We've almost reached the one-month mark of the NBA season, and already some rookies are separating themselves from the rest of the pack. What's been interesting to watch is how many rookies there are on playoff-contending teams who are getting a significant amount of playing time this season. It speaks to the strength of this rookie class, as well as how competitive the league is this season.
There's truly only a couple teams in the league that are consistently getting blown out, which is a positive for the NBA as a whole. It seems almost nightly that young teams like the Orlando Magic or Indiana Pacers are playing playoff-contending teams incredibly close. And while it may not result in wins, it's showing that just because these young teams are in the process of rebuilding, doesn't mean they'll be an easy win every night.
Now it's time to break down this week's NBA Rookie Rankings. Keep in mind that these rankings will reflect a rookie's performance on a week-to-week basis only, not the collective season. These aren't Rookie of the Year standings, but rather a reflection on what the player has done over the past week.
Banchero continues to dazzle, and his latest magic trick (see what I did there?), was joining LeBron James as the only other teenager to post 33 points and 15 rebounds in a game. That happened in Orlando's loss to the Sacramento Kings, where he went 14 for 26 from the field. Although the Magic keep racking up losses, sitting at 3-9 on the season, Banchero's performance has Orlando in competitive games on a nightly basis. That loss against the Kings only happened because De'Aaron Fox nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime. It was Banchero's 10 points in the fourth quarter that helped the Magic force the game to overtime. And while the rookie went scoreless in overtime, attempting just one shot, the fact that Orlando is actually playing in close contests is a huge step forward in this team's progression.
A lot of that is because of Banchero, whose versatile skillset as a big forward who can handle the ball and take a defender off the dribble, as well as use his size and strength to get buckets down low. Just look at how he takes advantage of his obvious mismatch with the smaller Fox on him, and then finishes the bucket as two additional Kings defenders close in on him:
Or how he takes advantage of the slower Domantas Sabonis on the perimeter and uses his handle to get passed him to take it right at the chest of Harrison Barnes (who flopped trying to get the charge call) and finished with finesse for the and-1:
Banchero did miss Orlando's last game of the week against the Dallas Mavericks with a sprained left ankle, but he's listed as day-to-day so he should be back on the court real soon.
Despite the loss to the Boston Celtics, Ivey had a standout game for the Pistons, and was already up to a double-double by halftime. On a night where Cade Cunningham significantly struggled to find his shot, going just 1 for 11 from the field, the rookie Ivey stepped up and finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, his second straight game that week with a double-double. I've already spoken about Ivey's ridiculous speed in these rankings before, and against the Celtics that was on full display. He legit couldn't be stopped getting to the rim.
Ivey possess such a dangerous first step that in the blink of an eye he'll go from the 3-point line to the bucket. Which is what happened on this play, where Jaylen Brown got introduced to the Jaden Ivey School of Speed:
The explosiveness and then body control to finish that shot with Grant Williams contesting the shot is not something many rookies can do. But Ivey isn't just killing people with his speed to put points on the board. He's also dishing out some lightning-quick passes on the move, and he's showing off his high IQ in the process. Like this assist where he once again blows by Brown, then pulls Al Horford to him which frees up Isaiah Stewart for the finish:
Ivey being this good this early is a great sign for the Pistons who have an exciting backcourt for the future between him and Cunningham.
I assumed that when Chris Duarte when down with an injury last week that meant it would be time to see Mathurin in the starting lineup. He's already proven he's deserving of a spot in the starting five, averaging 20 points off the bench, and yet, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle went with fellow rookie Andrew Nembhard instead. When asked what it would mean for Mathurin to start for the Pacers, the rookie did a pretty good job of pitching himself.
"It would mean a lot, but I feel like it wouldn't change my approach to the game," Mathurin said. "I'm still going to stay aggressive, I'm still going to have the same mentality if I come off the bench. Even defensively, I'm able to guard 1 through 4, even the 5 sometimes, so on defense it won't be a problem."
The next game after that quote, Mathurin proceeded to put up 30 points off the bench against the Denver Nuggets. Mathurin plays with the confidence and aggression of a guy who is the best player on the floor, and there have been several games this season already where he's certainly played like the best player on the Pacers.
Tyrese Haliburton said pretty simply what the gameplan is when he's sharing the floor with Mathurin, especially when he has it cooking.
"Just get him the ball. Nobody gets to the free-throw line like that guy, especially as a rookie," Haliburton said. "In training camp I was like 'you're not going to get to the free-throw line as much as you think' when he was complaining for calls, but he gets there. All I have to do is get him the ball and let him do the rest."
Sharpe's been a necessary spark plug off the bench for a Blazers team that has been pleasantly surprising to start the season. He's the exact type of versatile player you want on Portland's roster, capable of getting points off-ball, has freakish athleticism to finish hard at the rim and gives you all out effort when he's on the floor. Against the Hornets he finished with 17 points on 7 of 10 from the field, and posted a plus-30 point differential for the game, the highest of anyone on the team.
Sharpe's capable of knocking down the spot up 3-pointer, like this perfectly lineup up jumper off the assist from Lillard:
And then there's the athleticism I was speaking about. If there's one thing Sharpe's going to do it's finishing highlight-reel dunks and hand in the air long enough to contort his body to finish the shot through contact:
He's an elite cutter, has a smooth jumper, is capable of scoring off the bounce and has the athleticism and fearlessness to challenge just about anybody at the rim. He's carved out a role for himself with Portland and has been a key in the Blazers hot start to the season.
On a night where the Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday due to injuries against the Oklahoma City Thunder, on top of already missing Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton, Beauchamp got the call to start for Milwaukee. And boy did he not disappoint. He started the night slow, being held scoreless and picking up three fouls in the first half. But he stayed aggressive, and in the third quarter racked up 10 points, and added on another nine points in the fourth quarter to finish with 19 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Beauchamp's defensive effort was also impressive, feeding into that already tough defense the Bucks play. While he picked up five fouls over the game, he showed flashes of being a solid defender, and he'll continue to learn and improve on a team that consistently ranks near the top of the league on that end of the floor.