NBA Rookie Rankings: Jabari Smith turning a corner after strong week; AJ Griffin hits game-winner for Hawks

In honor of this week’s version of Rookie Rankings working on Thanksgiving, it solely appears becoming to consider what a few of these groups should be grateful for in terms of their younger gamers. For occasion, the Indiana Pacers must be grateful for the truth that they’ve two rookies who could possibly be beginning for them proper now in Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard. Mathurin has Rookie of the Year potential and he is nonetheless coming off the bench, however Nembhard has been beginning and is making strong contributions on each ends of the ground.

The Orlando Magic must be grateful that at the very least proper now it seems as if they nailed the No. 1 choose in taking Paolo Banchero. While Banchero continues to be sidelined with an ankle damage, he is already proving to be far and away the most effective rookie this season. When you pair him with Franz Wagner, who additionally had a standout rookie season final yr, the Magic appear to be forming a powerful younger core. Teams just like the Pistons must be grateful that the Kings handed on Jaden Ivey — though Keegan Murray isn’t any slouch both — and the Trail Blazers must be grateful that Shaedon Sharpe is making such a strong influence off the bench already.

Now it is time to break down this week’s NBA Rookie Rankings. Keep in thoughts that these rankings will replicate a rookie’s efficiency on a week-to-week foundation solely, not the collective season. These aren’t Rookie of the Year standings, however fairly a reflection on what the participant has completed over the previous week.

In a loss to the Golden State Warriors this week, Smith broke out of a capturing hunch in a huge manner, placing up a career-high 22 factors on 8-of-14 from the sector to go together with seven rebounds. Prior to that sport, Smith had been capturing simply 31.3 p.c from the sector on the season, and whereas one sport actually is not a development, it is a optimistic signal for the No. 3 general choose.

Smith was coming off screens and pulling up for 3s, scoring off the bounce from midrange and scoring on the rim in a number of methods. It was a full offensive sport for Smith, who confirmed off his defensive chops as nicely.

Smith’s efficiency in opposition to the Warriors was a end result of his progress during the last handful of video games after a gradual begin to the season. In his final six video games, he is averaging 12.5 factors, 9.2 rebounds and capturing an improved 38.5 p.c from the sector and 30.6 p.c from deep. Those numbers could not look excellent, particularly his capturing effectivity, however once you evaluate it to the ten factors, 5.6 rebounds and 30.3/30 capturing splits he was averaging within the first 10 video games of the season, you may see that he is beginning to flip a corner.

After the loss to the Warriors, Smith spoke about his turnaround sport.

“I really feel like I’m in a good headspace,” Smith stated. “I commend myself for simply maintaining my head. Lots of people cannot undergo these capturing slumps and stuff like that and nonetheless go on the market each evening and nonetheless attempt to contribute, nonetheless have a good perspective. And simply, I’ m completely happy for myself. Yeah, I’m simply prepared for the following sport. Ready to see how the season retains going.”

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Griffin’s week began with a 17-point efficiency in opposition to the Toronto Raptors, a sport wherein he despatched the followers house completely happy after changing a layup on a lengthy go from Trae Young as time expired to carry the Hawks to an extra time victory over the Raptors:

First off, let’s simply recognize that stunning play by the Hawks to even get that straightforward of a look off with time expiring. Young simply zooms previous three Raptors defenders to get into the open courtroom, then delivers the ball on the excellent time for Griffin to get the shot off. Tip of the hat to Griffin for understanding tips on how to minimize to the rim with Young coming down the ground to get the straightforward layup. Just lovely execution throughout.

After that thrilling end, Griffin was then elevated to the beginning lineup within the following sport wherein he once more completed with 17 factors, to associate with three steals and two rebounds. Atlanta ended up dropping that sport to the Cavaliers, however Hawks coach Nate McMillan nonetheless praised his rookie ahead.

“He did a good job,” McMillan stated. “He made some pictures on the market and was in a position to make some 3s and be productive. The problem was going to be for him on the defensive finish of the ground, however I assumed he has been taking part in the best way he has been taking part in — with confidence. He goes to make some errors however I assumed they had been aggressive errors. I assumed he performed OK.”

After taking part in simply eight minutes a evening within the first couple of weeks of the season, Griffin has now performed himself into a regular 21 minutes a evening. He’s possible not going to place up 17 factors on a nightly foundation off the bench on a deep Hawks workforce, however he is contributing when wanted and filling in for no matter function Atlanta wants him to fill.

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In a win over the Denver Nuggets, Ivey put up simply seven factors on 3-of-11 from the sector and 1-of-4 from downtown. It was an uncharacteristic scoring efficiency from what we have come to count on from the rookie guard this season, however whereas he did not rack up a ton of factors, he nonetheless helped his workforce to a win together with his passing. Ivey had 5 assists to associate with six rebounds and a steal, rounding out a efficiency that highlighted his expertise as a facilitator whereas his capturing went ice-cold. This bullet go to the weakside corner with a double workforce on him was particularly spectacular, and a nice indicator that the rookie can function underneath defensive strain:

Ivey has change into Detroit’s lead guard with Cade Cunningham nonetheless sidelined, and it is opened up a wealth of alternative as a end result. He’s actually within the Rookie of the Year dialog, and if he continues to attain at an environment friendly stage like he did this previous week in a 24-point outing wherein he went 8-of-14 from the sector and 4-of-4 from deep, then it will not be stunning to see him holding that {hardware} on the finish of the season.

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Mathurin is one other man within the dialog for Rookie of the Year, and what’s been most spectacular about his output is that he is placing up monster numbers all whereas coming off the bench. In a win over the Magic, he completed with 22 factors, 5 rebounds, and a plus-13-point differential. The Pacers rating one level extra when he is on the ground in comparison with when he is on the bench, and whereas that will appear inconsequential, the truth that a rookie is making even that a lot of an influence whereas coming off the bench is a important accomplishment.

Including his efficiency in opposition to Orlando, Mathurin has reached the 20-point mark seven occasions already this season — all whereas coming off the bench — which ranks second amongst rookies behind Paolo Banchero. His 42.1 p.c from 3-point territory ranks 14th in all the league amongst guys who take 5 or extra makes an attempt per sport, making him a dependable risk from downtown for Indiana. I say this each week, however it’s solely a matter of time earlier than Rick Carlisle begins Mathurin, and when that occurs, he’ll get much more alternatives to point out off his abilities.

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Williams is a nice instance of constructing on every efficiency and constantly progressing as a rookie. In the previous week and a half alone he had level totals of 13, 16, 10 and 14. That 16-point efficiency in opposition to the Grizzlies was additionally coupled with seven assists, six rebounds and two steals. It was a full efficiency from Williams who performed a key function within the Thunder maintaining that sport shut in opposition to a highly effective Memphis workforce.

What’s much more spectacular about Williams over the previous few video games is his protection. He’s bought a ridiculous 7-2 wingspan, and he places that to good use when guarding out on the perimeter. Just have a look at how he makes use of his size to disrupt David Roddy mid-dribble, which leads to a steal and an help by Williams on the different finish:

On a younger workforce the place there are already gifted passers like Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Williams is one more spectacular facilitator that the Thunder should construct round.

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