It’s Week 2 of our NBA rookie rankings and while Orlando Magic frosh and 2022 No.1 overall pick Paolo Banchero could have been at the top again this week, we went another route. The Pacers have a budding two-way star who’s going to make a lot of noise in the league for years to come.
- Bennedict Mathurin – Indiana Pacers, G/F
The former Arizona Wildcats star has always displayed a grit and toughness that teams love. Not only does Mathurin provide that for the Indiana Pacers, but he also brings a high level of skill to the hardwood. Blessed with elite-level athleticism which allows him to guard multiple positions, there’s belief that Mathurin could be All-NBA defense and All-NBA at some point in his career. Last week he broke the franchise record for points scored in a game by a rookie off the bench with 32. He also went 6-of-9 from three while also guarding superstar Kevin Durant.
Following the game, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle had this to say about his prized frosh.
“He has tools that really nobody else on our team has and that’s exciting.”
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 30, 2022
2. Paolo Banchero – Orlando Magic, F
Banchero has been the NBA’s best rookie through nine games this season and on Thursday night in a come-from-behind win over the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the former Duke Blue Devils star tallied 22 points, 8 rebounds and three assists. That’s right around his averages of 21.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 3.6 apg.
In his first six games as a pro, Banchero went for at least 20 points each time out. The Magic are in rebuild mode, but Banchero is definitely the centerpiece of that rebuild, he has all the tools and he’s going to get his shots.
Paolo Banchero’s first six NBA games:
27 pts, 9 reb, 5 ast, 2 blk
20 pts, 12 reb, 3 blk
23 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast
21 pts, 4 reb, 2 stl
29 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast, 2 blk
21 pts, 12 reb, 7 ast
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) October 29, 2022
Of all the rookies Murray looks to be the most cerebral and even keeled. Never in a rush, the 6-foot-9 sweet shooting prospect by way of Iowa has been great for the Sacramento Kings. His versatility has allowed head coach Mike Brown to mix-and-match lineups because of Murray’s range shooting and willingness to rebound and defend.
The Kings currently have the longest playoff drought in the NBA, having not made the postseason since 2006. While that may not change this season, they do have a very nice trio to build around in guard DeAaron Fox, center Domantas Sabonis and Murray.
— NBA (@NBA) October 30, 2022
4. Jaden Ivey – Detroit Pistons, G
Ivey has formed a lethal duo alongside 2021 No.1 overall pick Cade Cunningham. Because of Cade’s unselfishness, Ivey’s able to run the floor and use the elite athleticism that made him such a unique prospect while at Purdue. But Ivey isn’t just using his leaping ability and quick crossovers. He’s showing he’s got more substance to his game and that uplifts the spirits of the “Motor City” fans who have been suffering for too long.
Ivey has been great around the rim, making over 70 percent of his attempts. As he develops a more consistent jump shot, he’ll become an even more difficult cover.
Pistons head coach Dwayne Casey wants his young star to learn speeds.
“You can’t go 100 miles per hour if there’s traffic. You gotta understand when to slow down and speed up, and he’ll learn that.”
5. Jabari Smith Jr – Houston Rockets, F
Smith is the best two-way player in the rookie class. He takes pride on the defensive end and it shows in how he competes. Smith also became the only rookie to have at least 90 points, 50 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots in his first eight career games. Smith knocked in 17 threes during that timeframe. The Rockets are very green. Houston has nine players who are 21 or younger, and Smith arguably has the most upside.