by 48 Minutes Basketball Network Staff
The 2021 NBA Draft Class has certainly begun to make a name for itself.
Whether it's the first overall pick Cade Cunningham breathing life into the Detroit Pistons, Evan Mobley helping the Cavaliers compete for the NBA Playoffs, or even Herb Jones picking up minutes while the Pelicans await Zion Williamson returning to the court.
Overall, these guys have shown they are ready, and here at 48 Minutes, we decided to do a little exercise to determine how we rate the top 10 rookies of the class so far.
To explain how we put the rankings together, a first-place vote was 10 points, second place was nine points, and so on down the list. After everyone submitted their top 10 rookies, we totaled the points up for each player and the ten players with the most points made the list.
Without further ado, here are our results.
Mobley ended up receiving six of the 9 first-place votes for this poll and it's understandable. The Cavaliers have shown a big step this season, and Mobley has helped raise their defensive ceiling. Currently, on the year Mobley has averaged 14.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 2.7 APG while also shooting a true shooting percentage of .556 which is right at league average. Mobley has also played three different positions for the Cavs this season.
After the Raptors selected Barnes in the 2021 NBA Draft, many people were wondering why they did not select Jalen Suggs out of Gonzaga. So far, Barnes has shown just why he was the man selected by the Raptors. Currently, the Raptors are in playoff contention as well but are trying to battle out of the potential of playing in the play-in tournament, and Barnes has shown to be the prototypical player that Toronto loves to have. The rookie out of Florida State is currently averaging 14.7 PPG with 8.0 RPG and 3.5 APG.
The Pistons are not fighting for a spot in the playoffs they're looking more like a team who will be trying to pair Cade Cunningham with his future PnR mate for the next decade. Though the team isn't at the talent level their fans wish for them to be, Cade has looked to be the perfect leader to bring the Pistons back to relevancy. So far Cunningham has shown the excellent play-making ability that made teams want to win last year's lottery to select him. Cade had a triple-double in a Sunday afternoon game vs the Lakers, four double-doubles. One interesting Cade split is that he's shot better on the road than at home. Cunningham is shooting 40% from the field and 36% on the road while shooting 37% from the floor and 29% from 3 at home.
Even though Wagner was a top-10 pick, he certainly feels like the surprise of the draft class. Orlando selected Jalen Suggs with the 5th pick, and then took Wagner just a few picks after. While many people suspected Suggs would continue his excellent play from Gonzaga, it has been Wagner who has been the leading rookie in Orlando. In December, Wagner shot 40% from three and also had a 38 point performance against the defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks. Wagner has scored in double-digits in his last 23 of his last 24 games.
There were a lot of concerns on Giddey coming into his rookie year. Coming over from Australia, questions were raised about his ability to stay consistent, but he has answered all of those questions with his play so far. As the Thunder continue their rebuild, Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have started to show the potential to be the Thunder's backcourt of the future. Giddey is also the youngest player ever to record a Triple-Double just last week after a 17 point, 14 assists, 13 rebounds performance against the Dallas Mavericks.
Very little has gone right so far for the Pacers, but Duarte has been a breath of fresh air for Rick Carlisle's team. The rookie from Oregon is an elder statesman amongst his fellow rookies at the age of 24 but he has shown an innate ability to score much like during his time at Oregon. Currently, Duarte is shooting 35% from 3 on 5.2 attempts per game. Duarte had one of the better rookie debuts in NBA History on opening night this season with a 27 point performance against the Charlotte Hornets.
The #2 overall pick has shown glimpses of the NBA star he projects to be but also had a lengthy absence missing just under a month of games. The ability to score has shown, but Rockets fans are hoping to see Green shoot more consistently as he continues to grow. While the Rockets continue to hold John Wall ransom until they can find a trade partner, Green has taken the role of the Point Guard for the Rockets.
Zion Williamson is yet to make his season debut, Brandon Ingram has battled injury all season, and Herbert Jones has established himself as a fan-favorite amongst Pelicans fans. Jones is the only second-round pick to appear on the list but is deserving of having his name mentioned. When Jones is on the floor, the Pelicans have played much better. In a super small sample size, Jones is a part of a 5-man lineup for the Pelicans along with Nickeil Alexander-Walker, DeVonte Graham, Josh Hart, and Jonas Valincunas that is +21.7 points per 100 possessions through 48 minutes played as a group. Their most used lineup with Jones, Hart, Graham, Valincunas, and Brandon Ingram has been on the floor together for 225 minutes, and are +1.3 points per 100.
Sengun joins teammate Jalen Green on the list, and has shown the ability to be a solid NBA player so far for the Rockets. Although Sengun has missed the last handful of games when on the court he has been a positive for the Rockets. His best game so far this season was a 19 point double-double against Evan Mobley and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although the Rockets are young and developing their roster, Sengun is a guy who will be a part of the teams' plans.
Mitchell was selected to the guard-heavy Kings roster. The ninth overall pick hasn't consistently found his shot just yet, shooting only 39% from the floor and 30% from three, but has shown the ability to be a solid defender. Mitchell has managed to have multiple games with 2+ steals this season including a four-steal performance against the Utah Jazz early in the season. As the Kings are trying to figure out the future with De'Aaron Fox, Mitchell looks to be the guy to move into that role.
Others receiving votes: Ayo Donsunmu-Bulls, Jalen Suggs-Magic, Austin Reaves-Lakers, BJ Boston-Clippers