Atlanta Hawks: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Season Stats: 14.5p/2.8r/2.3a
When the Atlanta Hawks traded for Tim Hardaway, it was a highly-criticized move as the ex-Knick was coming off his worst season yet, shooting just 38.9% from the field. While the number isn’t awful, the reason he was drafted was solely because of his shooting ability.
To make matters even worse for the guy, his first season in Atlanta turned out even worse than his performance with the Knicks the previous season. Surprisingly though, he returned to his old form, becoming a huge part of this Hawks team. Hardaway placed third in points per game on the team, while at the same time boosting the Hawks’ offense. Nobody could’ve seen this coming when the season first started.
Brooklyn Nets: Sean Kilpatrick
Season Stats: 13.1p/4.0r/2.2a
Nets guard, Sean Kilpatrick, has been called an underdog his entire career. After not hearing his name called on draft night and after a few unsuccessful stints around the league, many thought it was safe to say Sean wouldn’t be anything in this league.
Sean proved most people wrong after this season. During the season, he was able to produce some of his best numbers yet while earning a huge jump in efficiency from years before.
Dallas Mavericks: Yogi Ferrell
Season Stats: 11.3p/2.8r/3.7a (On Mavericks)
Unlike most undrafted rookies, Yogi Ferrell proved he belonged in the NBA. After being released by both the Nets and the Raptors, the Mavericks saw a perfect opportunity and signed him. At the time of the signing, the Mavericks were in desperate need of point guard as both Deron Williams and J.J Barea were injured. This caused Ferrell to finally get a real chance, and there he showed he was worthy of being an NBA player. As an undrafted rookie, he erupted as he was the fourth highest in points per game in this rookie class. It is very unexpected that an undrafted rookie would be above 48 other players in points per game.
Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic
Season Stats: 16.7p/9.8r/4.9a
Before becoming a rising star and a fan favorite by many this season, Jokic was relatively unknown. This was mainly due to him being overshadowed by the other rookies in the class. Jokic was picked in the 2014 draft, with the 41st overall selection. Unlike most second rounders, he overcame the label and was able to put up crazy numbers. This was enough for him to become a finalist for the most improved player award.
Miami Heat: Dion Waiters
Season Stats: 15.8p/3.3r/4.3a
When the Miami Heat signed Dion Waiters last off-season, many were wary of the move as many expected much more from the fourth overall pick. As the year went on, it looked like his performance was declining, but really it was due to the way each coach was playing him.
Waiters showed this season that to contribute, he needs to create his own shot and to be trusted. Not only did he post a career high in rebounds and assists, but also achieved a heroic status, making multiple clutch shots and most notably a buzzer beater against the Golden State Warriors. Waiters proved all skeptics wrong this season as he helped lead the 30-11 surge.
Milwaukee Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon
Season Stats: 10.2p/2.8r/4.2a
Despite being in one of the weakest draft classes ever, Brogdon slipped into the second round. Coming into the draft, he was highly doubted not because of his abilities, but because of his age. After the draft, teams realized his age really was an advantage because he was NBA-ready unlike most of the players in the draft.
Malcolm was able to do everything from guarding all-stars to shooting over 40% from behind the arc. People no longer label him as a second rounder, but now as a rookie of the year candidate. If Brogdon wins, he will become the lowest drafted player ever to win the award.
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid
Season Stats: 20.2/7.8r/2.1a
Embiid was drafted in 2014, but suffered multiple ailments which kept him out until this season. The last everyone saw of him playing was in college, and not everyone was sure if he could perform at the same level that he did at Kansas. Embiid had an amazing season, but it sadly came to a quick end only playing 31 games. Obviously though, “The Process” did much more than expected.