NBA Rookie of the Year Watch: November 17

Story posted November 17, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Daniel Mader

Many of this season’s group of rookies are off to strong starts, proving themselves at a young age. This draft class has shown that it may have been underestimated.  

Here’s take an updated look at which rookies have been off to the best starts, putting themselves at top of the Rookie of the Year conversation.

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Evan Mobley is a perfect example of what a modern star NBA big man is capable of: shooting from around the court and handling the ball like a guard, but also using their height and frame to finish, rebound and block shots.  

Mobley has done a little bit of everything so far for the Cavaliers, and he is a big reason why they have had a surprising 9-6 start to the season. 

Being 6-foot-11, one would expect him to be a center, but his fit at the four, alongside Jarrett Allen, has been seamless. 

The passing ability and finishing between the two has made them hard to cover inside, and defensively, it is impossible to finish on two seven-footers. 

Unfortunately for Mobley, he will miss a few weeks with an elbow injury. While he is currently the front runner for the Rookie of the Year, he may fall behind a bit due to missing some games. 

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Currently the leader in points per game and rebounds per among rookies, Barnes has been even better than advertised.

His strength as a finisher on offense is dangerous and allows him to kick out to shooters. 

Defensively, he’s even better. Already one of the most switchable players in the game, Barnes also brings the tenacity you want to see from a young player. 

Speaking of switching, Barnes has made scoring against Toronto even more difficult. The length and defensive ability of Barnes, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby is nightmare material. 

After facing them a few weeks ago, superstar Kevin Durant gave his respect to not just the Raptors defense, but Barnes specifically, saying, “He has a little extra as far as just seeing a game, being a little slower and that’s rare.”

Gaining the respect of a star like Durant speaks a lot to the talent Barnes has been so far, and it has made him a top Rookie of the Year candidate. 

Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

After missing the first few weeks of action due to injury, the No. 1 pick is easing back into action for Detroit. 

Monday night in a loss to the Kings, Cunningham put up his best game so far with 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while shooting 50% from the field. 

The Oklahoma State product is a safe bet to improve as the season goes on as well. His talent level translates to the league well, and he has the spotlight on him in Detroit to control the offense.

Cunningham has shown a willingness to let it fly from 3 so far, and while he is shooting just 30.2% from distance so far, shooting percentages typically increase for young players as time goes on. 

He looks to be on track to stardom, and if he can put it all together sooner rather than later, he could be the Rookie of the Year. 

Other Contenders

Pacers’ rookie Chris Duarte has boasted his shooting and scoring ability early on, and he could contend for the award if given the minutes throughout the season.

Second-overall pick Jalen Green has as much of a green light to shoot the ball as anybody as a young star on a losing team. If he is more efficient and helps Houston win some games, he’ll be in the conversation without a doubt. 

Finally, Magic rookie Franz Wagner was slept on a bit in the draft, but has looked solid, averaging 13.4 points and 1.4 steals a game. 


Daniel Mader is a second-year student majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact him, email