NBA Rookie of the Year Watch: Dec. 4

Story posted December 4, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Sam Kirk

The 2022 NBA rookie class is turning out to be a special one. Headlined by players like Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, the Rookie of the Year race is looking to be a tight one.

Players such as Houston Rockets guard Tari Eason and Oklahoma City forward Jalen Williams have come out of nowhere entering the conversation as well. Here is my list of the top-five rookies as we enter our December part of the NBA season.

Paolo Banchero, F, Orlando Magic

Banchero is coming off his first missed games in his first NBA season. The Duke standout looked a bit rusty coming back from missing seven straight games but should continue to be the front runner for this award.

He’s averaging an impressive 22.9 points a game while getting to the line better than almost anyone in the league with 8.4 attempts per game, ranking ninth in the league. Banchero’s play style fits too well with the NBA, keeping him at the top of this list.

Benedict Mathurin, G, Indiana Pacers

Mathurin is quietly one of the best players on a 12-8 Indiana Pacers team.

What the Pacers were excited about when bringing in Mathurin was pairing the rookie with guard Tyrese Haliburton. This tandem has become one of the success stories so far in the Eastern Conference.

Mathurin has NBA athleticism with an ability to score inside and out of the paint. Expect him to be the rookie in the race right behind Banchero at the end of the regular season.

Jaden Ivey, G, Detroit Pistons

Ivey has been tasked with a lot so far this season with injuries to guard Cade Cunningham and others; the rookie has been playing a tremendous amount of minutes for Detroit. This tough start for the Pistons will provide valuable minutes to see how good Ivey can be but the volume of his production should limit him in this rookie of the year race.

Jabari Smith Jr., F, Houston Rockets

Smith Jr. is a prospect that many were iffy about heading into the draft.

The main worry was his inconsistencies behind the arc, but that hasn’t been a problem as he is shooting 43.8 percent. The ceiling on the Auburn product in his rookie year is a bit low considering he is only 19-years-old.

What we have seen thus far from the rookie remains promising but it would be a shock to see him really in the race for Rookie of the Year.

Keegan Murray, F, Sacramento Kings

Murray was a highly sought after prospect heading into the draft. He’s another young player like Banchero whose game clearly just translates nicely to the NBA.

That being said, one of the surprises of the Western Conference so far is the Sacramento Kings. The Kings continue to light the beam as you will with a 12-8 record. This seems to be making Murray’s playing time a bit inconsistent but you can tell when he is in, the Kings play around the rookie.

This is a name who could sneak past Ivey and Smith Jr. and contend with Mathurin and Banchero at the end of the season.

Sam Kirk is a third-year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email