NBA Rookie of the Year Race: Jan. 13

Story posted 4 days ago in Sports, CommRadio by Daniel Maiorana

Several hyped-up phenoms coming from the NCAA, overseas and the G League have so far lived up to their potential.

A hyped-up 2021 draft class caught fans' eyes thanks to its early development of confidence and leadership. The Rookie of the Year favorite is constantly changing, with the likes of Evan Mobley, Franz Wagner, Scottie Barnes and Cade Cunningham getting the respect they deserve.

Now here’s a look at the top guys and the rookies who could take a lead in the rookie rankings.

Franz Wagner

Drafted by the Orlando Magic, Wagner has emerged on the NBA scene using his versatile 6-foot-9 frame in all aspects of the game.

Teammates are starting to trust Wagner, giving him more touches every game, and for good reason.

Averaging 19.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in the month of December, Wagner is the dark horse in the Rookie of the Year race, as he claimed the East Conference Rookie of the Month award.

He is the main ball handler of the youthful Orlando squad and looks to continue his December tear in the second half of the season.

A season rookie-record 38 points against the Bucks, Wagner proved his worth by confidently driving, shooting and passing against their star-studded roster.

His chemistry with older brother Mo Wagner should be on full display as the Magic look to make something from their not-so-stellar record of 7-35.

Evan Mobley

Second out of all rookies with 14.7 points per game, Mobley has wasted no time protecting the rim and penetrating to the basket with his tall frame.

It seems like nothing will stop Mobley from earning the Rookie of the Year title, as he has already been faced with a sprained elbow and two coronavirus protocol situations.

Mobley and Jarrett Allen are a pair of forwards not to be messed with, as the poise of Mobley can make opponents scared of his defensive presence alone.

His motor makes him aggressive and comfortable on the offensive side, getting into the paint and pulling up for jump shots with ease.

Earning his minutes thanks to his defense, Mobley was able to show off his dynamic play style, guarding the most athletic bigs on the court and sizing up small forwards with ease.

Scottie Barnes

An offensive rebounding machine, Barnes has helped the Raptors back to winning ways this season, sitting at seventh in the Eastern Conference Standings.

With 91 offensive rebounds, he has impacted games with what may not be noticed in the stat sheet but is seen by his peers.

Barnes has found his 3-point shot as well, making himself a two-way presence who coach Nick Nurse always wants to see on the court.

Eight rebounds a game and shooting 32.4% from behind the arc, defenders have a tough time digesting Barnes’ veteran style of play.

Playing the “point forward” at 6-foot-8 230 pounds is almost Lebron James-esque, and Barnes has the potential to emerge as a star for the Raptors.

Veteran Pascal Siakam has almost the same build as Barnes, and the rookie is soaking in all Siakam’s skills at the small-forward position.

Notable Contenders

Josh Giddey, Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green are also having noticeable seasons that shouldn’t be ignored.

Giddey recorded a triple-double in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 2, making him the youngest player to do so.

Green, since coming off a hamstring injury, has averaged 20.2 points per game as well as shooting 47.4% from the 3-point land.

Cunningham, who was the No. 1 pick in the draft, has eased into the NBA quicker than most. He has been the starting point guard for the Pistons since being drafted which can make some rookies crumble under the pressure.

Coronavirus has allowed for some rookies to step up for their squads the past few weeks, and after a strong showing from the new guys last month, the Rookie of the Year title could be handed to many different names.


Daniel Maiorana is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email dkm5903@psu.edu.