The 2017 NBA Draft class is loaded with talent coming out of the gates, and there's sure to be some sleeper selections that shine next season.
This class is headlined by some incredible talent at the top like Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum. Further in, players like Dennis Smith, Jr. have a chance to make a big impact immediately for their franchises.
The next Rookie of the Year award is sure to be hotly contested, and Fultz might not even be the best rookie of his own team. Ben Simmons is set to make his pro debt for the Philadelphia 76ers. There's no shortage of intrigue when it comes to deciding which first-year player will thrive.
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ESPN is entering offseason mode as the NBA's news cycle slows down, which means their analysts are entering summer forecast mode. One of the first subjects the panel of analysts went to work on was Rookie of the Year, and there was a clear-cut favorite in the group.
Analysts were asked to rank their top-three picks for Rookie of the Year. First-place votes are worth five points, second-place votes worth three points and third-place worth one point.
Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball ran away with the vote, easily taking the top spot with 140 points. Smith, Jr. was second-highest at 86, followed by Ben Simmons (62) and Markelle Fultz (60).
Lonzo received a huge nod, nearly earning more points than the second and third-highest vote-getters combined. That's some serious faith in the pass-first guard making a major impact on the Lakers once he takes the court.
"Though his electric play in summer league certainly played a role in shaping our expectations as he averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds, perhaps the biggest reason Ball enters as a Rookie of the Year favorite is simply opportunity. Luke Walton will let Ball play through his mistakes and he will have the ball in his hands a ton.
"Last season bucked a recent trend, with Malcolm Brogdon snapping a streak of 15 consecutive seasons in which the Rookie of the Year averaged at least 30 minutes per game and posted a usage percentage of 20.0 or more," Micah Adams of ESPN wrote of Ball.
Lonzo, the Las Vegas Summer League Most Valuable Player, should have ample opportunity on a Lakers team built around a reinvigorated focus on youth. If he makes that kind of impact, he'd be the first Laker player to win Rookie of the Year since Magic Johnson.