NBA Rookie of the Year Watch: The Rise of Walker Kessler
The NBA Rookie of the Year race is heating up as we near the end of the 2022-23 NBA season.
To start us off, we have the only big-man contending for the award, Walker Kessler. The center has shown nothing short of domination since the all-star break averaging 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots per game. To put these stats in perspective, let's compare them to Rudy Gobert, who Utah traded to acquire Kessler along with an array of draft picks: 16 points 10 rebounds and one assist.
Kessler may have heated up a bit too late to win Rookie of the Year, but expect him to be in Defensive Player of the Year talks in upcoming seasons.
Now, we have to talk about the guy who's been the front-runner for this award all season, Paolo Banchero.
After going through a bit of a slump in February (1-for-33 from 3-point range), Banchero bounced back going 11-for-38 from deep while averaging 22 points, six rebounds and three assists through his first seven games in March.
With how consistently Banchero has dominated, it will be very difficult for another guard to win the award over him. With that being said, it is worth highlighting the season performance of Oklahoma City Thunder’s guard Jalen Williams, along with Indiana Pacers guard Benedict Mathurin.
Williams is a versatile wing who can play both sides of the floor. Since the All-Star break, Williams has been putting up borderline all-star stats. In the last 15 games, he is averaging 18 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Williams has a small chance of pulling off a dark horse Rookie of the Year run if the Thunder can finish the season as an eight seed or higher. With the Banchero-led Magic sitting at thirteenth in the East (4.5 games behind play-in tournament contention), Williams can prove himself as the best rookie by helping leads his team to a home play-in tournament game. That way, he may get some voters that like to emphasize team success over individual stats.
Moving on to Benedict Mathurin who finds himself in a very strange situation as we conclude this NBA season.
Mathurin is the only rookie in contention that comes off of the bench. Which brings us to the question, how do you compare a bench player to a starter? Well, let's take a look at Mathurin's stats this season: 16 points, three rebounds and one assist per game.
If it were not for a Pacers starting five that has been set in stone all season, we’d be seeing Banchero-level stats from the young star. If Mathurin continues his role off the bench next season, expect him to be on top in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation.
Logan Davis is a third-year studying broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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