NBA Rookies Who Finished The Regular Season Strong

These unheralded rookies were liberated from the bench, flashed superstar potential in the last game of the NBA regular season.

The final game of the NBA regular season saw some fantastic performances, including Dirk Nowitzki’s departing double-double and Dwyane Wade’s triple-double to go. As those future Hall of Famers faded into the background, there were some notable breakout performances by several rookies who have gone under the radar, but could blossom into stars next season.

Grayson Allen, Utah Jazz

The player Shadow League writer Ricardo Hazell once called, “white privilege in a basketball uniform” is now earning his stripes. On Wednesday night the former Duke star proved that his bite is equal to his well-documented and controversial bark.

With the Jazz resting stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert as they prepare for a formidable first-round matchup with Houston, Allen got the start against the Los Angeles Clippers.

All he did was drop 40 and put everyone on notice for the 2019-20 season. Allen’s previous high was 23 points against the Sacramento Kings last week.

Allen spent some time in the G League earlier this season. It wasn’t where the former All-American wanted to be but he earned his PT and averaged 22.8 minutes per contest for The Jazz in April. Allen played just 38 games in his rookie season, but gave the fans a glimpse of his potential over his last five games. 

Allen could be an X-factor for Utah in the playoffs.


Anfernee Simons, Portland Trailblazers

Anfernee Simons came into the NBA as a 19-year-old who skipped college. The Portland Trail Blazers shocked the league when they selected him with the 24th overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Analysts said Portland was rolling the dice.

“I feel like once they see me play, they will know it wasn’t a wasted pick,” Simons said after the draft. He definitely showed the skills to pay the bills on Wednesday night.

Sitting behind Lillard and C.J. McCollum — one of the best backcourts in the NBA– didn’t stifle Simmons’ progression, He only played in 20 games this season, but his last game was his best one. The young bull got to start and with one historic performance, he made his entire high-priced backcourt expendable.

Skal Labissiere, Portland Trailblazers

Skal didn’t start a game this season until the 6-foot-11 Haitian sensation got 41 minutes to strut his stuff in Game 82. He basically killed the audition. 

Jevon Carter, Memphis Grizzlies

Some doubters questioned Carter’s offensive abilities coming out of West Virginia where he was the leader and defensive pitbull for Bob Huggins’ squad. Carter was a first-round talent in college but dropped to the second round of the NBA Draft. We had him listed as one of our Top 3 NBA Draft sleepers.

Carter didn’t play more than 15 minutes per game for the Memphis Grizzlies this season, but he got to flex his offensive polish in Game 82. The rookie guard scored a career-high 32 points in 26 minutes, stroking 8-of-12 treys.

All of these rookies took advantage of playing time. Sure, it’s important to mention that defense wasn’t a premium on the last game of the season, but you can’t pick your opponent and potential star quality will shine in any situation. Look for these guys to be pursued in trades this offseason or move into more prominent roles on their squads next season.

Back to top