More players are entering NBA’s health and safety protocols, but these rookies have come off the list and picked up where they left off. From players setting career-high scoring nights to setting the youngest NBA triple record double, it’s well known that these rookies are remarkable. Stepping into the first action of 2022, let’s see how these rookies stacked up on our list.
5. Josh Giddey, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Giddey comes in at No. 5 on our list after a historic performance Sunday night. The Melbourne, Australia native becomes the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, surpassing Charlottes LaMelo Ball. After missing the last three games (NBA health and safety protocols), Giddey returned to the court, finishing with 17 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds in the loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The record previously held by Ball at 19 years and 140 days was surpassed by Giddey’s 19 years and 84 days. He’s been close multiple times but finally got his first trouble double to start 2022. Also, his 14 assists were the most by a rookie in Oklahoma City’s history in the performance.
“It’s cool, as I said earlier in the year. The individual stats are good, and you enjoy it for the night,” Giddey said. “But a win is always better than individual stats. If I have zero-zero-zero and we win, it’s always better than if I have a triple-double and lose.”
The 2021 sixth overall pick will be a large part of the Thunder’s future. With future draft picks and the young Oklahoma team, Giddey and the team will make huge strides in the west for years to come.
4. Scottie Barnes, SF, Toronto Raptors
After missing his last three games (NBA healthy and safety protocols), Barnes returned for Toronto as the Raptors defeated the New York Knicks 120-105 Sunday night. Barnes was thrown back into the action, playing 30 minutes while scoring 13 points on 4-9 shooting. Not the greatest return from the West Palm Beach, Florida native, but a promising start heading into 2022.
With Toronto, only two games out of the eighth seed, Barnes and the rest of the roster will look to step up as they pursue a return to the playoffs. Barnes is second among rookies in points per game with 15.5. He will need to keep his offense going.
3. Cade Cunningham, PG, Detroit Pistons
Like most rookies on this list, Cunningham returned to the Pistons after missing the previous four games due to health and safety. He returned to the court and didn’t miss a beat, scoring 19 points and recording seven assists in 37 minutes in the win against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday. The Arlington, Texas native has looked more comfortable running the Detroit offense over the last month. He’s attacking the rim more aggressively while also finding the open man and making a play. The Pistons likely will miss the playoffs again, but Cunningham will always show out for the Detroit crowd.
2. Evan Mobley, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
After missing four games, Mobley returned for the Cleveland Cavaliers in a four-game week where he didn’t miss a beat. He started the week with an impressive 22 point performance in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Over the four-game stretch, only once did he not score in the ’20s, and that came against the Atlanta Hawks on New Year’s Eve, where he scored 16 points. With veteran point guard Ricky Rubio suffering a Torn ACL, Mobley and the rest of the Cavaliers will have to step up as Cleveland has their eyes on the playoffs.
1. Franz Wagner, SF, Orlando Magic
Wagner holds onto the No. 1 spot for the second straight week after a career-high performance. Wagner scored a career-high 38 points Thursday night in a loss to the Bucks. He achieved it while scoring an impressive 60 percent from the field. The Berlin Germany native could do whatever he wanted in the game, using his height to shoot over defenders or attack the rim. This year, Wagner has proven to be one of the best steals for the Magic and is an excellent pairing with Jalen Suggs.
The Michigan product continued his week with 20 point performance against Milwaukee two days later and 22 against Chicago. He scored below 20 once in his four-game week, with 14 points in the overtime loss to the Boston Celtics Sunday. Wagner is taking the league by storm, along with one of the best draft classes we’ve seen.
Follow Kole Emplit on Twitter @KoleEmplit