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Part 1 - NBA Rookie Yearbook for Class of 2018

Class of 2018
Class of 2018 (Getty Images)

A year after one of the most statistically impressive rookie classes in recent memory, the NBA rookie class of 2018 is filled with just as much promise.

Projecting how rookie seasons will play out - let alone entire careers - is somewhat of a guessing game. Although we can make assumptions based on presumed ability and roster fit, nobody ever really knows for sure. It's part of what makes the NBA Draft and ensuing Rookie of the Year races so intriguing. Beyond merely this season, almost anything is possible for this incredibly talented crop of rookie ballers.

Years from now, perhaps we'll look back in wonder at how we once thought the future might play out. But for now, here are some best bets as to what may come to be...

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Of all of the players in this draft, Gilgeous-Alexander is the one most likely to someday lead the league in assists.

The 11th pick in the draft impressed in his NBA debut, finishing with 11 points and four assists in 28 minutes off the bench. That he only finished with four dimes shouldn't have any sway on his future as an elite playmaker as many of the great passing point guards that spent years at the top of the assist leaderboards came off the bench to begin their careers.

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Russell Westbrook finished with four assists off the bench in his NBA debut and is now the reigning assist champion, having averaged double-digit dimes in each of the last three seasons.

Rod Strickland finished with five assists off the bench in his NBA debut and eventually led the league in assists in his 10th season.

Mark Jackson finished with seven assists off the bench in his NBA debut and eventually led the league in assists in his 10th season.

John Stockton finished with five assists off the bench in his NBA debut and would go on to lead the league a record nine times.

That's simply to say that it's worth being patient for a point guard like SGA who has an incredible feel for the game and plays well beyond his years. There's a reason that in the annual NBA GM survey he was picked as the biggest steal of the draft relative to where he was selected.

Michael Porter Jr.

There may not be a player more difficult to project than Porter Jr., who not long ago was considered the best prospect in his class. A back injury limited him to just three games in his lone season in college, which caused him to slip in the draft. Initially a strong contender for the No. 1 overall pick, Porter Jr. slid to 14th where he was selected by the Denver Nuggets.

When healthy, he can score with the best of them and has drawn some comparisons to a young Kevin Durant who is a four-time scoring champion. At 6-foot-10 with guard skills and a decent stroke, Porter Jr. can score from almost every spot on the floor and in a modern NBA where defenses constantly switch, he could develop into a matchup nightmare.

Also working in his favour is the situation in Denver, as the Nuggets do not already have a volume scorer. Nikola Jokic is the team's best player, but is essentially a point-center that's more likely to dish out 10 assists than score 30 points on any given night. He's the perfect fit alongside Porter Jr., who could have received this distinction anywhere, let alone playing alongside the best passing big man in the NBA.

Kevin Knox

This draft could be littered with All-Stars, but there's no player more equipped to get there faster than Knox.

Even though he may be coming off the bench to begin the season, Knox will get every opportunity to play a major role in the Knicks offence as a rookie with star forward Kristaps Porzingis still recovering from a torn ACL. During the Vegas Summer League, Knox averaged over 21 points per game while scoring from all three levels and showing a polish that's rare for such a young player.

With Porzingis out, Knox has the chance to blossom into an effective higher volume player quicker, which could mean sustained touches even when the Latvian All-Star returns. Those two could make for a formidable pairing, and given the Knicks' popularity, it's not out of the question that they could receive multiple All-Stars if the team turns a corner over the next couple of years.

There's also the benefit of playing in the Eastern Conference. If Knox develops quickly into an All-Star calibre player, there's less competition than there would be in the Western Conference with the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green all occupying frontcourt positions.

Mohamed Bamba

With apologies to Wendell Carter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr. or Zhaire Smith, Bamba has the highest ceiling of any defensive game changer.

Measuring at 7-foot-10, he recorded the largest wingspan in the history of the NBA Draft Combine. Along with the report that he unofficially clocked a 3/4 court sprint faster than John Wall or Russell Westbrook in a team pre-draft workout, Bamba has elite physical tools to transform into a dominant defensive force.

It's not all simply potential vs. production for Bamba either, who finished second in the country in blocks per game in his one season at Texas. Though he's more of a long-term prospect, there is already a track record of defensive production from which to build upon.

As we've seen with Rudy Gobert, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard and Dikembe Mutombo among others, there's a long list of Defensive Player of the Year winners that doubled as elite rim protectors. And in today's NBA with teams increasingly opting to play with just a single true big man, Bamba's versatility makes him a prime candidate to flourish as an award-winning anchor.

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