without their biggest stars from last season.
  • Two 4-1 teams (Rockets and Grizzlies). We expected this for the Rockets adding Paul, but um, they don’t have Paul. If you said you expected this from the Grizzlies your name is Dave Fizdale.
  • Two 3-2 teams (Blazers and Warriors). Unexpected from the Warriors, obviously.
  • Two 2-2 teams (Lakers and Thunder). Not all that shocking on either end.
  • Four 2-3 teams (Suns, Pelicans, Timberwolves and Jazz). Two of Minnesota’s losses came without their best player, Jimmy Butler.
  • One 1-3 team (Nuggets) which is pretty shocking after their offseason.
  • One 1-4 team (Kings).
  • One 1-5 team (Mavericks).

Over the weekend, we get to see the Wolves host the Thunder, the Grizzlies host the Thunder, the Clippers host the Warriors and the Jazz host the Mavericks.

I would love to say that maybe teams will pull away from the rest of the field and that we’ll learn something. But I don’t know anymore.

Sports are fun.

We Knew It Was Going To Take Some Time

The Wolves have dropped their last two after a thrilling win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

Butler, one of the best all-around players in the league, was out for both of those games.

But even still, we all knew it was going to take some time for this team to come together. Three of the five starters are new. The team’s top scoring option off the bench is new.

“It’s going to take time, but we don’t have that much time,” Butler said Friday. “We can’t continue to practice bad habits, man. You’ve got to lose those habits ASAP. That’s what practice is for, but when you correct it in practice, you can’t go out there and keep doing it over and over in a game. That’s when it really counts.”

Obviously with Butler back in the lineup starting Friday night against the Thunder, things will improve. And then next week the team has winnable games against the Heat, Pelicans, Mavericks and Hornets. It wasn’t going to be easy, and it hasn’t been. But with time, things should improve.

Prediction Time

  • World Series. Dodgers in 7. I bought a Dodgers hat when I was in Los Angeles for the jersey unveil. A true fan.
  • The Vikings will crush the Browns in London because the Browns are the Browns.
  • I have my best friend from high school’s bachelor party this weekend. We are heading to Iowa to watch the Gophers battle the Hawkeyes. There’s a 300 percent chance I don’t feel very good on Sunday.

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend.