Closing in on the halfway point of the NBA season, this edition of rookie watch has a lot in store. (Games: 11/28 – 12/26)

There are high-risers, players who have fallen toward the end of the list and even some who fell off the list entirely. The top five is identical to the previous edition due to much of the high-end rookie talent preserving their season averages. As some rookies continue to find their footing and some take a leap back, here’s the second edition of rookie watch for the 2022-23 NBA season.

10. Tari Eason – F – Houston Rockets

Season Stats: 8.6 PTS, 5.1 REB, 43.8 FG%

Averages Since Last List: 14 G, 8.7 PTS, 4.7 REB, 46.7 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 6

Aside from Jeremy Sochan, who completely dropped off of the rookie list, Tari Eason fell four spots to the final position on this list. Eason’s kept up with his averages, for the most part, but hasn’t made the type of jump others above him have. No one else is really pushing to take over the No. 10 spot as of now, so, barring any sudden drop in production, if Eason can maintain his averages, he’s safe in the top 10.

9. Jalen Duren – C – Detroit Pistons

Season Stats: 7.6 PTS, 8.3 REB, 62.9 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 14 G, 9.4 PTS, 9.9 REB, 70.4 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 9

Though Jalen Duren averages the least amount of points on this list, the 6’10” center grabs the most rebounds out of every other rookie in the class. Duren notched five double-doubles across his last 14 games, reaching averages of 9.4 points and 9.9 rebounds. The New Castle, Delaware, natives most notable performance came in a win against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 14 where he grabbed 19 rebounds (13 defensive, six offensive) and blocked three shots. It will take more time to get to double-double averages, but Duren has the arsenal to do so.

8. Andrew Nembhard – G – Indiana Pacers

Season Stats: 8.4 PTS, 3.1 REB, 3.8 AST, 46.4 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 15 G, 10.1 PTS, 4.0 REB, 4.4 AST, 1.1 STL, 47.3 FG%

Last Ranking: N/R

Andrew Nembhard is the newest addition to the rookie list after strong performances throughout his last 15 games. After a non-ranking last edition, Nembhard climbs to No. 8 after averaging 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists. A 31-point, eight-rebound and 13-assist night against the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 5 certainly raised eyebrows and it surely skyrocketed Nembhard into the top 10. With season averages up to 8.4 points and nearly four assists, Nembhard joins fellow Pacer Bennedict Mathurin on the list.

7. Jalen Williams – G – Oklahoma City Thunder

Season Stats: 11.0 PTS, 3.4 REB, 2.7 AST, 50.6 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 13 G, 12.3 PTS, 4.2 REB, 2.8 AST, 51.2 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 7

21-year-old Jalen Williams is performing well for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. Between the last ranking and now, Williams had a career-high 27-point, six-rebound game against the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 30. He’s up to 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists this season with an efficient 50.6 field goal percentage. His 3-point game needs more work, but Williams continues to attempt them as he searches for a solid stroke. In the last ranking, the 6’6” guard also checked in at No. 7.

6. AJ Griffin – F – Atlanta Hawks

Season Stats: 10.7 PTS, 2.3 REB, 47.5 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 13 G, 13.2 PTS, 2.8 REB, 1.2 STL, 46.9 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 10

AJ Griffin has climbed the highest since the last rookie watch where he checked in at No. 10. Now at No. 6, Griffin has earned his spot as a top rookie after turning a slow start into a consistent campaign of scoring for the Atlanta Hawks. From Dec. 9 to Dec. 21, Griffin scored in double figures in seven straight games while shooting 51.9% from the field and 43.9% from beyond the arc. It seems that Griffin is beginning to unlock a consistent scoring method for the Hawks who desperately need the help as they sit at 17-16. Griffin already climbed four spots since the last ranking, so who’s to say we won’t see him in the top five next time?

