NBA fans saw a battle between two of the brightest stars last week, as Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley squared off. It is probably safe to say the league is in good hands. Each of these five rookies could be franchise pieces for their teams in short order. They bring different talents to the table in their own unique ways. As the All-Star weekend is only three weeks away, let’s check out the rookies who will most likely be at the event.
Be sure to check out last week’s Rookie Rankings.
5. Josh Giddey, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Giddey racked up another double-double on Friday night against the Indiana Pacers. The Melbourne, AUS native finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds and added five assists. Giddey played a career-high 40 minutes in the 113-110 overtime loss. The performance recalled how comfortable and confident he can become in the NBA.
When asked about it following the game, he said confidence is something that he’s never lacked. “Confidence is never going to determine the next shot I take. I’ll shoot the next one and expect it to go down,” he said. “It was a good learning experience… my first time playing an overtime game.”
4. Scottie Barnes, SF, Toronto Raptors
Barnes’s week was highlighted by a 22-point performance against the Miami Heat Saturday night. Barnes and the rest of the starters played an absurd amount of minutes in the 124-120 triple-overtime victory. He finished the night with 56 minutes of action, and hit two free throws at the end of regulation to give the Raptors a chance to extend the game. “Telling myself in my head that it’s easy. Gotta knock ’em down. That’s it.”
The West Palm Beach, FL native has continued his excellent rookie campaign. While Barnes’s stats have declined compared to the start of the season, he makes his mark off the scoresheet. He’s a great point forward, controlling the offense, playing great defense, and putting teammates into significant positions to score.
3. Franz Wagner, SF, Orlando Magic
Wagner had a dominating week for the Orlando Magic. He started the week with a 21-point outing on 9-of-12 shooting against the Los Angeles Clippers. He followed up with 24 points against the Detroit Pistons. The German forward has been sensational all season long for the Magic. Sunday night against the Dallas Mavericks, Wagner scored the go-ahead layup as the Magic won 110-108. The layup was part of an 18-point night. Wagner will be a franchise piece in the future for Orlando.
2. Cade Cunningham, PG, Detroit Pistons
We saw the brightest battle between two rookies as Cunningham battled Mobley Sunday night. The Pistons prevailed over the Cavaliers, despite trailing largely entering the fourth quarter. Cunningham finished with a 19-point, 10-assist, 10-rebound triple-double to elevate his team to the win. Earlier in the week, he had a 34 point outburst against the Denver Nuggets. He also added eight rebounds and assists in that affair. While the season has been one to forget, Cunningham and the future of Detroit are bright.
1. Evan Mobley, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
Mobley was on the receiving end in the battle with Cunningham. He finished with a solid 18 points and nine rebounds despite the loss. He also had a 16-point outing against the Milwaukee Bucks to open the week. The San Diego, CA native, has proven time and time again that he’s the most consistent rookie in the draft class. He has elevated the Cavaliers to a whole new level as they are looking forward to the playoffs. There is little doubt that he is the clear front-runner for Rookie of the Year.
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