TSL Top 5 NBA Rookies 2023 | This Rookie Crop Isn’t All About Paolo Banchero

Top 5 NBA 2023 Rookie of the year
(Getty Images)

We’re at the halfway point in the NBA season, and we’re seeing impressive play from some first year players. Most of them are playing for teams that aren’t winning or playoff bound, but they’re competing for the covetedRookie of the Year award.

Who is leading the way so far?

No. 5. Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz

One of only two rookies in this class with an overall positive EPM at +0.7. He’s only playing 18 minutes per game. But he’s being impactful with the minutes he’s been given.

He’s already an above average rebounder and can finish around the rim.

No. 4. Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets

The Rockets are terrible but Smith Jr. looks like a piece the team can build around with Jalen Green and Tari Eason. At 6 feet 10, 220 pounds, he’s got the physique to hold up over an 82-game season and then some.

No. 3. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers

As a rookie Mathurin is also in the running for Sixth Man of the Year on a team that is surprisingly in the playoff mix. He can score at a high level already, though he has much to learn about all the other aspects of the game.

He’s averaging 17 points per game while connecting on 34 percent of his threes. The Pacers are 10-6 when he scores 18 or more, 8-11 otherwise. Overall, he ranks first among reserves with 580 points — 130 more than the Sacramento Kings’ Malik Monk — and leads all bench players with 5.6 free throw attempts per game.

No. 2. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings 

Fresh off being named Rookie of the Month in December, Murray has been on a tear since his return from injury. He averaged almost 13 points per game in December while connecting on 46 percent from deep. Overall on the season he’s shooting 38 percent from three.

He scored a season-high 23 points against the Los Angeles Lakers connecting on 6-12 from three.

No. 1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Banchero is averaging 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists per game. He and Walker Kessler are the only rookies with positive overall EPM. Banchero’s +0.5 number is even more impressive considering he’s a starter and averages 34 minutes per game.

At 20 he’s barely scratching the surface of what he can be, but he’s hungry to be the best version of himself and is willing to put in the work.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of work,” Banchero told The Athletic. “Whatever I can do to get extra shots, extra work, working on my legs, balance and shot … every shot I take, I’m really confident, and I’m just letting the game come to me. Not trying to force, not trying to press or reach a certain statistical milestone. I’m just trying to go out there and win, and I think that’s been paying off.”

He is the overwhelming favorite to take home top rookie honors, as he’s leading in most offensive categories. Las Vegas has his odds at -650, the next closest player is Mathurin at +600.