NBA Rookie Meter 6| 7-Footer Evan Mobley Would Be Getting Major Press If He Didn’t Play For Cavs

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Our weekly NBA rookie rankings keep you locked in on the rising rookies and surprising first-year phenoms across the league. The future is now, and some of these newbies will become household names in NBA circles and beyond.

Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors) 

Toronto Raptors point forward Scottie Barnes leads all rookies in points per game (15.3) and minutes per game (35.6). He’s also a defensive stalwart and has been the most consistent and impactful new jack this season. Barnes hit the hardwood demonstrating the two-way prowess that made him the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft.

On a team that’s struggled most of the season, Barnes has been the exception. Capable of guarding four positions, the budding star is also averaging 8.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists and shooting 48.9 precent from the field. A 16.8 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is solid.

Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)

If Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley were playing for a contender in a high-profile city he would be the talk of the NBA. Mobley’s swift development has been great for the young, upstart Cavs. He returned from injury this week and in blowout wins over the Mavs and Heat on the road Mobley went for a combined 30 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists.

But it was his rim protection and shot-altering that impressed. The 7-footer tallied 10 altered shots total in the two games. For the season he’s averaging 14.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.9 BPG.

Josh Giddey (OKC Thunder) 

Despite his team losing by an NBA-record 73 points this week to the Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey has played well. The Aussie is averaging 10.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 5.8 APG and a steal.

Like most of the rookies, Giddey has had some challenges shooting the ball consistently, only making 39 percent of his field goals and 26 percent from three.

He made history by becoming the third-youngest player in league history to record 100 assists and 100 rebounds in his first 20 career games, following LeBron James and LaMelo Ball.

Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons) 

The 2021 No. 1 overall pick is slowly but surely getting his legs under him. After starting the season on the injured list and struggling upon return, the 6-foot-8 do-it-all floor leader is averaging 14.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 4.6 assists. So he’s active and available, leading all rookies in three-point shots per game (7.2).

While his shooting (37.1 percent FG and 28.7 percent 3-PT) is still a work in progress, the other parts of his floor game have been great. He’s cerebral and doesn’t look overwhelmed. The Pistons drafted a cornerstone piece.

Chris Duarte (Indiana Pacers) 

Chris Duarte has provided the savvy play and deft long-range shooting that Indiana expected when it drafted the 24-year-old elder statesman of the 2021 rookie crop. What they didn’t know was how effective he was off the catch-and-shoot.

TSL’s NBA Rookie Meter 1| Chris Duarte Is Proving Why Maturity & Experience Matters In The NBA

Although his shooting has tapered off after a hot start, Duarte is doing other things to fill up the stat sheet.

Averaging 13.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 2.4 APG while shooting about 36 percent from three is solid. His overall shooting, which once hovered around 50 percent, is down to 41.8, but that’s expected for a primary jump shooter.

Honorable Mention

Jalen Green (Houston Rockets) — The No. 2 pick of the ’21 NBA draft is on a rebuilding team and taking his share of lumps. The Rockets have just five wins this season, and without Green’s 14 points per game and fearless attitude things would be worse.

Alperen Sengun (Houston Rockets) — 19-year-old center for the Houston Rockets has an offensive skill set reminiscent of fellow Turkish big man Enes Kanter Freedom.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (OKC Thunder) — The stretch four of the OKC Thunder is hitting 44 percent from deep the past five games and has seen an increase in his playing time.


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JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.