NBA Rookie Rankings: Walker Kessler Releases Historical Stats; Paolo Banchero leads the comeback against the Sixers

With the calendar shift to February, that means we’re in the middle of the busiest month of the NBA season. The trade deadline is just a few days away on February 9, followed by All-Star Weekend just over a week later. For rookies, All-Star Weekend means participation in the 2023 Jordan Rising Stars tournament on February 17, and this year the pool of first-year players to choose from was wide. The rookies that will be representing their teams during the Rising Stars tournament is it so:

All of these players are fully deserving of this honor, as they have all been featured multiple times during these weekly rankings. That list is also not exhaustive of the other rookies who are having solid seasons for their teams, which shows just how deep the 2022 NBA Draft really went.

Now it’s time to break down this week’s rookie rankings. Please note that these rankings will reflect the performance of a single rookie on a week-by-week basis, not the collective season. These are not Rookie of the Year rankings, but rather a reflection of the player’s performance over the past week.

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Going into the trade deadline, the Jazz let it be known that the only untouchable players on their roster are Lauri Markkanen, who could very well earn his first All-Star selection when the reserves are announced, and Kessler, the rookie 7-footer. which continues to raise the following question from all who are watching: How did he slip to No. 22 in the draft?

A couple of weeks ago, Kessler turned heads when he posted a double-double of 20 points and 21 rebounds, and this week he did something similar with a 17-point, 14-rebound, 7-block performance in a win over the raptors. He’s the first player since Dwight Howard in 2009 to post that stat line while shooting at least 80 percent from the field. He is also the only player this season to record seven blocks in two games.

Each number on that stat line is more impressive than the last, and it’s all tied to how Kessler plays the game. He is aggressive on the offensive glass, which gives him second chance opportunities.

His blocks create transition opportunities for the Jazz, which then results in dunks like this one on the other end for the rookie:

Kessler’s ability to time blocks and hit shots without fouling is rare to see in a rookie. Due to his height and length, he can cover a large amount of space, but also has the agility of a cat to make last-second blocks.

“He’s very quick coming off the court at the end, if that makes sense,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said after the win against Toronto. “Not only does he turn in early, he’s able to close a lot of space with his last step and the length of him.”

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Eason had one of the the strangest sheet music you’ll see not just from a rookie, but from any player in the league. In a win against the Thunder this week, Eason grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, a number rarely seen in the league. In fact, it has happened three other times in NBA history. Popeye Jones accomplished that feat in 1994, Zydrunas Ilgauskas did it in 2005, and Tristan Thompson did it in 2014. It’s something that apparently happens about every decade, and Eason is the one who did it this decade.

You’d think with so many offensive boards, Eason must have had a monster rebounding game on the other end, but oddly enough he only had one defensive rebound. It’s a strange picture to look at, but if you’ve watched Eason play this entire season, you’ll notice that he’s a hawk when it comes to offensive rebounding.

Just look at Eason’s commitment to this play where he gets four offensive boards on one possession and is ultimately rewarded with the y-1 after all his hard work.

He ranks third among all rookies in offensive rebounding this season at 2.4 per game, but the two guys ahead of him, Kessler and Jalen Duren, are starting for their teams averaging 20-plus minutes per game. Eason is doing all of this coming off the bench and playing 19 minutes a night. Rebounds lead to second-chance points for Eason and the Rockets, and on a night Houston was without two of its leading scorers, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., Eason’s aggressiveness on the offensive glass helped the Rockets to surprise the Thunder in a win

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Mathurin has now scored at least 20 points in five games, capped off by a 27-point, eight-rebound performance against the grizzlies. Though the Pacers have gone just 1-4 during Mathurin’s impressive series of games, he continues to prove his worth off the bench for a skidding Pacers team. But we all know that Mathurin can score points, what stands out the most during this stretch is that he averages 6.2 rebounds per game. In that two-point loss to Memphis, he led Indiana in total rebounds when he came off the bench. In Mathurin’s last two games combined, he has grabbed 16 total rebounds, seven of which have come on the offensive board.

It’s an impressive area of ​​Mathurin’s game that has developed in recent weeks. When he grabs those defensive backboards, he’s immediately picking up the pace for the Pacers, often getting into the paint for an easy bucket. When he hits the offensive glass, he gives Indiana a chance to restart or Mathurin another chance to score.

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The Magic pulled off a huge upset victory over the Sixers this week in which Banchero scored 29 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 60 percent from deep. He also had nine rebounds and three assists in the win. It’s just the latest example of Banchero really playing up to the competition, which we’ve already seen countless times against him. boston celtics this season. Banchero was essentially unstoppable in that first matchup against Philadelphia, taking him straight into Joel Embiid’s chest on one occasion and maneuvering through pick-and-rolls with ease several times.

But what goes up must come down, and two days later, when the Magic played the Sixers again, Banchero was held to an ineffective 13 points in loss. It was bound to happen after Philadelphia gave up a 21-point lead to an Orlando team with 20 wins. But he showed that Banchero isn’t afraid of the moment, even against some of the best teams in the league.

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Sochan scored a career-high 30 points against phoenix suns this week, in which he hit three triples, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists. We’re starting to see various parts of Sochan’s game come together and he’s changing the roof of what his career could be. His continued improvement on his 3-point shooting suggests that with more development he might be able to do some damage from long range in a couple of years. But this week, his assists turned heads by showing there’s clearly a lot of untapped potential for this kid to move forward.

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