The NBA trade deadline has passed, and while most of the major moves had more impact on championship-contending teams, some teams with standout rookies either reshuffled the deck or cleared the way for their younger stars to shine. The most prominent example of that was the Indiana Pacers, who finally broke up the Domantas Sabonis-Myles Turner partnership, and were rewarded with a promising young player in Tyrese Haliburton to pair with their standout rookie in Chris Duarte.
On the other end of that deal, Haliburton's departure in Sacramento could be more minutes for rookie Davion Mitchell who has had an impressive last few weeks for the Kings. We'll get to see how some of these trades will impact the rookies over the remainder of the season, and which guys make the most out of the increased opportunity.
Let's move on to this week's rankings. Remember these will reflect a rookie's performance on a week-to-week basis only, and not the collective season. These are not Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top-performing rookies around the league.
Since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been out with injury, we're really getting to see the extent of Giddey's game in OKC. In this last week alone Giddey put up back-to-back triple-doubles, making him the first rookie since Ben Simmons to accomplish that feat, and the youngest to do so. He also joined Simmons and Luka Doncic as the third rookie to record three or more triple-doubles in their first year within the past 20 years of the NBA.
Those are some impressive accolades, and to think he's only just 19 years old accomplishing these feats right now is a scary thought. With each game it feels like Giddey's ceiling gets pushed even higher, and after dropping a career-high 28 points in his Madison Square Garden debut in a win over the New York Knicks (where he also happened to put up 12 assists and 11 rebounds), it's clear that he's going to be a star in this league some day.
Giddey controlled every aspect of the game against the Knicks this past week, weaving between players to deliver dimes, finishing effortlessly at the rim and he even went 3 of 4 from downtown, a welcome sight to see given his season-long shooting woes. It's a testament to his improved shooting over the course of the season, and if he starts making 3s at a consistent enough clip, he'll be even more dangerous than he is already.
At just 19 years old, Giddey's already proving himself to be a top-tier playmaker, as he leads all rookies in assists per game this season (6.3), and ranks first in his class in potential assists as well (11.8 per game). Between him and Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder should have one of the best backcourts in the league for years to come.
Wagner's game against the Nuggets was the perfect representation of what has made him so special this season. You need him to operate without the ball in his hands? No problem, just look at how he slips past Will Barton for the cut to the rim, then splits Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic for this pretty finish:
You want Wagner to be the primary ball handler? Sure thing, look at how he draws the defense with this high pick-and-roll action to then fling the ball to the weak side corner where Gary Harris just so happens to be wide open to knock down the shot:
He can act as a spot-up 3-point shooter, where he's making nearly 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s, and Wagner can knock down mid-range jumpers as well. Oh, and because to his size (6-foot-9) and handle, he can get to the rim consistently, where he's finishing shots like this at a 58 percent rate.
Wagner's size makes you think that he wouldn't be this versatile on offense, and the fact that he's been able to be this impactful for the Magic not just on offense but on defense as well shows just how impressive he's been in his rookie season.
After trading Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for a package centered around young guard Tyrese Haliburton, and sending Caris LeVert to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pacers officially pivoted to a different path, one that will see Duarte, Haliburton and Myles Turner (when he returns), as the new core of the team.
A backcourt of Duarte and Haliburton should be an enticing one, as both guards can operate with or without the ball, but it'll be Haliburton's court vision that will give Duarte some great looks out on the perimeter. Like this one at the end of the second quarter against the Cavaliers last week:
Those types of finds are what we've grown accustomed to seeing from Haliburton since he entered the league last season, and now he'll have Duarte to feed, whose making 3s at a respectable 36.4 percent clip, and is also capable of taking that pass and creating off the dribble for himself as well. There will surely be some growing pains, but it should be fun to watch this young duo grow together.
Dosunmu may just be the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft. What else do you call a second-round draft pick who can step into the starting lineup as a rookie for a team that ranks second in the Eastern Conference and average 11.8 points, seven assists, 4.1 rebounds and can give you a couple steals each night. That's what Dosunmu's been doing for the continuously injured Chicago Bulls, and he's doing it with such poise. It's not every day a second-round pick can hold his own on a team that features two All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
He'll move back to a bench role when starting point guard Lonzo Ball returns from meniscus surgery, but until then, Dosunmu's doing a great job of feeding DeRozan and LaVine in the right spots, making smart plays on both ends of the floor and knowing when to look for his shot.
Thomas has been lighting up the scoreboard since the beginning of February that it almost makes you forget that the Nets just ended a woeful 11-game losing streak. Thomas' production has largely been due to necessity, as injuries have been unkind to a Brooklyn team that was favored to win the championship before the season started. But a Kevin Durant MCL injury, a James Harden-for-Ben Simmons swap and having Kyrie Irving for road games only have found Brooklyn tumbling down the standings and relying on their thin depth to pick up the pieces.
That's where Thomas has stepped up off the bench. He's making enough shots to warrant his minutes, and with Joe Harris still out indefinitely with an ankle injury, Thomas should continue to see consistent playing time as long as he continues to produce.
Honorable mentions: Quentin Grimes, New York Knicks (15.0 points, 4.7 rebounds); Jalen Green, Houston Rockets (14.3 points, 2.3 assists); Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets (14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists)