We're just a few days away from the opening of NBA training camps, so it's time to take our first look at the incoming rookie class.
The rankings are based on who we think will have the best season out of all first-year players -- which means despite being maybe the best player at Summer League in Las Vegas, Tyler Ulis of the Suns didn't make the list because minutes in Phoenix will be hard to come by on a guard-heavy roster.
Our next look will be just before the regular season begins, after we've seen these guys get some preseason minutes against actual NBA players. For now, here's our early projection of how this year's rookies will ultimately shake out.
Photo: Harry Lyles Jr. / The Comeback / Yardbarker
Thon Maker, C, Milwaukee Bucks
The 10 spot in our rankings is appropriate for Maker, the international prospect whom the Bucks reached to take with the 10th overall pick after many projected him to slide entirely out of the first round.
While we won't be overreacting to Summer League stats, Maker proved he has the tools to one day be a solid two-way player in any team's rotation. He averaged 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in five Summer League contests. Photo: Garrett Ellwood
Taurean Prince, SF, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks acquired the rights to Prince from the Jazz as part of the three-team trade that sent Jeff Teague to the Pacers.
A solid rookie season is dependent on a combination of opportunity and experience, and the fact that Prince played four years at the college level should make for an easy transition. He had one breakout Summer League performance, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds in just 25 minutes against the Kings. Photo: David Dow
Dragan Bender, PF, Phoenix Suns
Bender is one of a trio of Suns rookies who (along with Tyler Ulis and Marquese Chriss) will need playing time to develop, but even at just 18 years old, he might be too talented to keep off the floor.
Bender already looks extremely comfortable offensively, and has ball-handling skills and an ability to shoot the three that we're not used to seeing from 7-foot-1 players. He'll almost certainly struggle defensively, but if he can become serviceable on that end of the floor we could see him carving out a place for himself in the Phoenix rotation. Photo: David Dow
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Murray may have been a curious selection by the Nuggets with the seventh overall pick because he plays point guard and Denver already has a young one in Emmanuel Mudiay in place on the roster.
But his talent appears worthy of that lofty selection. Murray had not one, but two, 29-point performances at Summer League, when he had the green light to take a high volume of shots. Photo: Brad Penner
Kris Dunn, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dunn impressed in two Summer League performances, showing an ability to score efficiently while being an effective distributor.
Minnesota is building a team out of young, foundational players, so if Dunn can adapt quickly to the NBA game it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Timberwolves move on from Ricky Rubio at some point this season. Photo: Brian Babineau
Jaylen Brown, SF, Boston Celtics
Brown was selected with the third overall pick in the draft, and some believe he may one day turn out to be the best of the bunch.
His physique is similar to that of Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler, and wing players are becoming increasingly important in today's NBA. He won't be relied upon too heavily to produce on a very good Celtics team in his first year, but he should get plenty of opportunity to adapt as part of the team's regular rotation.
Brandon Ingram, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
It's nervous time for Lakers fans these days, as each lottery pick becomes more and more crucial with each passing year. L.A. desperately needs to add young, star-level talent in order to climb out of the cellar and return to its days of glory, and it appears the Ingram pick will help the team do exactly that.
Ingram displayed an NBA-ready skill set in five Summer League appearances, even if the statistics didn't always show it. He did break out in his final performance, though, finishing with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Head coach Luke Walton said Ingram won't start right away, but he'll undoubtedly get plenty of minutes to develop now that the youth movement in Los Angeles is officially underway. Photo: FotoWare FotoStation/Nathaniel S. Butler
Ben Simmons, SF, Philadelphia 76ers
The top pick in this summer's draft may eventually lead these rankings, but we're not ready to hand him the crown just yet.
Simmons has size, excellent ballhandling ability and a veteran's court vision. But both his shooting and his defense are well below average. The good news is that he'll get a ton of time to develop because the front office expects him to become a cornerstone of the franchise.
Buddy Hield, SG, New Orleans Pelicans
Remember what we said about opportunity and experience? Hield has a ton of both, which is why we're ranking him so high.
A four-year college player who was known for his lights-out shooting from three-point distance, Hield joins a Pelicans team that lost its two best shooters -- Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon -- to the Rockets in free agency. New Orleans needs his production this season.
Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers went all-in on Joel Embiid when they selected him with the third overall pick in 2014, and now that he's healthy after missing his first two NBA seasons, we're ready to do the same.
Embiid is expected to be a full participant once training camp opens, and the few workout highlights we've seen have been awfully impressive. The Sixers believe they have a star in Embiid; it's time for the rest of us to finally see if that's the case. Photo: Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports