Joe Paige | Sports Editor
This 2021-2022 Rookie draft class has been quite impressive so far. Plenty of names out of this class have been put in positions to impact winning on each of their respective teams and most have shown a decent sample size of what they can bring to the table.
Certainly the most impressive one of the bunch has to be the 2nd overall pick Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets, his most recent outing against the Boston Celtics in just his third game Green set an early career high of 30 points on above 50% shooting from the field and shot 80% from three. Although Houston would go on to lose the game 107-97, Jalen still put on a show throwing down a few highlight dunks along with a block on Tatum late in the fourth quarter. He showed great playmaking promise as he demonstrated his drive and kick abilities along with his transition skills as he’d push the ball up the court numerous times with his backcourt partner Kevin Porter Jr, who although had 15 points caused 8 turnovers for the Rockets. The young 19-year-old tied the record for most threes made in a game by a teenager with eight, also became the first teenager with a 30-point game in Rockets history and also set the franchise record for 3-pointers in a game by a rookie. He’s a dynamic scorer and showcased his ability to get points in a variety of ways with his athleticism and craftiness, Green is one of the favorites to win Rookie Of the Year.
The rookie who’s been putting up the most points so far this season is Chris Duarte averaging around 20 points for the Indiana Pacers. Due to the absence of shooting guard Caris Levert being out for the start of the season the next man up was Duarte who jumped into his first NBA game with a ton of confidence and a greenlight. He started his debut against the Charlotte Hornets finishing with 27 points shooting 60% from the field and shot 6 for 9 from three, Duarte contributed immensely towards a 122- 123 win that was close all throughout the game. In his second game against the Miami Heat he showed off his playmaking ability, attacking mismatches and taking defenders off the dribble for both tough shots and easy buckets. He has taken fifteen or more shot attempts in the first four games of the season so far, suggesting that Indiana will probably give him plenty of touches to develop during games. It’ll take time for him to learn how to be able to get by good defenders, as he sometimes settled for mid-range jumpers against a tough defensive team like Miami, but he certainly is fearless in shooting the ball. This Pacers team is looking to be good and competitive in a tougher eastern conference and the rise Chris Duarte is definitely helping out with that.
In the annual GM survey, Mobley was voted to be the best rookie in five years, so far even in the small sample size that has been presented to us it is clear that Evan Mobley has the capability to meet that expectation one day. The most impressive thing about what he’s shown so far is how switchable he is on defense being able to keep with 2 through 5s, along with him grabbing defensive rebounds and his ability to rim run. While he’s still growing into his lanky frame, which results in turnovers when he’s trying to get around defenders, he’s still managed to be a consistent scoring presence for the Cavaliers to start the season. He’s doing most of his damage underneath the basket, as his 3-ball hasn’t begun to fall yet, but it’s great to see that at least right now he’s still able to be a dominant offensive presence down low. He shows shades of what a young Anthony Davis was before becoming and All-Star and a champion, flashes defensive player of the year type skills and versatility, the Cavs hope Mobley will emerge as that kind of player someday as they’re in rebuild mode and have plenty of time to develop him.
Where to begin with Davion Mitchell is why he was brought into this league, to play defense. So far Mitchell has been clamping down his opponents so far he’s been tasked with guarding Stephen Curry, Donovan Mitchell, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. Against the Jazz, he had his best defensive performance, being a constant menace on the perimeter. He hasn’t shown much on the offensive end and still looks like he has room to grow there but certainly isn’t afraid to put his head down and get to the basket at times. Sacramento picked Davion because he was the best available and many questioned how he’d fit with the other 3 guards they play in the rotation, so far he’s just been playing as hard as he can every minute he steps on the court.
A few honorable names to mentions here include Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddy and Tre Mann, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes and Dalano Banton, Orlando’s Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner, and Houston’s Josh Green and Alperen Sengun.