NBA Rookie Meter 16 | Kings Went All In On Davion Mitchell, Making Buddy Hield, Tyler Haliburton Expendable

NBA Rookie Meter edition 16 showcasing the next level rookies of the NBA.

1. Davion Mitchell — Sacramento Kings (Guard)

Known for his lockdown defense coming out of Baylor, the cat-quick Mitchell has quickly turned his nickname of “Off Night,” on the defensive end to “On Night” on the offensive end.

The rookie guard just had the best week of his first season, averaging 20.3 points, 4.3 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.

His increase in production is a direct result of increased playing time with the Kings trading guards Buddy Hield and Tyrese Halliburton to the Pacers for talented big man Domantas Sabonis.

Mitchell’s shooting is still a work in progress, as he’s currently only hitting at a 32 percent clip from three. But his rim attacks have resulted in a very-high 61 percent clip. Great strength and a solid frame make it easier for him to finish over bigs.

Kings fans will get to see him and De’Aaron Fox together more. He had his career-high of 26 points, eight assists against the Warriors.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor had this to say about Mitchell:

“Excellent defender who sets the tone with his high intensity, focus and hustle. He’ll sprint for chase-down blocks and dive for loose balls. High-IQ off-ball defender who is always in the right position, makes smart rotations, and closes out quickly on shooters.”

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

The Rookie of the Year favorite continues to impress on a Cavs team that sits at 34-21 and tied with the Bulls for second in the East. Still displaying his elite two-way ability, Mobley has helped anchor one of the league’s stingiest defenses, as the Cavs trail only the Warriors in games holding opponents under 100 points this season.

He also has a face-up game that complements point guards Darius Garland and Rajon Rondo in the pick-and-roll game. Last week, Mobley averaged 13.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. As long as he stays on this trajectory the ROY is his to lose.

Mobley is averaging 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game this season. He’d lead the league in altered shots if they kept that stat.

3. Scottie Barnes — Toronto Raptors (Forward)

After a few weeks of spotty minutes and games missed due to COVID-19, Barnes looks like the two-way wing that was soaring earlier in the season. With the Raptors now back at full strength with Pascal Siakim and OG Anunoby healthy, head coach Nick Nurse had to mix and match his lineups to see what stuck.

He’s settled on Barnes, Siakim, OG, VanVleet and Trent Jr., as a closing unit and as a scoring unit. That also happens to be one of their better defensive units as well, with the versatility of SB, PS and OG in the front court. That change has helped Barnes who averaged 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

For the season the former Seminole is averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

4. Josh Giddey— OKC Thunder (Guard)

Fresh off being named Western Conference Rookie of the Month, Giddey played to his usual high level. This past week the talented Aussie averaged 17.5 points, 7.3 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game. His play has been vital with running mate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander currently on the shelf.

Giddey has gradually gotten better each month. Now if could just shore up that shooting, he’d be an even tougher matchup for opposing players. One of the most cerebral young players in the league and a future star in OKC.

5. Jonathan Kuminga — Golden State Warriors (Forward)

On a loaded Warriors squad, finding minutes for rookie Jonathan Kuminga was tough earlier this season. But when he did touch the floor he showed the elite athleticism and defensive capabilities that made him the No.7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft.

Kuminga’s impact has been widespread since he has received more playing time with the injury to Draymond Green. With averages of 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, JK’s production has been a welcome sight as the Dubs try to shore up their lineup for their after-All-Star break push.

Kuminga had to say following a win over the Kings:

“I feel like I’m getting better. Because at the beginning of the season, it was just too much thrown at me at the same time. Pin down, cut and go to the basket. It was just kinda too much, but now it’s getting a little easier. I still haven’t gotten everything yet, but I feel like I’m doing good for the most part.”

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