It’s that time where The Shadow League offers our weekly ranking of the top rookies around the association. A few youngsters have clearly distinguished themselves and after last night’s battle between No. 1 overall Cade Cunningham and No. 2 Jalen Green, the future is bright for the NBA.
These particular two youngsters aren’t even the best of the rookie crop through three weeks. Some less-heralded ballers have emerged as instant impact players for upstart clubs.
Evan Mobley — Cleveland Cavaliers (15.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
Don’t look now but the Cleveland Cavaliers are (7-4) and the play of rookie big man Evan Mobley is a huge reason why. With averages of 15 points, eight rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, Mobley’s ability to alter shots is a skill in his repertoire most scouts didn’t highlight. The Cavs are a young and entertaining team with players like Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, Isaac Okoro, Mobley, and the recently injured Collin Sexton. The future has a real bright outlook in “Believeland.”
Scottie Barnes — Toronto Raptors (17 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
Scottie Barnes has been unbelievable for the Raptors. He leads all rookies in scoring and rebounding. May were surprised when Toronto took him No. 4 overall, but they knew they wanted a point-forward type, and he’s just that. His skill set coupled with his size and athleticism make him a real candidate for ROY.
Last week he guarded KD, and the NBA’s leading scorer had this to say:
“You’ve got a lot of guys who love to compete and love to win, but what’s more rare about Scottie Barnes is his IQ for the game, his length, his enthusiasm for the game.
“All that shines bright when you watch him play. You can tell he just wants to just be there for his teammates, he makes winning basketball plays.”
Chris Duarte — Indiana Pacers (15.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 three-pointers per)
Chris Duarte is a knock-down shooter as evidenced by his three-point production (40.8 percent). The Indiana Pacers may have struck gold in drafting the 24-year-old rookie. Duarte is second in rookie scoring and has fit right in with Malcolm Brogdon in the Pacers’ backcourt. An underrated aspect of his game is ability to make plays for others. Not bad for a guy they labeled as too old and catch-and-shoot only.
Josh Giddey — OKC (9.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 6.2 assists per)
The OKC Thunder won’t win many games this season, but SG/SF Josh Giddey will flash often, as he has already. With nightly averages that show triple-double potential, he is a solid sidekick to star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. His ability to score as well as distribute played a huge role in his being selected so high in the draft.
Expect him to be around for a while in OKC as the team rebuilds with a ton of draft capital at its disposal.
Franz Wagner — Orlando Magic (13.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
The Orlando Magic are terrible, but they have some quality young talent on the roster in Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac and Franz Wagner. Wagner gives the Magic a big guard/forward who can initiate the offense and get his offense as well. He’s a core piece in Orlando, and the sky is the limit as his long-distance dialing improves.
Jalen Green (Rockets) — The athletic specimen has had some moments and excelled in a matchup with No. 1 overall Cade Cunningham, scoting 23 points on Wednesday night. The rookie is averaging 14.5 points per game and did have a 30-piece with 8 threes earlier this season. He’ll be unstoppable once he understands the NBA isn’t all one-on-one.
Jalen Suggs (Magic) — They’re terrible but he’s averaging 11.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in about 28.5 minutes per game. Kid has tremendous upside, and fans can just hope he gets to reach that potential at the “Magic Kingdom.”
Davion Mitchell (Kings) — Better known as “Off Night” for his defensive prowess, but Mitchell has shown a knack for putting the ball in the hole. Averaging 10 points, four rebounds and nearly four assists per game is solid. But it’s his quickness, playmaking, ball pressure and quick hands that have the Kings looking to move Buddy Hield.