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Monday, January 24, 2022

NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings: Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes Lead Race for Award at Quarter Mark of Season – Sportliva

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We’ve reached the quarter mark of the 2021-22 NBA season, so it’s a good time to assess the rookie landscape and see who the top five players are in the battle for Rookie of the Year. The 2021 draft class is loaded with talent, as seen by the team’s performance through the first 20 games of the season. It demonstrates that this draft class was considerably more diverse than simply the top four or five selections; second-round picks like Ayo Dosunmu, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Herb Jones have all made an impact on their respective clubs.

Though our Rookie of the Year ranking will concentrate on the top five players for the time being, there are a few more that were just missing out on the top five and deserve to be recognized. Chris Duarte, a rookie with the Indiana Pacers, is one of them. The former Oregon guard has gotten off to a fast start in the NBA, with a 27-point debut to open the season. With every no-look pass, Sacramento Kings defensive stalwart Davion Mitchell is proving to be one of the most interesting rookies, while Houston Rockets big man Alperen Sengun is showing to be one of the most intriguing rookies.

Moving on to the top five rookies in the NBA so far, these players have stood out among their peers during the first quarter of the season, and they seem to be in contention for Rookie of the Year at the conclusion of the year.

5. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Cunningham has had a difficult time as the No. 1 overall choice. With an ankle strain, he missed the first four games of the season, and his scoring and shooting efficiency were erratic during the first 20 games. There’s a reason he was compared to All-Star guard Luka Doncic when he first entered the league. Cunningham has the capacity to have an influence on the game in ways other than scoring, which he has been doing while attempting to improve his scoring consistency.

Cade Cunningham: How did the No. 1 overall pick play in his Pistons debut?  | Sportingnews

By attracting opponents and misdirecting them to create wide passing lanes and openings for teammates, he creates chances for them.

According to Cleaning The Glass, his assist percentage among wing players is in the 98th percentile, and his 6.5 rebounds rank fourth among rookies. Though he still has space to develop on defense, he’s already shown signs of becoming a capable defender, both on the ball and in the passing lanes off it.

Cunningham’s game also has a clutch component, which has been praised since his high school days. He’s already shown that ability with the Pistons this season, hitting clutch 3-pointers against the Nets and Rockets to tie or take the lead in the last five minutes of games. This season, he is second among rookies in clutch points (13), demonstrating that he can be the person Detroit turns to when the game is on the line.

Cunningham didn’t have the best start to his rookie season, which was to be anticipated for a guy who missed training camp, preseason, and the first four games, but he’s coming into shape and looking like the player many expected him to be as the No. 1 overall choice.

4. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Here’s a fun fact to demonstrate how unique Giddey has been so far: In his first 20 games, he’s just the third youngster in NBA history to have 100 assists and 100 rebounds. What about the other two items on the list? LaMelo Ball and LeBron James. For the young Australian guard, it’s not bad company. That achievement also demonstrates Giddey’s flexibility in the game, as he can accomplish a little bit of everything.

Josh Giddey: Running diary of Thunder rookie's best moments, stats,  highlights | Sportingnews

On any given night, if you tune on an Oklahoma City Thunder game, you may see him fling passes to his teammates:

Giddey’s presence in the backcourt has shown tremendous potential, providing Oklahoma City with two highly good playmakers in the starting lineup who can not only create for themselves but also put their teammates in the best position to win. He has the most assists per game among rookies, and that number would almost certainly be greater if his teammates made more shots, since he is in the top 20 in the league in potential assists (11.4). According to Cleaning the Glass, the guard’s 31.2 assist percentage is tops in the NBA among wing players. Giddey’s style is notable not just for his dazzling passes, but also for the clever, well-placed passes he makes to teammates who can collect and shoot the ball right away.

Though Giddey’s passing is his strongest asset, he’s already shown this season that it’s not unrealistic to expect him to average triple-doubles throughout his career. He’s aggressive when it comes to storming the boards, and he’s demonstrated he can take opponents off the dribble and get to the basket, where he’s hitting over 54% of his attempts.

Giddey’s efficiency has been his greatest flaw so far, with him hitting on only 27.7% of his three-point attempts and shooting just 40% from the field. However, as he gets his bearings in the league in his rookie season, that efficiency is anticipated to fluctuate. Apart from that, he’s been one of the best rookies of the year so far, and it wouldn’t be unexpected to see him climb this list much higher if he started putting up better statistics.

3. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

Wagner has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the rookie class so far, as he has swiftly established himself as a player that Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley consistently trusts to defend the other team’s greatest player. When the Orlando Magic met the Brooklyn Nets, Wagner was given the responsibility of protecting Kevin Durant and James Harden. In that game, Wagner pushed Durant into five mistakes and ended with five thefts, demonstrating his ability as a tenacious on-ball defender.

Michigan's Franz Wagner Declares for 2021 NBA Draft; Projected Lottery Pick  | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

For the Magic, his superb instincts as a defender are showing through, as he comes away with thefts and disrupts the other team by constantly attempting to deflect or swipe the ball away. On offense, Mosley’s flexibility shines through in his ability to play any position he wants and shapeshift his role in the process. He can play catch-and-shoot, and in that role, he makes roughly 40% of his 3-point attempts. He can also play pick-and-roll to get to the basket, where he shoots 52 percent in the restricted area. Wagner has also shown to be a great cutter in the league, averaging 1.556 points per possession.

The most remarkable components of Wagner’s game during the first quarter of the season have been his ability to know when to cut, how to cut at the ideal angles if he’s out on the wing, and, most crucially, converting on shots when he’s greeted with resistance at the rim. On a nightly level, he may not have the most eye-catching stats, but he’s proven to be Orlando’s best rookie so far and a key component for the team’s future.

2. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

There’s a lot to appreciate about Barnes’ game, and he’s proving the Toronto Raptors right in selecting him with the No. 4 selection, which was a contentious decision at the time. Barnes, on the other hand, has shown a lot of key traits for the Raptors in the first quarter of the season. His abilities enable him to guard all five spots on the court, take a defender off the dribble, and be a threat in transition, and his physical attributes allow him to take tremendous leaps to the basket and cover an ocean’s worth of ground in just a few feet.

Scottie Barnes' Draft Scouting Report: Pro Comparison, Updated Raptors  Roster | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Barnes isn’t going to blow you away with a barrage of three-pointers or put a team to sleep with his deft moves, but he will go to his spots in the paint and punish you regularly near the basket, where he makes 63 percent of his attempts. Then there’s Barnes’ relentless offensive rebounding, where he ranks 11th in the NBA with 3.1 offensive rebounds per game. Deandre Ayton, Anthony Davis, and Rudy Gobert are all ahead of him. The Raptors are third in the NBA in second-chance points because of Barnes’ ballhawk tendencies on the offensive boards (15.7 per game).

Barnes has been even more remarkable on defense, as his frantic intensity annoys opposing teams. He has 2.8 deflections per game, which puts him in the top 20 in the league, and he can create problems for any kind of player, from guards to big guys. He’s constantly on the lookout for a theft or enough disruption to knock the other team off their game. Barnes has had one of the greatest starts among his rookie class so far, and if he keeps producing and developing, he has a decent chance of winning Rookie of the Year by the conclusion of the season. So far, the following man on this list has been his fiercest competitor.

1. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Despite missing four games due to an injured elbow, Mobley has been the most influential rookie on the defensive side of the ball thus far this season. Mobley is fourth in the NBA in defensive field goal attempts per game, ahead of superstars Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He also has a superior guarded field goal percentage than Antetokounmpo and Davis, at 43.7 percent. Those are really unbelievable figures, and the metrics match up with the eye test when you see him play.

Evan Mobley is Cleveland Cavaliers' most transformative player since LeBron  James | NBA News | Sky Sports

Mobley has shown throughout the course of the season that he can move out on the wing and defend lesser players and that his length allows him to have an influence on shots:

It’s almost unbelievable that Mobley can move so fluidly on defense, particularly when he’s defending lesser wing players. That’s not typical for a guy his stature, and it’s almost unheard of for a rookie. His defensive influence on the Cavaliers has been noticeable, with Cleveland allowing 8.8 less points when he’s on the court than when he’s not. According to CTG, the number is in the 87th percentile among big men in the league. When Mobley had that elbow injury, the Cavs went 0-4 without him, demonstrating how crucial he is on both sides of the court.

Though Mobley’s offense hasn’t received the same kind of attention as his defense so far, he’s been as brilliant on the offensive end. One of the biggest highlights of his offensive game came against the New York Knicks, when he smacked Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson for a career-high 26 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block each. On many instances that night, Mobley easily tossed both bigs, including a turnaround floater over Noel in the paint:

To begin the season, Mobley has been better than expected, and he’ll only get better as his rookie season progresses. With a quarter of the season under his belt, he’s established himself as the guy to beat for Rookie of the Year honours, but there are a few players chasing him down.

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