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Juicy Fruit Rookies

NBA Rookie Rewind produced by Juicy Fruit: Most memorable moments from Eastern Conference stars

Juicy Fruit FTR

There's a good chance you remember what Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons were like as rookies, but what about Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Now that we're in the thick of the second round, we wanted to take a trip down memory lane by looking at the most memorable moments from the rookie seasons of some of the Eastern Conference's biggest stars.

In addition to Embiid, Tatum, Simmons, Leonard, Irving and Antetokounmpo, we've included Kyle Lowry, Malcolm Brogdon and Al Horford, three players who have played an instrumental role on their team's success this season.

With that in mind, let's start with the most established stars on the list...

Kawhi Leonard, F, San Antonio Spurs

Signature moment: Game 2 of the WCF vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

After defeating the Utah Jazz in the first round and the LA Clippers in the second round, the Spurs pushed the Thunder to six games in the Western Conference Finals in Leonard's rookie season.

San Antonio won the first two games of the series before losing four in a row.

Leonard scored double figures in only two of those games, but he put his potential on full display in Game 2, when he scored 18 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, blocked two shots and came up with one steal in a nine-point win.

Leonard's performance helped the Spurs overcome 31 points from Kevin Durant, 30 points from James Harden and 27 points from Russell Westbrook.

Kyrie Irving, G, Cleveland Cavaliers

Signature moment: Game-winners

Irving was among the league leaders in clutch scoring in his first season in the NBA, finishing behind only Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook and Jason Terry.

It didn't help the Cavaliers win many games, but there were two particular instances where Irving's clutch play did deliver them victories.

The first came on Jan. 29, 2012, when Irving made a layup that put the Cavaliers ahead 88-87 against the Celtics.

The second came on March 7, 2012, when Irving made another layup to win the game, this time to put the Cavaliers ahead 100-99 against the Nuggets.

Irving has since developed into one of the league's best closers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks

Signature moment: An all-around showing against the Denver Nuggets

It's easy to forget, but there wasn't much known about Antetokounmpo when he first came into the league. His stat line didn't show much as a rookie either, as he posted only 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.8 blocks per game.

There were, however, a number of moments in which Antetokounmpo showed what he was fully capable of.

One of those moments came in the second half of the season, when he did a little bit of everything in a loss to the Nuggets with 11 points, four assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

According to Basketball Reference's Game Score , it was the most productive game of Antetokounmpo's rookie season.

Kyle Lowry, G, Memphis Grizzlies

Signature moment: Leading the Grizzlies over the Orlando Magic

Lowry appeared in only 10 games as a rookie because of a broken wrist he suffered against the Cleveland Cavaliers late in November that required season-ending surgery.

In the game prior to his injury, Lowry helped the Grizzlies mount a huge comeback against Dwight Howard and the Magic. In 30 minutes of play - a season-high for Lowry - he finished with 16 points, five assists, five rebounds and five steals.

The Grizzlies outscored the Magic by 21 points with Lowry on the court in a game they won by nine.

Malcolm Brogdon, G, Milwaukee Bucks

Signature moment: Winning Rookie of the Year

In addition to joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in franchise history to win Rookie of the Year, Brogdon became the first player not drafted in the first round to win the award since 1966.

Brogdon averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game in his rookie season. With his steady production and veteran-like play, he helped the Bucks return to the playoffs following a one-year hiatus.

Brogdon struggled in his first postseason series, but he helped lead the Bucks to a Game 1 victory over the Toronto Raptors with 16 points, six rebounds and two assists.

Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers

Signature moment: Making the 76ers competitive

Embiid appeared in only 31 games in his rookie season, but he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting because of how he dominant he was in those games.

In 25.4 minutes per contest, Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 assists. The only players since 1946-47 to post those numbers in their rookie seasons are Ralph Sampson, Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan, only they each did it in over 30 minutes per game.

The 76ers were a completely different team with Embiid in the lineup that season. Not only did they win 13 of the 31 games he played in compared to 15 of the 51 he didn't, but they also outscored opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions with Embiid on the court.

That was quite a difference from the 7.8 points per 100 possessions opponents outscored the 76ers by when he was on the bench.

Jayson Tatum, F, Boston Celtics

Signature moment: The Playoffs

Tatum had one of the more impressive runs we've ever seen from a rookie.

Without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Tatum led the Celtics in scoring with 18.5 points per game as they defeated the Bucks in the first round and the 76ers in the second.

The Celtics were eventually knocked out in the Eastern Conference Finals, but they went to seven games with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Tatum finished with a total of 351 points in his first postseason, putting him one point shy of tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA record for most playoff points scored by a rookie.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks

Signature moment: Playoff debut

According to Basketball-Reference , only four active players - Derrick Rose, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons - have had more productive playoff games as a rookie.

Going up against Kevin Garnett and the Celtics, Horford posted a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in his playoff debut. He also had two assists, one steal and one block.

The Hawks lost Game 1 by double figures and got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in seven games, but Horford recently told Tom Westerholm of Mass Live that this series "shaped my career."

"That Celtics team was great because they were all about defending, really committed to helping each other and they really knew their roles, so I learned a lot my rookie year playing against them," Horford said.

Ben Simmons, G/F, Philadelphia 76ers

Signature moment: Triple-doubles

Simmons wasted no time establishing himself as a walking triple-double in the NBA.

In 81 games, Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds as a rookie, numbers we've only ever seen once before from a first-year player.

The only other player to do it? Oscar Robertson.

Robertson (26) also happens to be the only player who has ever posted more triple-doubles than Simmons (12) as a rookie.

Simmons did more of the same as a sophomore by recording 10 triple-doubles, the third-most in the league behind Russell Westbrook (34) and Nikola Jokic (12).

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