NBA Rookie Rankings: Luka Doncic, Trae Young at top, with less heralded role players moving into spotlight

Over the first half of the season we've been captivated and mesmerized by standout rookies like Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, Trae Young and Jaren Jackson Jr., but this class goes much deeper than the big names. Not every player is given the opportunity to come in and play 30 minutes per game and run the offense -- some have to establish themselves as role players before expanding their skill sets.

So it's fitting that this week we see a number of lesser-known rookies speckling the rankings, namely Landry Shamet, Frank Jackson, Rodions Kurucs and Kevin Huerter. Shamet and Huerter have been consistent pretty much all season, while Jackson and Kurucs have come on more recently, but all four fill valuable needs for their teams.

This week they've replaced more familiar names like Kevin Knox, who is already seeing the best and worst of playing in one of the league's biggest markets in New York, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who's out in Los Angeles. It's easy to get caught up with the incredibly talented rookies leading this class, but it's also important to note the ones who may not get as much publicity but are still doing serious work.

Here are this week's NBA Rookie Power Rankings.

This week's NBA Rookie Power Rankings
1
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks SF

Last week: 1
Stats this week: 22.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals

No surprise here, as Doncic tops the rankings once again after another phenomenal week. With all his offensive exploits, Doncic's defense has gone mostly overlooked. His isolation defense hasn't been great, as you might expect given his lack of elite athleticism, but he's been good at getting out on shooters and particularly adept at defending pick and roll situations. He does a good job using his sizable frame to fight through screens, and moves his feet well. Doncic has also averaged over a steal per game as a rookie, reading the ball-handler to get into passing lanes, which helps spark his brilliant transition game.
2
Trae Young Atlanta Hawks PG

Last week: 3
Stats this week: 17.0 points, 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals

The momentum keeps building for Young, who seems to be coming out of a month-long shooting slump. He went 3-for-3 from deep in a win over the Heat on Sunday before struggling a bit against the Raptors and Nets. The turnovers have been a slight issue for the Oklahoma product, but Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce recently told our Jack Maloney that he's not concerned with the high number of turnovers given Young's significant usage rate -- the assist-to-turnover ratio is what he looks at. Young has a 1.82 assist-to-turnover ratio so far this season, which puts him at 17th in the NBA among players with a usage rate of 25 or higher, ahead of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.
3
Wendell Carter Jr. Chicago Bulls PF

Last week: 5
Stats this week: 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks

After a bizarre benching that saw Carter play only 13 minutes in a loss to the Magic last week, he was rewarded with 43 minutes in a close loss to the Pacers in the very next game. His best performance of the week, however, came against the Blazers on Wednesday, when he scored 22 points on 7-for-9 shooting while pulling down six rebounds. Carter has now scored in double-figures in six of his last nine games and appears to be out of whatever funk he was in for most of December.
4
Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns C

Last week: 2
Stats this week: 11.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks

Coming off perhaps his best week as a pro, Ayton had two total duds that dragged down his averages for this week. He had just 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 field goal attempts combined in losses to the Clippers and the Mavericks this week, the latter in what was supposed to be a showdown with Rookie of the Year favorite Luka Doncic. By and large, Ayton has gotten more consistent with his effort, but he'll need to erase blips like those if he's going to become the dependable franchise bedrock the Suns need him to be.
5
Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies PF

Last week: 4
Stats this week: 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks

Jackson continues to be marred by foul trouble, which makes his ability to still put up numbers even more impressive. He leads the NBA at 3.9 fouls per game, and that number jumped to 4.3 in four games this week. Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said early in the season that Jackson needed to work on his hand placement to stop picking up reaching fouls, but it appears he still has a ways to go. Staying out of foul trouble will not only bump up his minutes per game, but it will also help Jackson stay in rhythm on both ends of the floor.
6
Frank Jackson New Orleans Pelicans PG

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 14.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists

The Pelicans desperately needed wing help with E'Twaun Moore going down with an injury, and Jackson, who has been in and out of the rotation all season, happily stepped up to the plate. A Ben Simmons-esque rookie who missed all of last season to injury, Jackson shot a scorching 61 percent from the field in three Pelicans wins this week, making 7-of-11 attempts from the 3-point line. Jackson is long and athletic, capable of playing both guard positions, so he may have earned himself a more solid spot in the rotation, even after Moore returns.
7
Landry Shamet Philadelphia 76ers PG

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 13.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals

It's rare that one game can propel a player into the Rookie Rankings, but that's exactly what happened for Shamet this week. He gave his normal production in the other two games, but went absolutely ballistic in Tuesday's win over the Wizards, scoring a career-high 29 points (his previous high was 17) on 8-of-14 3-point shooting. Shamet has been excellent for the Sixers in filling the J.J. Redick role off the bench, bombing 3s off of dribble hand-offs, and that's how he did much of his damage against the Wizards.
Shamet won't hit eight 3-pointers every game, but he's proven that he can provide some much-needed floor-spacing for the Sixers.
8
Collin Sexton Cleveland Cavaliers PG

Last week:
Stats this week: 13.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.0 rebounds

Well, you can say one thing for Sexton -- he's been consistent. The problem for the Cavs is that he's been consistently mediocre, putting up some horrendous shooting nights while generally ending up in the 13-point, four-assist range. One positive this week is that Sexton shot more 3-pointers, making them at a 47 percent clip, but his overall field goal mark of 33 percent in four games tells you how poorly he shot from 2-point range. He's averaging just 0.858 points per possession around the rim according to Synergy Sports Tech, which puts him toward the very bottom of the league. Given Sexton's far-from-perfect shooting stroke, he'll need to finish at a much better rate around the rim if he's going to be effective.
9
Rodions Kurucs Brooklyn Nets SF

Last week: Unranked
Stats this week: 11.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals

He may not be a household name, but Kurucs hasn't looked back since joining the Nets starting lineup in mid-December. Since then he's averaged 10.9 points and 4.2 rebounds on 39 percent 3-point shooting, providing another floor-spacer for the red-hot Nets, winners of 13 of their last 17 games. The second-round pick from Latvia notched 24 points and five 3-pointers, both career highs, in a loss to the Celtics on Monday and has put up two double-digit rebounding games so far in his career as well.
10
Kevin Huerter Atlanta Hawks SG

Last week: 7
Stats this week: 11.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals

Huerter didn't have his best shooting week (he missed one of the Hawks' four games due to a sore back), but he continued to prove that he's much more than a gunner. He picked up his first career double-double in Wednesday's loss to the Nets, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and dished out a career-high seven assists in Sunday's win over the Heat. Huerter has been lights out from downtown for most of the season, and the fact that he's been able to affect the game in other ways even when his shot isn't falling is just icing on the cake for Atlanta.

Dropped out

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Kevin Knox NY • SF • 20
Stats this week:
PPG11.3
RPG3.3
APG.7
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Mikal Bridges PHO • SF • 25
Stats this week:
PPG5.8
APG2.5
SPG2.0
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Devonte' Graham CHA • PG • 4
Stats this week:
PPG7.0
APG4.7
RPG2.3

On the bubble

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Josh Okogie MIN • SG • 20
Stats this week:
PPG8.3
RPG2.7
BPG1.3
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Bruce Brown DET • SG • 6
Stats this week:
PPG9.8
APG3.3
RPG2.0
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander LAC • PG • 2
Stats this week:
PPG6.8
APG3.5
SPG1.8
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