An ode to rookies

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In the last three years, Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Joel Embiid (76ers) and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) – in their rookie seasons alone – changed the course of their franchises.

And none even won Rookie of the Year.

Rookies are the NBA’s least predictable class of players. Sure, they’ve been scouted and sorted well before entering the league, and some veterans surprise every year. But rookies are as close to a blank slate as it gets.

Rookies are also highly important to teams. First-round picks come with five years of team control at a relatively low salary. The very best first-rounders are also tied to their team for even longer unless they relinquish many millions of dollars to leave sooner.

Every year, rookies shape the story of the NBA.

There will be no deep analysis of this year’s specific rookies here. But our season-preview series could not ignore this ultra-important element. There’s both so much mystery and so much significance in rookies.

Will No. 1 pick and Suns center Deandre Ayton meet expectations? Will Mavericks guard Luka Doncic translate his European success to the NBA? Will Kings big Marvin Bagley III defy his doubters? Will Hawks point guard Trae Young stay on an upward trajectory during an expected rocky season? Will Jaren Jackson Jr. contribute to a Grizzlies team trying to win now? Will Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. and Knicks forward Kevin Knox continue to impress like they did in summer league? Which rookies will come out of nowhere? Which will bust?

The fun now is in not knowing, but we’ll get answers soon enough.