Saturday, March 25 2023

The 2022-23 season is now through the much-anticipated Christmas Day slate of games as the NBA schedule progresses toward the start of a new year.

The rookie class looks to be rounding into form with several first-year players performing at a high level of late. The latest group of standouts includes several high picks with others drafted down the board emerging, as well.

To make sense of it all, we looked at the best recent performances of these first-year players and ranked them in the latest edition of the Rookie Wire Power Rankings. The rankings are not for Rookie of the Year purposes but, rather, to illustrate the best players week to week.

Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 1

Stats: 21.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists

Banchero is coming off a season-low four points on Tuesday versus the Lakers, but the No. 1 pick leads the rookie class in scoring and field goals (195), and is second in double-doubles (6) and third in assists. He is 11th in the NBA in free-throw attempts (218).

The strong start by Banchero earned high praise from LeBron James:

He has been exceptional, playing great ball. A three-level scorer so far in this league — in the paint, midrange and from outside pretty well as of late. He is only going to get better and better. Every game he’ll get better and better, every film session he’ll get better and better. All of these experiences are really good for him on a game-to-game basis.

Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 9

Stats: 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, four assists, 1.1 assists

Ivey recently erupted for a career-high 30 points on Dec. 20 in a loss to the Jazz to become just the fourth Pistons rookie since Grant Hill in 1995 with a 30-point game. The performance continued an efficient run by Ivey of late as the fifth pick is shooting 42.1% from 3-point range over his last seven games. He has struggled to stay efficient, but looks to be turning the corner a bit and is putting up some great numbers. Of course, Ivey still is as electric as they come and has had some dazzling performances this season. Look for him to continue to trend upward.

Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 3

Stats: 17.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists

Mathurin continues to have a productive rookie campaign. He is averaging 15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists over the last two weeks of action as the Pacers have won three of four games. He has found success all season in getting to the line and is 18th in attempts (194).

The Pacers appear to have gotten a great addition to the lineup and a player that has the potential to be one of the top rookies in this draft class. He should be in the running for Rookie of the Year and the All-Rookie first team at the end of the season, as a result.

AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 5

Stats: 10.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, one assist, one steal

Griffin recently put together a seven-game stretch of scoring in double figures. He averaged 14.4 points, three rebounds and 1.3 assists on 43.9% shooting from 3-point range during that stretch. He continues to play effectively and efficiently in the early going and is giving the Hawks valuable production either as a starter or off the bench. Griffin looks to be one of the top rookies to this point of the season.

Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Last Rank: 4

Stats: 11.9 points and 3.8 rebounds

Murray is posting 13 points, 2.7 rebounds and one steal on 46.2% shooting from 3-point range over his last six games with the Kings. Included in that span: A career-high-tying 23 points and six 3-pointers on Dec. 21 in a 14-point win over the Lakers. He became one of two rookies (Bennedict Mathurin) to have multiple games with at least six 3s. He now leads the rookie class in 3s (69) and is second in 3-point percentage (38.5).

Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons

Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images

Last Rank: N/A

Stats: 7.6 points and 8.3 rebounds

Duren has been a monster on the glass in the early going and is hauling in rebounds at a historic rate. His 275 rebounds lead all rookies and are the third-most through 33 career games in team history. He grabbed at least 11 rebounds in seven consecutive games from Dec. 7-20, which tied Dwight Howard for the longest such streak by a rookie in history.

Included in that stretch was a career-high 19 rebounds on Dec. 14 versus Charlotte. He became the second youngest player ever (19 years, 26 days) to haul in that many rebounds, trailing only Howard, who was 18 years, 359 days. Duren is emerging as perhaps the top big man in the draft this year.

Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 3

Stats: 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and one block

Smith is averaging 12.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and one block in 13 games during the month of December. He is second in scoring among first-year players in the Western Conference during the month and figures to have a great chance to be in the running for Rookie of the Month. Smith is improving seemingly on a nightly basis and is emerging as a key player on both sides of the ball for the Rockets. He is often tasked with guarding opposing teams’ best players and has done well in that role. Look for Smith to continue that upward trajectory.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 7

Stats: 11.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists

Williams has scored in double figures in all but two of his 12 games during the month of December. He continues to be a driving force for the Thunder on both sides of the ball and is a key reason why the team has won four out of its last five games. Case in point: Look at the hustle and effort on this play from Tuesday in a win over the Spurs.

Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: N/A

Stats: 8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists

Sochan looks to be settling in on the court and is playing with more confidence of late for the Spurs. He has scored in double figures in four of his last five games and is averaging 14 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists over that span. Included is a career-high 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists on Dec. 22 in a loss to the Pelicans. The Spurs love what Sochan brings to the court and the ninth pick looks to be trending upward.

Malaki Branham, San Antonio Spurs

Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: N/A

Stats: 6.9 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists

Branham checks in for the first time this season after seeing a larger role of late. He is averaging 11.5 points on 55.6% shooting from 3-point range over his last six games. Included in that span is a career-high 20 points on Monday in a win over the Jazz. The Spurs are in development mode this season so we should continue to see Branham get an opportunity to play and put up more strong performances.

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports


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