We've officially surpassed a week's worth of the NBA season, which means it's time for the first edition of NBA rookie rankings for the 2022-23 campaign. This crop of rookies has a wide array of players who project to be solid role players, as well as foundational, franchise pieces who have the potential to be multiple-time All-Stars later on in their careers. This means we should be in store for an entertaining year from the rookies.
While we won't be able to watch No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren suit up this season after the injured his foot during a Pro-Am game over the summer, there are still plenty of rookies to watch and be excited about. From No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero's impressive start out of the gates, to guys like Christian Braun finding a spot in the rotation on a Denver Nuggets team with title aspirations.
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. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top rookies from the opening week of the 2021-22 season.
Although the Orlando Magic are still currently winless through the first five games of the season, it's still been entertaining to watch them play, and that's in part because of Banchero. In his NBA debut, he scored the in 1996 after finishing with 27 points against the Detroit Pistons, and he made it look easy, too. To cap off the week, Banchero was one point shy of having his first 30-point performance of his professional career in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What's stood out the most in these first five games of Banchero's career is how easy scoring is coming to him. He's showing great composure for someone who is just 19 years old, and isn't afraid to try and takeover a game by himself. We've seen shades of his post game, how he can stretch the floor out to the 3-point line with his jumper, and his ability to take a defender off the dribble. He's also shown the ability to be a primary or secondary ballhandler for the Magic as a point-forward, something that we may see more of in the immediate future given Orlando's depth issues in the backcourt with injuries to Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and now Cole Anthony.
Here's a crazy stat that will show just how impressive Mathurin has been to start the season: he's averaging over 20 points while coming off the bench for Indiana. He's also the first Pacers rookie in franchise history to score 100+ points in the first five games of their career. Again, he's doing all this while coming off the bench.
Mathurin's shown great touch as a scorer from deep, and the way he can absorb contact when attacking the rim to readjust and still make the basket is a rare quality in rookies. He exudes confidence and has zero fear when getting downhill, and he's already proving to be a great complement to Tyrese Haliburton in the backcourt. While Indiana is still starting Buddy Hield over Mathurin, I imagine that will change if the Pacers inevitably trade Hield to a team that's not in the midst of a rebuild. When that happens, Mathurin's only going to get better by playing more minutes with the starting unit.
The Sacramento Kings have started the season 0-3, and already head coach Mike Brown is making a change to the starting lineup, elevating Murray to the starting five in their next game against the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday night. If it isn't already obvious, Murray's made a great impression on the Kings just three games into the season, but if you watched him in the summer league or preseason that isn't exactly news. It was only a matter of time before Murray got placed in the starting lineup, and luckily for Sacramento, it's happening incredibly early in the season.
Having Murray in the starting lineup gives the Kings a ridiculous amount of spacing, with Murray already proving in his first two games that he's capable of knocking down 3s at a high clip. It's an extremely small sample size given he's played in just two of Sacramento's three games, but he's generating 2.200 points per possession in spot-up situations, which ranks in the 99th percentile in the league. He's been as automatic as it gets as a spot-up shooter, and his ability to move well without the ball into open space is going to do wonders for the Kings' offense.
The quickness and explosiveness Ivey plays with is just pure exciting to watch. He's already getting by defenders with ease, and while that speed can be reckless at times, it also results in highlighting moments like this:
Ivey will learn how and when to use his speed better as he progresses, and I can only imagine how dangerous he'll be when he learns how to ease up off the gas peddle to drop a defender and then turn on the jets to the rim. But for right now, he's already showing flashes of a dynamic secondary guard alongside Cade Cunningham in the backcourt.
The efficiency has been up and down for Smith through his first five games, but his performance against the Jazz, where he finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists on 60 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point territory is more indicative of his skillset. It hasn't been exactly smooth sailing out of the gates, but he's shown those flashes of a lanky forward who can put the ball on the floor and score, spot up for a 3 and be a versatile roll man who can pop out for a jumper, or roll to the rim for finishes like this:
On defense is where he's perhaps been most impressive, holding his own out on the perimeter when he gets switched on a smaller player, and making plays at the rim to disrupt or impact shots.