The Shadow League brings you another year of ranking the progress of the 2021 NBA rookie class each week. Stay up on the NBA’s best and worst rookies right here.
1. Evan Mobley (Center, Cleveland Cavaliers)
Cleveland Cavaliers center Evan Mobley has played well for the very young Cavs. A rim-running big that’s capable of switching onto guards and forwards on the perimeter, really adds to his high value. He’s having the season that experts expected from Golden State big man James Wiseman last season.
Through four games, @evanmobley is averaging 14.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 BPG and 1.3 SPG. He also leads the entire league with 72 contested shots.
Not bad, Rook 👀 pic.twitter.com/AktvEcRaXl
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) October 27, 2021
If Collin Sexton and the other guards keep Mobley involved, he’ll continue to score at this clip with regularity.
2. Jalen Green (Shooting guard, Houston Rockets)
Houston Rockets top pick Jalen Green tied the rookie mark for threes (8) in a game by a teenager in a 30-point outing against the Celtics. Green has shown flashes of his ability, but he’s been a tad bit inconsistent. The young gun is averaging 16/4/4 on the slash line with 3 triples made per game. Expect that to increase as head coach Stephen Silas begins to open up his offense more and allows greater freedom for his prized rookie.
3. Chris Duarte (Shooting guard, Indiana Pacers)
Chris Duarte is the elder (24) statesman of this draft class, and he’s showing why it’s OK to stay in school a little longer. Get some seasoning to make sure you are ready to cook from Day 1.
Chris Duarte put the moves on Giannis. 😳
— theScore (@theScore) October 26, 2021
We knew Duarte was a lethal shooter out of college. His multitude of skills, poise and maturity has translated to him averaging 18.6 ppg through five games and making three 3-pointers per night. It’s Duarte’s intangibles and basketball IQ that have stood out for the scrappy Pacers. He and Malcolm Brogdon form a nice young backcourt.
4. Scottie Barnes (Small forward, Toronto Raptors)
Scottie Barnes has looked vibrant and eager to ball out for the Toronto Raptors. He’s exhibiting an array of skills that intrigued the “We The North” enough to take him fourth overall selection in the draft. Averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds on 53 percent shooting is remarkable, considering shooting was supposed to be a weakness in his game. Barnes has All-NBA defense capabilities.
https://t.co/Pqxh2EPubW's Kia Rookie Ladder
Chris Duarte, Scottie Barnes claim top spots after first week. The 2021 Draft class is off to an impressive start with many rookies making an early impact. (via @AschNBA)https://t.co/yWICzFAeei pic.twitter.com/1PMLd4qZnn
— NBA (@NBA) October 27, 2021
5. Franz Wagner (Small forward, Orlando Magic)
With all of the hotshot rookies on deck, Orlando Magic rookie Franz Wagner is the steal of the draft so far. Orlando knew it was getting a solid player capable of helping them on both ends of the floor. What they didn’t expect was how fast he developed into a mjor contributor.
49% from the field
Franz Wagner the 1st 4 games of the season. He is our youngest player once he adds more strength and tightens his handle he will be a really good player. pic.twitter.com/dlEJP7Uuwn
— Rayshard❼ (Tank 4 Banchero👑 ) (@Rayshard07) October 26, 2021
Wagner is averaging about 13 points, five rebounds on 50 percent shooting and two triples made per game. What stands out about him is his fundamentals. It’s obvious he was well coached under Juwan Howard at Michigan.
Josh Giddey (OKC) — His current slash line of 10/7/5/ proves that Giddey is putting in work. He just needs to slow down and control himself more. Thunder got a good one though.
Alperen Sengun (Rockets) — Big, strong center of the future in “H-Town.” Sengun shows some real skill and toughness around the rim. The 2021 Turkish League MVP fits well with Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Stephen Silas is already experimenting with lineups that include Sengun and talented Rockets stretch four Christian Wood.
Cade Cunningham (DET) — The Detroit Pistons rookie hasn’t played just yet but should be taking the floor very soon. The 2021 No.1 overall pick makes the list for anticipation purposes and Summer League play alone.