NBA Rookie Meter 12 | Cade Cunningham Is Levitating 

It’s that time again where we rank the best “frosh” in the NBA. There are a few rooks who are establishing themselves in the league with every game. 

1. Cade Cunningham — Detroit Pistons (Guard)

Cunningham started slowly this season after missing the first few weeks with an injury. Now we’re beginning to see the 2021 No. 1 overall pick show why he was thought of so highly. On Monday he had his breakout game in a Pistons win over the Utah Jazz. In the game “CC2” went for a career-high 29 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds while knocking in five of his nine three-point attempts. He also finished with a plus-22, his best showing of the season.

The budding two-way guard is averaging 15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists per night. His shooting is hovering right around 40 percent but seems to be coming around.

2. Evan Mobley — Cleveland Cavaliers (C/F)

The two-way big is still playing a huge role in the Cavaliers’ surprising season. While his offense is currently based on face-up jump shots and rolls to the rim off the pick-and-roll, his defense is elite and should garner some All-NBA defense consideration. The fundamentals he displays on that along with his 7-foot-2 length make him a tough guy to score on consistently. Offensively, you can’t speed him up and he doesn’t take bad shots. His calm is rare for a rookie, as evidenced by his maturity in his approach on both ends.

Evan Mobley this season: 14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists.

3. Scottie Barnes — Toronto Raptors (F)

Barnes is a two-way point forward capable of guarding 1-4 on defense and playing four positions on offense. He returned to action this week after being in the league’s health and safety protocols for seven days and served up two near-triple-doubles. Gems like Barnes are a huge reason why Masai Ujiri did a great job rebuilding the Raptors after losing Kawhi and trading Kyle Lowry.

Barnes’ season averages: 14.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 48 percent shooting.

4. Cameron Thomas — Brooklyn Nets (Guard)

The Nets drafted the former LSU Tiger knowing he could get buckets. What they didn’t know was that his talents extend beyond point production. Thomas flourished when called into duty as the Nets struggled to put a team on the floor amidst the COVID-19 protocols. Each time Thomas was thrust into action he showed up and showed out. He truly believes he’s the best player on the court — even with Kevin Durant, James Harden and now Kyrie Irving on the floor. That’s the type of confidence needed to play on a team with three megastars. Thomas understands that his minutes and shots will be limited. He’s taken advantage of his opportunities, hitting a game-winner this week. 

Thomas’ season averages: 7.4 points, 2.4 and 2.2 assists. But he’s been good when called upon in the “BK.”

Josh Giddey — OKC Thunder (Guard)

Each week the Aussie shows us something new. With his elite basketball IQ and passing, Giddey can also create off the bounce. He’s already a huge asset in OKC. Now the rook just needs to finish more attempts around the rim. He misses way too many bunnies. His potential is through the roof, and his blossoming play has made it so that teams can’t focus solely on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander nightly.

Giddey’s averages: 11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game.

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