When the phrase “Rookie of the Year” pops up, there are always a few names that come to the minds of basketball fans first. This year, it would be Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green. The top two picks this year are the ones that will get the most merit for the award in the early going.
Cade is yet to play, while Green looks solid for the Rockets. But of course, as always, there are a number of names in the mix. Here are a few players to keep an eye on as the season winds on.
NBA Dark Horse Rookie
Scottie Barnes, Raptors
As the Raptors have opened the season with Pascal Siakam hurt, other players have gotten extra playing time. Precious Achiuwa is making the most of his chance to start games. Chris Boucher and Khem Birch are playing next to each other with the second unit. And then, there is Scottie Barnes.
The #4 pick in the draft, the team was looked at as being favored to draft Jalen Suggs. Though it has only been a week, they are looking very smart for making this investment. Barnes had 12 points and nine boards in the opener. He had 25 & 13 boards (first career three, too) in game two against Boston. He had 17 & eight boards against Dallas, overcoming an injury in the process.
Barnes will evolve as a playmaker and is looking like a steal. He will remain in ROTY discussions all year long. Watch for him.
Evan Mobley, Cavs
Picked third in this year’s draft, Evan Mobley doesn’t exactly have a chip on his shoulder. And it seems the place he landed is the best long-term fit for him. He has wasted no time getting going with the Cavs, being given heavy minutes already.
He put up his first double-double posting 17 & 11 with four blocks in a surprising win against Atlanta. He had 13 & five, with two steals and two blocks vs. Charlotte. And he had 17-9-6 in his debut against a lengthy Grizzlies unit.
Mobley is going to improve as he goes, and if he looks this good at the beginning, other teams should be a bit scared, truthfully.
Chris Duarte, Pacers
Chris Duarte entered the league this year as a 24-year-old rookie. He played at Northwest Florida State, where he won the NABC NJCAA Player of the Year in 2019. His road to the league took a bit of time, but he’s showing he belongs.
An offseason injury to Caris LeVert opened a starting spot up for the Dominican guard. He amassed 27 points on six threes and 9-15 shooting in his debut. He followed it up with outings of 15 and 19 points, respectively. He has been given the green light to consistently fire up shots, and the team is getting rewarded for it.
Indy is sort of in flux still, with LeVert and Warren also out. But, they have been competitive. They will lose games, as all teams do. But, Duarte is here to help them win, so watch for him to continue to shin and also have a large volume of opportunities.
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