NBA Rookie Meter 7, All-Star Break Edition | Magic Forward Paolo Banchero Should’ve Been Added To Sunday’s Squads In Utah

The NBA season is just about 60 games in, and with the All-Star Game and break set for Salt Lake City this weekend, we thought it’d be fun to rank the rookies thus far this season. 

While there have been many rookies who have shined this season, these five have been the best three-fourths of the way through the season. 

1. Paolo Banchero — Orlando Magic 

The 2022 No. 1 overall pick has exceeded expectations. This season Banchero has shined leading a rebuilding Magic. The former Duke Blue Devils star is averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and nearly four assists per game. While Banchero’s play hasn’t led to many wins, the Magic are still much better than expected at 24-35 with two wins over last year’s NBA Finals representatives, the Celtics and Warriors. 

Paolo Banchero NBA Rookie Meter. All-Star snub.
Orlando Magic rookie Paolo Banchero deserves to be an All-Star. (Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Banchero’s numbers and play scream All-Star, and although he was snubbed, he will participate in the Rising Stars game on Friday night. This marks the second consecutive year the Magic nailed their first-round pick after drafting former Michigan swingman Franz Wagner in 2021. 

2. Bennedict Mathurin — Indiana Pacers

Looking back at the 2022 NBA draft, Mathurin should’ve been much higher on draft boards. The former Arizona Wildcats star has easily been the second-best rookie up to this point. The dynamic two-way wing has been so good off the bench that he was even being mentioned in the Sixth Man of the Year race. While he probably won’t win either award, he’s firmly made himself a key cog of the Pacers going forward. 

This season Mathurin is averaging 17 points, four rebounds and two assists per game. He’s also been showing the defensive versatility that’s so vital in today’s era of pace and space. 

3. Jalen Williams — OKC Thunder

Williams has had an ascension into the top five of our list. The former Santa Clara star was perceived as too raw and in need of much more time to develop in comparison to the players chosen ahead of him. Fast-forward to this season, and Williams has started 40 of the Thunder’s 53 games he’s been available for. What has made Williams such a quality find is his all-around skill set on both ends. He looks to be a real piece for a steadily rising OKC team with young star guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. 

Williams is averaging 12 points, four rebounds and nearly three assists per game, on 50 percent shooting. 

4. Walker Kessler — Utah Jazz

When the Utah Jazz drafted the supremely talented Kessler, they believed he could give them what they lost on the defensive end with Rudy Gobert’s departure to Minnesota. Surprisingly, it’s Kessler’s underrated offensive skill set that had team brass enamored with the former Auburn Tigers star. Kessler hasn’t disappointed for a surprising Jazz team right in the thick of the playoff race. 

For his efforts Kessler will represent the hometown Jazz in the Rising Stars challenge during NBA All-Star Skills Challenge tonight. When the announcement was made Kessler, told reporters this:

“Yeah, I feel good. “I’m just thankful — super-thankful to my teammates and coaching staff, I wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”

5. Jalen Duren — Detroit Pistons

The former Memphis Tigers star has shown all season why he was so coveted coming out of high school. While he’s been in the shadow of fellow rookie teammate Jaden Ivey all season, Duren has now moved into the top five of our rookie rankings. In the process he knocked Ivey into the next tier. 

Duren recently posted his first 30-point, 15-rebound game, joining LeBron James as one of the youngest players to accomplish the feat. Although he was expected to play in the Rising Stars challenge, Duren will sit out to rest his nagging ankle injury. 

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