This year’s rookie class has a tough act to follow, with Luka Doncic and Trae Young lighting up the NBA last year, and big men like Deandre Ayton and Jaren Jackson Jr. having great, under-the-radar seasons.
Players are usually drafted based on potential, but who are the rookies that are ready to make an impact right out of the gate? Here are seven to look out for next season:
1. Zion Williamson
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Williamson’s impact is going to be as earth-shattering as his dunks, and his guaranteed highlights will be box office for every single NBA fan. The Pelicans could be a fringe playoff team after winning only 33 games last year and have added Derrick Favors, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and JJ Redick. There's superstar potential oozing out of Zion, and everyone will tune in to see it.
2. Ja Morant
As the No. 2 overall pick, it’s no surprise that Morant is on this list. With Mike Conley in Utah, the keys to the Memphis offense are firmly in the hands of the Murray State product. Morant has explosiveness that's been compared to Russell Westbrook, with elite passing vision to boot. The Grizzlies won’t make the playoffs next season, but it’ll be the first step to developing the Morant-Jackson Jr. core.
3. De'Andre Hunter
Don’t sleep on the Hawks. Trae Young made a huge push for Rookie of the Year last season while surrounded by fellow young talent in John Collins and Kevin Huerter. Enter De’Andre Hunter. The national champion should start at small forward right away, and can also slide up to the four in a smaller lineup. Hunter may not be a star in the league, but he has "reliable role player" written all over him.
4. Tyler Herro
Shooters shoot, and Tyler Herro showed off a pristine stroke during Summer League this year. Herro can be the spot-up shooter that Miami needs with Jimmy Butler dominating the ball and Kelly Olynyk going down with an apparent knee injury. Dion Waiters should be back from injury, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be a go-to bench scorer right away. At six-foot-six with a sweet-looking jumper, Herro is the kind of player the league values.
5. Grant Williams
Tacko Fall may have been the Celtics’ Summer League sensation, but Grant Williams showed that he’s ready to contribute right away. Williams is a do-it-all stretch-four, who can leapfrog Robert Williams on the depth chart with his offensive variety. The big man from Tennessee should have plenty of space to operate with Team USA members, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown attracting defenders.
6. Daniel Gafford
It shouldn’t be difficult for Daniel Gafford to find playing time next season. Wendell Carter Jr. looks great, but he’s already had his fair share of injuries. The Bulls have Cristiano Felicio, but can look to go younger with 20-year-old Gafford as the primary reserve. The second round pick took more time to develop by going back to Arkansas for his sophomore season -- a move that could pay off in the long run.
7. Darius Bazley
Oklahoma City has undergone a massive makeover, which gives Darius Bazley a golden opportunity. The southpaw trained on his own for the entirety of the 2019 NBA season after rescinding his commitment to play for Syracuse. Bazley has shown a nice-looking jumpshot and decent defensive instincts, making him a potential alternative to Terrance Ferguson at small forward.