By Hocine LOUKKAF on 4/28/2022
This rookie class may lack an elite star as of now but numerous players have displayed the potential to become solid starters and probably more. Mobley and Barnes benefit both from their individual and team performances as they have been starters for teams on the rise.
#1 Evan Mobley, 7-0 PF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Stats : 15pts 8.3rbds 2.5as 1.7bl
One of the reasons one the Cavs’ excellent year, Mobley has displayed his versatility as a big able to run, rebound, block shots but also pass the ball and shoot from midrange. He still could improve his range and add a reliable 3pt shot but all the tools are here to be a dominant PF who will help the Cavs reach the playoffs, and maybe more, for a long time.
#2 Scottie Barnes, 6-9 PF/SF, Toronto Raptors
Stats : 15.3pts 7.5rbds 3.5as
In a roster full of hybrid forwards (Siakam, Anunoby), Barnes adds even more versatility and has contributed to the good results of the Raptors, which clinched a plaoff spot after an awful 20-21 season. A good rebounder, defender who can also creates for his teammates (2 a/to ratio), Barnes just lacks an efficient outside shot to become a star in the Eastern Conference.
#3 Franz Wagner, 6-10 SF, Orlando Magic
Stats : 15.2pts 4.5rbds 2.9as
Not the athlete Barnes is, Wagner has nonetheless proved he was worth a top ten pick and still has room to become much better. A dangerous driver with a great IQ, Wagner’s main axis of progress will be his shooting consistency as for example in April, when shooting at least four attempts from three, he had three games recording 66% or more while recording 25% or less (including two 0/4) in the four other games.
#4 Cade Cunningham, 6-7 PG, Detroit Pistons
Stats : 17.4pts 5.5rbds 5.6as
Despite all the pressure as the last #1 draft pick, Cunningham did the best he could…with the team he has. One of the few rookies in NBA history to average at least 17pts 5rbds 5as, Cunningham might be the most talented rookie but at the most difficult spot, with explosivity on his first step, controlling his turnovers and shooting consistency as the major things to improve.
#5 Herb Jones, 6-8 SF, New Orleans Pelicans
Stats : 9.5pts 3.8rbds 2.1as 1.7st 0.8bl
Fit, that’s what can help an underrated prospect rise to the top, and that’s what has happened to #35 Draft pick Herb Jones this year. The perfect defensive Swiss knife, able to defend multiple positions, Jones has started almost all games for the playoff-qualified Pelicans, averaging an impressive 1.7st and 0.8bl in the process and recording an even more stunning 12pts 5rbds 3as 2bl and 2st in the play-in game against the Spurs. A great pick for the fast improving Pels.
#6 Josh Giddey, 6-8 PG, OKC Thunder
Stats : 12.5pts 7.8rbds 6.4as
The oversized Australian PG has been more impressive than expected becoming the youngest player to record a triple double (and recording multiple in the process), while displaying extraterrestrial passing skills. Yet, Giddey plays for the still-rebuilding Thunder and has one major weakness, his shooting, which may be the only thing preventing him from becoming a superstar.
#7 Jalen Green, 6-5 SG, Houston Rockets
Stats : 17.3pts 3.4rbds 2.6as
After struggling with his shooting percentages until February, Green has been better over the last months despite his team’s struggles (at least 44% FG and 38% 3pt in each of the last three months). Green also needs to improve his defense but could be the scorer the Rockets were looking for when they drafted him.
#8 Bones Hyland, 6-3 PG, Denver Nuggets
Stats : 10.1pts 2.7rbds 2.8as
With more and more minutes as the playoffs approached, Hyland has improved as a PG, averaging a 3 at/ ratio over March and April. His main weakness remains his offensive inconsistency as the Nugget 3pt’s percentage has gone from 33.9% in February to 47.6% in March and then dropped awfully to 27% in April. If he can fix that, he could be a potential starter pretty soon, for Denver or another team.
#9 Alperen Sengun, 6-10 C, Houston Rockets
Stats : 9.6pts 5.5rbds 2.6as 0.9bl
Not the spectacular athlete Green is, Sengun may end up a better player in the long term, reminiscing a young Jokic with his versatility for a center. With at least 2.3as each month since November (except for Jauary where he kinda hit the rookie wall), the Turkish center has also improved his rebounding numbers, albeit with much more minutes in April. If he can add the outside shot he sometimes exhibited, he will end up one of the steals of this class.
#10 Jonathan Kuminga, 6-7 SF, Golden State Warriors
Stats : 9.3pts 3.3rbds
Maybe one of the most tantalizing rookies this year and a supposedly raw prospect, Kuminga has been brought carefully by the reviving Warriors. When he did play, he was good as he scored for example 15pts or more in nine of the fifteen games where he played 20min or more over March adn April. His shooting and defense, considering his incredible physical tools, need improvement but for the Warriors may have hit the jackpot with their 7th pick of the 2021 NBA Draft.