NBA Rookie Meter 7| Cade Cunningham Is Doing No. 1 Draft Pick Things In Detroit

(Photo: Screenshot/Youtube)

Our weekly NBA Rookie Meter returns as we highlight the best rookies of the past week. Not much has changed. The top rooks are still holding steady.

Cade Cunningham,ย guard (Detroit Pistons)

The 2021 No. 1 overall pick is continuing to get more acclimated to the league after missing the start of the season. His cerebral play coupled with his desire to defend is infectious, as the Pistons have played better on that end of the floor since his arrival.

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Cunningham, who leads all rooks in scoring (15.2 ppg), is a difference-maker. The rookie has a streak of five games scoring at least 15 points, dating back to Nov. 28 against the Lakers. The Pistons have lost 10 in a row, but they have played hard-nosed, suffering some heartbreaks like the 119-116 OT loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Vets respect the 6-foot-8 rookie:

Scottie Barnesย (guard/forward) Toronto Raptors

Each week this season it has been Barnes versus Mobley for the top spot. โ€œSB4โ€ has been great across the board in just about every statistical category. A two-way player, Barnes leads all rookies in points scored, minutes played, field goals made, field goal percentage, and rebounds. His play has been reminiscent of what we saw from him at Montverde Academy and Florida State.

Outside of leading rookies in those categories Barnes also ranks high in three-point percentage (5th), third in steals, third in blocks and fifth in assists. He’s what they call a “Swiss Army Knife.” Naysayers are no longer questioning โ€œWe The Northโ€ drafting Barnes over the pick most believed theyโ€™d make in Jalen Suggs.

Evan Mobley,ย center (Cleveland Cavaliers)

The smooth, slender 7n-footer from USC has been a gem for the Cleveland Cavaliers. His two-way ability has been on full display, but itโ€™s his shot-altering and ability to switch onto guards that has surprised scouts.

Mobley’s growth was acknowledged with the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November. Cleveland’s franchise cornerstone ranks third in points per game, leads in total rebound per game (8.2) and is first in double-doubles.

Josh Giddey, guard (OKC Thunder)

The young Aussie has gradually gotten better each week. While his shooting is still a work in progress, the other facets of his game have been solid. His court vision is elite, as evidenced by his 116 assists this season. No other rookie has crossed the 100 assists plateau. Giddey is top 20 in the NBA in assists. For his efforts the 6-foot-9 point guard was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November.

More highlights of Giddey:

Franz Wagner, forward/guard (Orlando Magic)

The Orlando Magic are terrible, but Wagner and fellow rookie Jalen Suggs have shown some real promise. Wagner’s impact has jumped off the screen and his best attribute seems too be a poise beyond his years. Heโ€™s unflappable and has a flair for the dramatic.

A unique combination of size, shooting and ball-handling, the Magic have themselves a real chess piece in this era of position-less basketball. Heโ€™s one of four rookies to score 300 points this season, joining Barnes, Mobley and Chris Duarte.

Chris Duarte,ย guard (Indiana Pacers)

Speaking of Duarte, when the Pacers drafted the 24-year-old they knew about his marksmanship from deep. But his overall floor game is a lot more polished than most expected. His shooting has opened up the floor for forward Domantas Sabonis and center Myles Turner. He and Malcolm Brogdon have the potential to be one of the NBA’s best backcourts for a long time.

The rookie season is grueling and, in many cases, a battle of attrition. Stay tuned for next week’s list as top rookies Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs try to make their way back from injuries.


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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.