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Who are the best sophomores in the NBA?

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The inaugural Mavs Moneyball ranking of second-year players

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With Zion Williamson out for a good chunk of the season, the Rookie Of The Year race is wide open. I’m not going to write about that. Here at Mavs Moneyball, we relish every opportunity to talk about Luka Doncic, our boy king. This semi-regular column will likely give us an additional opportunity to do that throughout the year.

Throughout the season, I’m going to write-up a Top 5 ranking for Sophomore of the Year. I may check in on these rankings weekly, but I won’t commit to that. You can’t make me. These rankings will not be scientific. They will be determined by Mavs Moneyball’s panel of experts. Sitting on this panel will be: just me and nobody else (and maybe Kirk and Rebecca if they think I’m doing something extra stupid). If you don’t like the rankings, argue with me in the comments section! I’ll play along!

A couple of top sophomores have already been hit by injury or suspension, leaving openings for some unexpected second-year players to hop on to the list. Is this just an excuse for us to continue to discuss Wonder Boy versus The Dreaded Trae? Sure, of course it is.

And now for the rankings:

*all per-game statistics are current through 11/4/19*

1. LUKA DONCIC – Dallas Mavericks

26.7 points – 10.3 rebounds – 9.5 assists – 1.5 steals - .2 blocks

This was a foregone conclusion. Actually, that’s probably not true. Had the No. 2 player on this list played a full slate of games, there is a very good chance he would have debuted at No. 1. That being said, Luka Doncic is playing at a superstar level right now. He has had five games this season that anyone would consider excellent, and the sixth game was an off shooting night that still ended in a win at Denver. The advanced stats back up the counting stats, as Doncic is 10th in the League in Player Efficiency Rating, 5th in Box Plus/Minus, and 4th in Value Over Replacement Player. Doncic is breaking age-related records and putting up stat lines that have put him in the conversation with some of the all-time greats. He’ll spend plenty of time at the top of this list this season.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

2. THE DREADED TRAE YOUNG- Atlanta Hawks

26.8 points – 5 rebounds – 7.3 assists – 1 steal – 0 blocks

Young’s stats look great, but the biggest “wow” is that these per-game numbers include the 11 minutes he played in the game in which he was injured. Through the first three games of the season, Young was averaging 34 – 6 – 9 on 51.5 percent shooting from field, and 52 percent shooting from three. These numbers are insane, but also do not seem entirely unsustainable. I would imagine the shooting percentages will fall off slightly, but there is a real possibility that Trae Young is a 30 point per game scorer this season. Couple that with his expert-level passing and Young is an offense unto himself, as is evidenced by him leading the league in Offensive Box Plus/Minus. His defensive numbers remain bad, they aren’t last-season-bad, and that’s a win.

New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

3. SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER- Oklahoma City Thunder

21.8 points – 7.2 rebounds – 3.3 assists - 0.7 steals – 1 block

SGA is the toast of Oklahoma City, folks. If they knew he was Canadian, they’d probably call him a socialist and vote him out of town. But until the day they find out- they’re Team Shai. SGA was the true jewel of the Paul George trade. First round picks are great, but a 6’6” guard who has established that he can score, defend, and set up the offense is a player that every team would love to have. SGA is playing more minutes (leading the Thunder) this season, and his statistics have increased accordingly. The Thunder may have some offensive issues, but they are currently 3rd in the League in Defensive Rating, in large part thanks to their prized second-year player.

Detroit Pistons v Chicago Bulls Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

4. WENDELL CARTER- Chicago Bulls

14.6 points – 9.4 rebounds – .9 assists - 0.4 steals – 1 block

Ah, Wendell Carter, the stathead darling. I’ve got to be honest, I might have put him a spot or two lower, but I’m a coward. I know somebody smarter than I am would make an excellent case for why I’m wrong and I’d be banished from the basketball internet. Carter leads the Bulls, a bad team, in rebounding, blocks, field goal percentage and Player Efficiency Rating. If he continues to attempt the odd three pointer, and can improve upon his 16.7 percent shooting from three, he could help open up space on the floor for superstars Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky. Good luck, Wendell.

New York Knicks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

5. MITCHELL ROBINSON- New York Knicks

10.2 points – 6.3 rebounds – 0.5 assists – 0.8 steals – 2.2 blocks

I know, I know. Robinson is averaging 10 and 6, I get it. But he’s only playing 19 minutes per game. He’s 7th in the league in blocks per game, 3rd in the league in field goal percentage, 4th! in Player Efficiency Rating, 7th in True Shooting Percentage, and 15th in Box Plus/Minus. What I’m saying is that the advanced stats love the guy. If the Knicks knew what they were doing, and to be extra clear: they do not, they would be developing the hell out of Robinson rather than playing a bunch of other guys that overlap him on the floor. Here’s to hoping they clear out some of those players this season. You do you, Knicks.

Also receiving votes:

(Again, there are no votes. I’m making all of this up.)

DEVONTE GRAHAM- Charlotte Hornets

14.3 points – 3.8 rebounds – 6.8 assists – 0.2 steals – 0.2 blocks

JAREN JACKSON, JR.- Memphis Grizzlies

13.2 points – 5.4 rebounds – 0.8 assists – 0.6 steals – 1.6 blocks

MO WAGNER- Washington Wizards

11.3 points – 4.3 rebounds – 0.3 assists – 1 steal – 1.3 blocks

DUNCAN ROBINSON- Miami Heat

11.3 points – 2.2 rebounds – 0.5 assists – 0.2 steals – 0.8 blocks

KEVIN KNOX- New York Knicks

10.6 points – 3.7 rebounds – 2 assists – 0.6 steals – 0.1 blocks

COLLIN SEXTON- Cleveland Cavaliers

16.8 points – 3.5 rebounds – 2 rebounds – 0.5 steals – 0 blocks