NBA Rookie of the Year Watch: December 2

Story posted December 2, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jakob Schnur

As the first quarter of the 2021-2022 NBA season comes to a close, several rookies have already flashed their star potential.

While this draft class was considered one of the best in recent memory by fans and media alike, nobody expected many of the players to have significant impacts this early, making the Rookie of the Year race extremely intriguing and hard to predict.

With that being said, let’s look at the leading candidates thus far.

Scottie Barnes

When Barnes was announced as the fourth pick in the draft back in July, many people were shocked the Raptors passed on the opportunity to replace Kyle Lowry with the freshman sensation from Gonzaga, Jalen Suggs.

However, Barnes has done nothing but silence his doubters since the season began.

While Barnes was known for his defensive prowess in college, he is currently leading all rookies in scoring with 15.4 points per game while shooting 48.6% from the field.

The most surprising part of this offensive outburst from Barnes is his 35.3% shooting from behind the arc. While those aren’t sharpshooter numbers by any means, they are very impressive from a guy with little to no expectations of hitting threes at the NBA level this early.

Evan Mobley

While Mobley could’ve been the top pick in just about any other draft, he ended up falling to the third pick and right into the lap of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and boy has it worked out.

While his fit with Jarrett Allen was somewhat of a concern, he has slotted in nicely at the power forward role, showing his positional versatility and therefore increasing his value to the team.

Mobley is currently averaging 14.5 points per game, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while being a day one starter for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are currently sitting at a record of 12-10 which is good enough for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, making them one of the most surprising teams in the league this season and Mobley has been a major part of that, establishing himself as a franchise cornerstone to build around in the future.

Other Contenders

While missing the first four games of the season due to injury and struggling upon his return, Cade Cunningham, the top pick in the 2021 draft, has been improving every week, now averaging 13.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists.

Chris Duarte has somewhat slowed down after his hot start to the season, but the 24-year-old guard is still averaging 13 points per game coming off the bench for the Pacers.

The Magic have two intriguing rookies in this campaign. Michigan product Franz Wagner has bounced back from his bracket-busting airball in the NCAA tournament with a surprisingly hot start to his NBA career, even outplaying his rookie teammate Jalen Suggs.

Houston Rocket guard Jalen Green, the second pick in the draft, looked like the favorite for the award when the season started, but his inefficient scoring and hamstring injury have caused him to fall behind in the award race.

Josh Giddey hasn’t been putting up crazy high-scoring numbers, but his efficiency and well-rounded game led to him being named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November.

Jakob Schnur is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jks6463@psu.edu.