By: Abdulwaaliy Bello
The NBA is in full swing already, and slowly, the wheat is getting separated from the shaft. The big boys are doing the business for their teams as they fight for the Play-off spots. However, the new boys(rookies) can also stake a claim for their teams if they consistently step up to the plate.
No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero returned to action with the Orlando Magic after missing seven games because of an ankle injury. With what he has shown this season, Banchero’s comeback from a 17-day layoff is of great importance to the Magic.
“I 100 percent agree with him being the number one pick,” Draymond Green said about Banchero after the 20-year-old forward registered 22 points, eight rebounds, and three assists in the Warriors’ 130-129 loss to the Magic in November.
“I really love his demeanor, that team hasn’t won many games. I think that was their second win of the season. But they are competing, and if you are watching these games, they are not getting blown out anymore. They’re right there, and they’re learning how to win. And if I’m being honest, I think [Banchero’s] demeanor and who he is has a lot to do with that.”
Despite the Magic’s 3-4 record while the big man was out, the team’s development and long-term success center on the 20-year-old with the dazzling mix of size, skill, confidence, and work ethic.
Accomplishing a feat only LeBron James can boast of, Paolo Banchero put up 27 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in his first game, putting his name on the map and showing that being the first pick was no mistake on the part of the Magic. Of course, the Seattle ballet did not just end it there, he has been superb this season. Banchero has averaged 22.6 points per game(PPG), 6.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. 6’6″ Benedict Mathurin has also been good this season. The Indiana Pacers shooting guard was the 6th overall in the NBA draft of 2022 and is also proving himself to be the franchise player he was primed to be.
Some days ago, the Indiana Pacers overcame a 17-point deficit in the final nine minutes against a resurgent Los Angeles Lakers side, and Mathurin played a big role. He nicked 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 assist. Benedict Mathurin is averaging 19.1 PPG this season, and he is just second on the all-rookie points per game list only behind Paolo Banchero with 22.6 PPG.
Jabari Smith, third on the NBA rookie PPG board with 16.1ppg and 7 boards has shown his defensive prowess time and time again. Coming off two consecutive losses to the Denver Nuggets, his form has been on the low but this is something that can be picked up easily. Jaden Ivey of the Detroit Pistons with 16.2 PPG is also a rookie player to look out for. Ivey’s mother, Niele Ivey, serves as the head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame. She played in the WNBA for five seasons and was an All-American player at Notre Dame. Ivey revealed on his draft day that apparently, his game was molded by watching the play of Skylar Diggins-Smith, Arike Ogunbowale, and Jewell Loyd who were players under his mother in Norte Dame University basketball program, All three of whom have grown into elite players in the WNBA. Jabari Smith of the
Another notable mention is Jalen Williams, the 21-year-old who just won Rookie of the Month for the Western Conference with 10 points per game, 3.2 rebounds, and a trail of highlights to go along with it. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s very athletic and he shined so brightly in what is most probably the best performance of his young NBA career, scoring 27 points in a comeback win versus San Antonio.