NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Luka Doncic already separating from the pack; teams use new strategy against Deandre Ayton

Is Luka Doncic this year's Ben Simmons? The Philadelphia 76ers star, despite his contested rookie status, dominated the Rookie Rankings for most of last season, only receiving late competition from a surging Donovan Mitchell. After missing out on the top spot in the first set of rankings, Doncic is now No. 1 for the second straight week, with no signs of slowing.

Below him is Wendell Carter Jr., whose consistency and two-way ability make him stand out among other first-year big men. There are also a couple of surprise entries this week, with New York Knicks guard Allonzo Trier coming out of nowhere with a strong series of games, and Landry Shamet becoming an important part of the 76ers rotation.

Here are this week's NBA Rookie Power Rankings.

This week's NBA Rookie Power Rankings
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks SF

Last week: 1
Stats this week: 21.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists

The Mavericks still aren't winning, but Doncic is separating himself among this year's rookie class -- which isn't all that surprising, given his professional experience in Europe. He's still struggling with turnovers (4.7 per game this week compared to 3.7 assists), but outside of that he's been phenomenal in huge minutes (nearly 35 per game this week) for Dallas. He shot 50-40-90 for the week, impressive even in a three-game sample size, and pulled down 7.3 rebounds per game, which allows him to push the ball in transition. If Doncic begins to cut down his turnovers, he could find himself atop the rankings more often than not this season.
Wendell Carter Jr. Chicago Bulls PF

Last week: 3
Stats this week: 13.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.0 steals

There hasn't been much cause for celebration in Chicago, but Carter has certainly provided hope for the future. The 6-10 rookie has excelled in the absence of Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, averaging a double-double this week with incredible efficiency. Carter more than held his own in a tough matchup against Anthony Davis on Wednesday, has been brilliant in isolation defense situations and continues to block shots at an elite rate. With his two-way ability, folks in Chicago are getting excited about a Carter-Markkanen frontcourt of the future.
Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns C

Last week: 2
Stats this week: 13.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 blocks

Ayton once again averaged a double-double this week, but it appears teams have devised a new strategy to get inside the 20-year-old's head. A more than capable shooter from 15-20 feet, Ayton has made just 8-of-23 jump shots this season per Synergy Sports Tech. Part of the reason is that, at least recently, teams are leaving him unguarded from distance, baiting him into taking jumpers. Watch how Nets center Jarrett Allen retreats to a different zip code when Ayton catches the ball.
This is tough mentally for a young player -- on one hand, Ayton knows he can make that shot, but on the other hand it's totally out of rhythm and limits any ball movement on offense. The Nets surely employed this strategy to cut down on Ayton's playmaking, which he's been good at from the top of the key, and force him into taking lower-percentage mid-range jumpers. Coach Igor Kokoskov and Ayton will likely figure out a strategy to combat this, perhaps having Ayton use the space to drive the ball into the lane rather than pulling up for a jumper, but it's fascinating to see the mind games teams sometimes play against young players.
Trae Young Atlanta Hawks PG

Last week: 4
Stats this week: 19.0 points, 11.0 assists, 4.7 rebounds

The roller-coaster season continues for Young, who shot just 3-of-22 from behind the 3-point line this week, and 40 percent from the field. Fortunately for the Hawks, Young's elite passing ability makes him an asset on the court, even when his shot isn't falling -- he averaged 11 assists per game this week, including a 24-point, 15-assist performance in a win against the Heat on Saturday. Young has established his ability to make deep 3s, so even when he's not hitting them at a high clip, he's able to suck in the defense and create driving/passing lanes. He's a high-risk, high-reward player, and so far it's been a lot of both.
Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies PF

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 13.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.0 steals

Like many young NBA big men, Jackson has struggled with foul trouble early in his career -- he's picked up at least three in all but two games this season. Grizzlies coach JB Bickerstaff said "it's about technique" with Jackson, and that they've been working with him on hand placement, because veteran players know how to raise up into Jackson's arms and use his length against him. Jackson said that getting in early foul trouble takes him out of rhythm for the rest of the game, and that he needs to get used to the way the game is officiated in the NBA.

"It's something you've just got to -- it's a feel," Jackson told CBS Sports before Monday's loss to the Warriors. "You've got to pick your moments better and know the freedom of movement rules a little bit better. It's new rules, so you've got to make sure you lock in on them, make sure you don't pick them up early. That's the real problem -- I get them early and then they just build up throughout the game, so I can't be as aggressive later."

Jackson managed to stay on the court during Memphis' big win over Denver on Wednesday, picking up just two fouls while posting 20 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
Allonzo Trier New York Knicks SG

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 17.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals

The undrafted Trier has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks this season, exploding for a career-high 23 points (19 in the second half) on 8-for-10 shooting in a win over the Mavericks on Friday. He also proved to be a capable spot-starter, logging 42 minutes in a double-overtime loss to the Bulls with Tim Hardaway Jr. out of the lineup. Trier hasn't shown he can do much other than score, but there's always room for a heat-check guard off the bench who knows how to get buckets.
Marvin Bagley III Sacramento Kings PF

Last week: 5
Stats this week: 12.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks

Bagley only had two games this week, both losses -- a 3-for-10 stinker against the Bucks and a solid performance against the Raptors. Overall, Bagley has fallen nicely into his role as a scorer/rebounder/energy guy off the bench for the Kings, and we'll have to wait and see if he will blossom into a more integral part of the offense as the year progresses. He's been excellent in transition this season, which is great for the up-tempo style Dave Joerger wants to play, but he'll need to improve his half-court game to truly realize his potential.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Los Angeles Clippers PG

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 11.0 points, 2.7 assists, 2.3 rebounds

Gilgeous-Alexander got two starts this week in place of the injured Avery Bradley, and he had a career night against the Trail Blazers on Thursday. The Kentucky product scored a career-best 19 points in 35 minutes for the Clippers in their loss to Portland, while shooting 7-of-12 from the field and knocking down both his 3-pointers. The Clippers love Gilgeous-Alexander, so it wouldn't be out of the question for the 6-6 guard to remain in the starting lineup, even when Bradley returns. He's already proven to be a solid defender, and is able to compensate for some mistakes with his length and size.
Landry Shamet Philadelphia 76ers PG

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 11.7 points, 1.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists

One thing stands out when you watch Landry Shamet play: his unbridled confidence. It's clear that coach Brett Brown has empowered the No. 26 overall pick to hoist at will, and Shamet has not been shy. He went 7-for-16 on 3-pointers this week, and has carved out a nice role for the Sixers off the bench. He hasn't provided much else, but if there's one thing Philly needs, it's floor spacing -- and so far Shamet has fulfilled that need.
Collin Sexton Cleveland Cavaliers PG

Last week: 8
Stats this week: 8.0 points, 1.7 assists, 1.3 rebounds

Sexton barely makes this week's rankings, essentially saved by a 15-point, 7-for-14 shooting performance in 42 minutes in the first start of his career on Wednesday. The 19-year-old continues to have problems on the playmaking side, failing to record more than two assists in each of his last four games. Sexton's had trouble handling traps and double-teams out of the pick and roll, something he'll have to remedy if he's going to be the Cavs' point guard of the future.

Dropped out

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Donte DiVincenzo MIL • SG • 9
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Elie Okobo PHO • PG • 2
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Josh Okogie MIN • SG • 20
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Mikal Bridges PHO • SF • 25
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On the bubble

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Miles Bridges CHA • SF • 0
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Kevin Huerter ATL • SG • 3
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Omari Spellman GS • PF •
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