5. Keegan Murray – F – Sacramento Kings

Season Stats: 11.9 PTS, 3.8 REB, 42.0 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 13 G, 13.8 PTS, 3.7 REB, 44.4 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 5

Keegan Murray rounds out the top five of this rookie watch. As the fifth leading scorer in the rookie class, the Iowa native is up to nearly 12 points per game this season as he helps the Sacramento Kings find ways to win. Since Nov. 28, Murray has been averaging 13.8 points while shooting at a 44.4% clip from the field. The 22-year-old even had a stretch of games where he scored 15.7 points and back-to-back 18-point nights against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 9 and the New York Knicks on Dec. 11.

4. Jabari Smith Jr. – F – Houston Rockets

Season Stats: 12.3 PTS, 7.2 REB, 38.8 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 14 G, 12.9 PTS, 6.9 REB, 45.0 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 4

Jabari Smith Jr. has been solid for the Houston Rockets so far this season. The 19-year-old has shown flashes of a well-rounded game offensively and through rebounding abilities. Across his last 14 games, Smith Jr. had three double-doubles which included a 24-point, 10-rebound game against the Mavericks on Dec. 23. Smith Jr. shot 10-for-17 from the field in 33 minutes against Dallas. Though Smith Jr. stays at the No. 4 spot, he has raised his 11.7-point season scoring average from the last ranking to 12.3 points per game while maintaining a high rebound rate.

3. Jaden Ivey – G – Detroit Pistons

Season Stats: 15.5 PTS, 4.2 REB, 4.0 AST, 41.7 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 13 G, 14.5 PTS, 3.1 REB, 3.6 AST, 40.9 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 3

As the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Jaden Ivey joined a young Pistons team led by former first overall pick, Cade Cunningham. Since the last rookie watch, news broke that Cunningham would be out for the season with a shin injury. Ivey has received more minutes to compensate, and he’s made the most of each second on the floor. After a three-game absence at the end of November, Ivey has scored in double-figures in 12 of his last 13 games. In his last five, Ivey is averaging 19.4 points per game thanks to a 30-point night against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 20. With a 15.5-point average and 41.7 field goal percentage, Ivey is quickly establishing himself as a key contributor for Detroit. If Ivey keeps this type of scoring up, he has the ability to surpass Mathurin in the next rookie watch.

2. Bennedict Mathurin – G – Indiana Pacers

Season Stats: 17.1 PTS, 4.0 REB, 41.1 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 15 G, 14.9 PTS, 4.1 REB, 37.7 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 2

Bennedict Mathurin checked in at No. 2 on the previous rookie watch, and he remains at the spot behind Banchero after solid performances in his last 15 games. The Indiana Pacers guard is up to 17.1 points per game this season while shooting 41.1% from the field. With 28.9 minutes per night across his last 15 appearances, Mathurin’s point production has dropped off from his regular averages. However, despite struggles from 3-point land (23.9% in his last 15 games), he continues to put up averages that display he is one of the best rookies in the class. Mathurin collected four 20-point nights and 12 games where he scored over 10 points since the last rookie watch. While it’s hard to compete with Banchero, Mathurin’s season shouldn’t be taken for granted.

1. Paolo Banchero – F – Orlando Magic

Season Stats: 21.7 PTS, 6.9 REB, 4.0 AST, 44.9 FG%

Averages Since Last Ranking: 14 G, 20.8 PTS, 6.4 REB, 4.5 AST, 44.3 FG%

Last Ranking: No. 1

As we inch closer to the midway point of the 2022-23 NBA season, Paolo Banchero pretty much has the Rookie of the Year award sitting inside of his house. Barring any drastic changes or an injury, the first overall pick is this year’s best rookie, and he has played like it from the jump. Through 27 total games with the Orlando Magic, Banchero is averaging 21.7 points and just under seven rebounds. The forward is also shooting 44.9% from the field this year and has kept up his season averages from the last rookie watch in late November. Banchero has separated himself from the rest of his draft class and has made it abundantly clear to fans and coaches that he is the best rookie. After he is listed first, the debate can start for who’s second.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.