The NBA has shifted to a younger league over the last few years, with old stars retiring and new draft picks being worth more now than ever.
Teams have begun to glorify tanking, and since the Sixers pulled the process on everyone, piling up young stars has become the way to go for a rebuilding franchise.
This year’s rookie class played a record amount of minutes and were major contributors on a number of teams. Here are the notable rookies who will shine in future years.
Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons, Pick #1
17.4 ppg, 5.5 rebounds/game, and 5.6 assists/game, Cunningham was electric once he entered the fray after beginning the season on the injured list. He played a lot for the very young Pistons, and he got better and better as the season progressed. He’s definitely a budding All-Star to keep an eye on.
Jalen Green, Houston Rockets, Pick #2
17.3 ppg in 67 games, you could say Green’s rookie year was a success. He showed off his incredible bounce and athleticism and showed his ability to shoot the three as well.
His shooting is only going to improve, as will he as an NBA-caliber defender. Green was a slam-dunk pick for Houston
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors, Pick #4
For the north, Scottie put up 15.3 ppg to pair with 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He was also second in total steals among rookies at just over one a game.
Shooting almost 50% from the field in his first season in the league, Barnes did what few thought he’d be able to do, help Toronto to the playoffs. He didn’t just get them there though, alongside VanVleet and Siakam, he dominated down the stretch to climb all the way up to the five-seed. Regardless of playoff performance, Barnes will be a longtime starter.
Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic, Pick #8
Wagner was the second pick in the top 10 for Orlando in last year’s draft, but he may turn out to be the better of the duo of him and Suggs. Wagner put up 15.2 a game and added four rebounds a contest.
One of the best free-throw shooters in the class, Wagner is a bonafide scorer that teams are going to pursue after his contract expires with the Magic.
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers, Pick #3
Mobley may end up the rookie of the year, and it would be well deserved. He gave Cleveland 15 points a game and eight rebounds a game en route to one of the most surprising records in the NBA.
He destroyed the rookie class in both rebounds and especially blocked shots. He’s established himself already, in just one season, as one of the premier shot-blockers in the NBA. His defensive abilities and his efficiency from the floor have provided him with a great base of skills to start with. Now if he can improve his consistency with his jumper, he’ll be unstoppable.
Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers, Pick #13
His season started off very strong, dropping a number of impressive games in the scoring column. One of the oldest rookies in his class, Duarte was kept out of the lineup for several weeks as he nursed a minor injury while the Pacers leaned into one of the hardest tanking jobs any team has accomplished in just one season.
His limited time at the end of the season shouldn’t cloud his accomplishments though. He gave Indiana 13 a game and shot the ball at 37% from behind the arc which is pretty good for a first-year player.
He didn’t turn the ball over all that much and he made his free throws, both key ingredients for the recipe of a more than solid NBA player.
Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder, Pick #6
A do-it-all type of player for OKC, Giddey shined in his rookie year with the team. He could be a triple-double machine in the making, as he put up 12.5 ppg, 7.8 rebounds/game, and 6.6 assists/game.
He’ll be a great utility player for years to come and he’s only going to get better when he finally ages out of his teenage years.
Other Rookies Who Had Great Seasons
Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic, Pick #5
Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings, Pick #9
Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets, Pick #26
Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans, Pick #35
Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls, Pick #38