In honor of the release of the Rookie Rankings this week on Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to think about what some of these teams should be thankful for for their young players. For example, the Indiana Pacers should be thankful that they have two rookies to replace them right now in Bennedikt Maturin and Andrew Nembhard. Maturin has Rookie of the Year potential and is still coming off the bench, but Nembhard has already started and is making solid contributions at both ends of the floor.
The Orlando Magic should be thankful that, at least for now, it looks like they made the No. 1 pick with Paolo Banquero. Although Banchero is still off the field due to an ankle injury, he has already proven himself to be the best rookie this season. When you pair him with Franz Wagner, who also had an outstanding rookie season last year, the Magic seems to be forming an impressive young core. Teams like the Pistons should be grateful to the Kings for ditching Jayden Ivey, although Keegan Murray is no fool either, and the Trail Blazers should be grateful that Shaydon Sharp is already such a big influence. off the bench.
Now it’s time to break down the NBA Rookie Ranking this week. Keep in mind that these rankings will only reflect rookie performance on a weekly basis and not on a collective season. This is not a Rookie of the Year leaderboard, but rather a reflection of what the player has done over the past week.
In a loss to the Golden State Warriors this week, Smith played a major role, scoring a career-high 22 points on 8-of-14 from the field and picking up seven rebounds. Prior to this game, Smith had only shot 31.3 percent from the field in a season, and while one game is certainly not a trend, it’s a positive sign for the No. 3 pick overall.
Smith came off the screens and pulled up for 3 seconds, scoring rebounds from mid-range and scoring the rim in a variety of ways. It was a full offensive game for Smith, who also showed off his defensive skills.
Smith’s game against the Warriors was the culmination of his progress in the last few games after a slow start to the season. In his last six games, he is averaging 12.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and improving 38.5% from the field and 30.6% from depth. These numbers may not sound like a lot, especially his shooting efficiency, but if you compare them to the 10 points, 5.6 rebounds and 30.3/30 shots he averaged in the first 10 games of the season, you can see that he corner starts to turn.
After losing to the Warriors, Smith opened up about his turning game.
“I feel like I’m in good shape” Smith said. “I commend myself for just not losing my head. A lot of people can’t get through these shooting downs and stuff and still go out there every night and still try to do their part while still having a good attitude. I’m happy for myself. Yeah, I’m just ready for the next game. Ready to see how the season goes.”
Griffin’s week began with a 17-point performance against the Toronto Raptors, a game in which he sent fans home happy after converting a layup from a long pass from Trae Young as time expired to lead the Hawks to a victory over ” Raptors in overtime:
First, let’s just appreciate this beautiful Hawks game to even take our mind off such a light look with the passage of time. Young just blasts past three Raptors defensemen to get into the open and then delivers the ball at the perfect time for Griffin to hit. Hats off to Griffin for knowing he had to cut to the brim when Young was going down the floor to get some easy downtime. Just a beautiful performance all around.
After this thrilling finish, Griffin was promoted to the starting lineup in the following game, in which he again finished with 17 points along with three steals and two rebounds. As a result, Atlanta lost this game to the Cavaliers, but Hawks coach Nate McMillan still praised his newcomer.
“He did a good job,” McMillan said. “He made some shots there and was able to hit some triples and be productive. The task should have been for him at the defensive end of the court, but I thought he played the way he played – with confidence. He’s going to make some mistakes, but I thought they were aggressive mistakes. I thought he played well.”
Having played just eight minutes a night in the first couple of weeks of the season, Griffin is now playing a consistent 21 minutes a night. He’s probably not going to score 17 points every night off the bench on a strong Hawks team, but he does contribute when needed and fill in for any role Atlanta requires of him.
In the win over the Denver Nuggets, Ivey scored just seven points, 3 of 11 from the field and 1 of 4 from center. It was an uncharacteristic result compared to what we’ve come to expect from a rookie defenseman this season, but while he didn’t score a ton of points, he still helped his team to victory with his passing. Ivey had five assists, six rebounds and a steal to end a game that highlighted his facilitator skills while his shots turned icy. This bullet pass into a weak corner with a double team on it was particularly impressive and a great indicator that a rookie can operate under defensive pressure:
Ivey became Detroit’s leading defenseman while Cade Cunningham stayed on the sidelines, and as a result, it opened up a lot of opportunities. He’s definitely in the rookie of the year talk and if he continues to score as effectively as he used to…