NBA rookie rankings: Jalen Green takes early lead among talented class

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The 2021 NBA draft class was deep and full of talent, and there are a few players who are outplaying their draft stock early in their rookie seasons. Jalen Green looks like the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, while Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley are playing well in the first month of the season.

With nearly two weeks of the 2021-22 NBA season completed, here’s Yahoo Sports’ first look at the NBA rookie power rankings.

1. Jalen Green, Houston Rockets

13 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg

Green was the second pick, but is the early betting favorite for Rookie of the Year (+340 at BetMGM). He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder coming into the season and wanted to prove that he’s the best player in this draft class.

“I feel like I’m the best player in this draft,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “If you look back at it, all of the GOATs didn’t go No. 1. Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan. And that’s what I’m trying to be, on that type of level.”

He joined Jordan for fewest games to 30 points as a rookie in his third game against Boston where he finished with eight 3-pointers and 30 points. Green is doing it all on the court from locking down All-Stars on defense, finishing above the rim in transition and making the right read of the pick-and-roll.

2. Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers

17.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 apg

Duarte is leading all rookies in 3-point shots and near the top in scoring. He was the No. 13 pick and one of the oldest players in the draft (24), after playing all four years at Oregon. Duarte has made one of the smoothest transitions to the league and has become an instant impact player for the Pacers. He’s shooting 40% from the 3-point line and has scored in double digits every game this season.

“He’s a terrific offensive player, a terrific defender and a guy that is really mature and someone who can step in and help us right away,” head coach Rick Carlisle said.

Chris Duarte dribbles the ball.
Indiana Pacers guard Chris Duarte has scored in double figures in every game this season. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

3. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

18.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2 apg

Most people were a little shocked when the Raptors took Barnes with the No. 4 pick instead of Jalen Suggs. Barnes went from playing forward in high school to point guard during his one year at Florida State and is the definition of positionless basketball. He can play and guard positions one-through-four and has already made a name for himself in Toronto. 

Barnes excels at taking players off the dribble and is deadly in the open court. He has great length and size. It took him only three dribbles to span the entire court for a dunk in transition in a game against the Orlando Magic. He will definitely be a player in the running for the top rookie honor at the end of the season.

4. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

13.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg

It usually takes a couple years for young centers to adjust to the league, but the transition has been seamless for Mobley. The 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan has 10 blocked shots this season, currently tied with Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s not bad company to be in at just 20 years old. Mobley even impressed LeBron James in a 113-101 loss to the Lakers last week where he finished with 23 points.

“They got a good one,” James said after the game. “Cleveland got a good one.”

5. Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings

7.7 ppg, 3 apg

The Kings were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season and added the best on-ball defender in the draft with Mitchell at No. 9. He wore No. 45 in college, just like another Mitchell in the league, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, and locked him down on defense when the Kings played the Jazz on Oct. 22. 

Davion Mitchell is also a phenomenal passer and playmaker on offense and is fitting in nicely alongside De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield.

6. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

10.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.7 apg

Giddey is leading all rookies in assists and is 21st overall in the league. The Australian native is a pass-first guard, but is also shooting the ball well early (45% from the field). The Thunder took Giddey with the No. 6 pick, and he will be instrumental in the rebuild process alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

7. Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic

12.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4 apg

The Magic have a ton of talent in the backcourt with Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton and Suggs. Anthony has been playing on a whole other level, and Suggs is the complementary piece. Suggs posted a career-high 21 points in a 110-109 loss to Toronto on Friday. He as already earned the respect from his teammates with his toughness and competitive edge.

“Jalen has a chance to be a heck of a player,” Anthony said. “He works hard, and I’m right here in his corner, too. I want to see him succeed just as badly as I want to see myself succeed. I’m going to do everything I can to help him. He’s got a bright future.”

Cade Cunningham covers Jalen Suggs, who has the ball in his hands.
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham covers fellow rookie, Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs, during the first quarter of their game on Oct. 30, 2021. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

8. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

2 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 apg

Cunningham finally made his debut five games into the season and had a little bit of an underwhelming start, putting up just two points in 19 minutes on Saturday against the Magic. He’s coming off a right ankle sprain and didn’t play Sunday in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets. 

There’s a lot of pressure and expectations that come with being the No. 1 overall pick, but this will be a slower transition to the league after suffering the ankle injury. There were glimpses of greatness on defense, and there’s still a ton of upside to Cunningham’s game. He’s a key piece to this young Pistons team as they work to rebuild the franchise.

9. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

13.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.9 apg

Orlando took Wagner with the No. 8 pick and the 6-foot-10 wing has been great early on for the Magic. His older brother, Moritz, is also on the team. Franz Wagner has started every game this season. He is shooting an impressive 44% from 3-point range.

10. Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets

7 ppg, 2.3 apg

Jamal Murray is out recovering from a torn ACL injury until February and that has opened the door for Hyland to see some early playing time in his rookie season. The former VCU point guard is one of the fastest guards in this rookie class and is a great passer in the lane. His minutes continue to increase with every game and Hyland could end up being the Nuggets' sixth man once the season is over.

Honorable Mention

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets

Ziaire Williams, Memphis Grizzlies

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