It’s that time again, to acknowledge the NBA rookies who are moving the needle and playing significant roles for their teams. In the case of No. 1 overall pick Cade Cuningham, the cream is rising to the top.
1. Cade Cunningham — Detroit Pistons (guard)
The 2021 No. 1 overall pick continues his ascension into Rookie of the Year consideration. Cunningham was named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month after averaging 17.3 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.5 rebounds last month. His shooting improved as well in January, as the 6-foot-8 two-way guard shot 44 percent from the field, 37 percent from three and 87 percent from the charity stripe.
Head coach Dwane Casey marvels at his prized rookie.
“He’s a gamer, the moment not too big for him, and if he makes a mistake, it’s an honest mistake. It’s never been him being afraid of the moment. Some guys ‘have it,’ and he has it when it comes to the big moments. Does he still have a lot to learn fundamentally about the NBA? Yes, but once he gets that down, he’ll still have it.”
2. Josh Giddey — OKC Thunder (guard)
Giddey was recently named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the third consecutive month, averaging 13.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 6.1 assists, with a shooting slash line of 45/30/79 from the field, three and free throw line.
His floor vision and on-court leadership are two things that stand out about the 6-foot-8 Aussie. As his shooting continues to improve so will his overall floor game. Giddey is a future All-Star and assists leader in the NBA.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) February 5, 2022
3. Evan Mobley — Cleveland Cavaliers (forward/center)
The Cavs two-way big continues his stellar play, which has him as the favorite to win ROY and is garnering him acclaim from some future Hall of Famers. Cavs veteran guard Rajon Rondo called Mobley possibly the the most talented rookie he’s ever played with.
Mobley, a 20-year-old with just one year of college basketball under his belt, is a rare blend of length, quickness, IQ, fluidity and savvy. No rookie has affected winning more than Mobley this season. Cavs are 32-21 and third in the East. Mobley posted his career high of 29 points in a win over the Rockets earlier in the week.
The rook is sticking around for #NBAAllStar Weekend! 🌟
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 2, 2022
4. Jonathan Kuminga — Golden State (forward)
After struggling to get playing time on a talented Warriors roster, the athletic Kuminga has been tremendous with Draymond Green out. Over the last 14 games, Kuminga has averaged 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds on 58 percent shooting.
This week he posted a big 15-point fourth quarter in a come-from-behind win that saw the team erase a 17-point deficit heading into the final stanza. What’s more impressive is he did it on the road against the Spurs and without Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Green and Andrew Wiggins. Warriors better not trade this future star.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 4, 2022
5. Franz Wagner — Orlando Magic (guard)
After struggling for a couple weeks, Wagner is back to his early season offensive production. Overall, the “German Merlin From Berlin” has scored in 32 of his last 35 games, while averaging 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 49 percent shooting over that span. Wagner picked it up even more this past week, averaging 20.3 points, and a scorching-hot 46 percent from three. The Magic are in tank mode, but Wagner is making a name in the NBA.
Franz Wagner last night:
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) February 3, 2022
Herbert Jones (New Orleans Pelicans)
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