NBA Rookie of the Year Watch: Jan. 13
The NBA season has reached its midpoint, meaning the list of contenders for many regular season awards have began to narrow down.
With that in mind, here are the top contenders for the Rookie of the Year award up to this point.
Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
Three months into his career, Paolo Banchero has comfortably met expectations after being selected No. 1 overall by Orlando in the 2022 draft.
The former Duke standout has taken the reigns of the Magic’s franchise already, averaging 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game this season.
Banchero has also been able to utilize his 6-foot-10 frame to help form a rising two-way duo on the wing alongside Franz Wagner. That tandem has been heralded as the future of Orlando thanks to their terrific play.
With Banchero being entrusted with large responsibilities, leading his team in minutes per game and usage rate, the fact that he’s producing effectively with these opportunities highlights why his Rookie of the Year case is so strong.
Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
Bennedict Mathurin may walk away with multiple awards this season if things shake out in his favor.
The former Arizona Wildcat has quickly become one of the most lethal bench scorers in the NBA, averaging 17.4 points per contest as a spark plug for the surprise success story that is Indiana.
While this three-point percentage has dipped a bit over the past few weeks, Mathurin has still displayed ample scoring touch from all over the court.
With a masterful creator in Tyrese Haliburton routinely feeding him, Mathurin could be headed towards a long, prosperous career in Indiana at the two-guard position.
However, if Mathurin wants to take home Rookie of the Year honors, he’ll likely need to elevate his game just a little bit more. Banchero’s talent will be hard to overcome in this race.
Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons
Jaden Ivey has already proven to be one of the most dynamic guards in the league.
While he is stuck on a bad Pistons team that is without Cade Cunningham, he’s still scoring 15.0 points per game, while also dishing out 4.2 assists.
There is still a ways to go before Ivey polishes his game further in the pros, as his decision making and defensive IQ have stood out as early career flaws.
But Ivey scores the basketball consistently, and that’s a lot more than most rookies can say. He’ll likely be a shoe-in for the All-Rookie First Team at season’s end.
Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings
When the Kings drafted Keegan Murray, the thought process seemed to be to provide the team with some much-needed versatility on the wing.
Murray has provided that at a very high level for one of the more fun breakout teams in the league thus far.
Shooting 40% from three point range while averaging 11.7 points per game, Murray has been a reliable find for Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox all season.
On the other end, Murray has been a fantastic complimentary piece on defense.
Currently averaging 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocks per contest, Murray has been able to put his 6’11” wingspan, as well as his general defensive IQ, to good use.
According to Crafted NBA, Murray ranks in the 89th percentile of rim contest frequency meaning, more often than not, Murray is going to make it very hard for opposing wings to drive to the lane.
With his skillset on offense and defense fitting so well opposite Sabonis’ playstyle, the Kings may have discovered a great frontcourt for years to come.
Joe Tuman is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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