Although it’s been a while since the last set of rankings, I wanted to revisit this year’s rookie class. Luka is the clear favorite for ROTY and, in my opinion, Ayton has been the 2nd best rookie this year. After those two things get much more interesting. Some rookies have recently played much better, propelling themselves into the top 5 of my power rankings. Here’s my January Rookie Power Rankings:
1. Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks
Season Stats: 20.2 PPG (44/38/73), 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.1 SPG
As previously mentioned, Doncic is leading the ROTY race by a mile. Not only is he averaging over 20 points a game and a borderline All-Star, but he’s led the Mavericks into the playoff race. His second best player is Deandre Jordan and the team is still competing every night. To complement his team’s success Luka has had plenty of big nights. On the season he has three 30-point games and a 29-8-12 performance. Also, Luka has stepped up in the spotlight. Against the Timberwolves, he hit the go-ahead three with 50 seconds left. On the season, he’s shooting 24-46 in clutch situations (last five minutes with a five-point margin or less). At this point, there’s no denying Luka has been the best rookie so far this season.
2. Deandre Ayton – Phoenix Suns
Season Stats: 16.6 PPG (59/NA/77), 10.6 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Although Luka was an easy choice for number one, Ayton has still had an incredible season. In just his first season, Ayton is already averaging a double-double. His dominance around the rim and on the glass make him appear to be an old-school center, yet he is still thriving in today’s league. Around the rim, Ayton is shooting 74%, which is just 2% behind Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid. Furthermore, although he doesn’t shoot threes, Ayton has shown a pulse from mid-range. On the season, he is shooting 84 for 175 (48%) from 3-16 feet away from the basket. Additionally, he is already a great rebounder for a rookie. He ranks 13th in offensive rebounds per game and 15th in total rebounds per game among ALL players. While his defensive game is still lacking, Ayton’s rookie season has been incredibly impressive.
3. Trae Young – Atlanta Hawks
Season Stats: 16.0 PPG (40/30/80), 7.2 APG, 0.9 SPG
Despite the criticism surrounding Young before the draft, he has proven he can play at the NBA-level. The biggest flaw in Young’s game right now is his efficiency, but he has still had plenty of flashes. Young has had 6 games where he scored 20+ points on 47+% shooting. He does also have 7 games of shooting 25% or less, but those games happen to rookies. Young has had the incredible responsibility of being the primary ball-handler and offensive option for a team without much talent. This and the fact he shoots a high-volume of threes makes it difficult for him to be efficient right now.
Besides his shooting, the most intriguing part of Young’s game is his passing ability. He leads all rookies by a mile with 7.2 assists per game. Doncic is behind Young with 5.0 APG and after that is De’Anthony Melton with 3.6 APG. He has also had 13 games of 10+ assists including 17 and 15 assist games. His offensive ability, although inconsistent, is what makes Young stand out and earns him the 3rd spot in the January rookie power rankings.
4. Kevin Knox – New York Knicks
Season Stats: 12.7 PPG (38/36/71), 4.2 RPG
Knox may have had a slow start to the season, but his play has picked up significantly as of late. In his last 15 games, Knox is averaging 17.2 PPG on 41-38-74 splits. His efficiency will need to improve, but Knox has the tools to be a legitimate scoring threat. In the last 15 games, he’s had 5 20+ point games and one big 31-point performance. The most promising trait he’s displayed has been his 3-point shooting. Over the last 15 games, Knox has been attempting nearly 6 a game and knocking them down at an above-average 38% rate. If he cuts back on the mid-range jumpers (23% of his attempts, shooting 30%), Knox’s efficiency will significantly benefit. Despite his poor shooting, Knox’s recent play has earned him a spot on the January rookie power rankings.
5. Kevin Huerter – Atlanta Hawks
Season Stas: 9.0 PPG (42/39/76), 3.2 RPG, 2.5 APG
Huerter’s season stats may not look very impressive but, just like Knox, he has recently improved his play. Over the last 9 games, Huerter has scored 15.6 points per game while shooting 42% from three. Through that those 9 games, Huerter made 5 threes twice and 6 threes in another game. Huerter was drafted to be a 3-point shooter, and he has fulfilled that role perfectly. On the season, he has only attempted 7 shots (2% of his attempts) outside of the paint and not behind the arc. With the way the game is changing, players like Huerter are exactly what teams want. His ability to play with the modern NBA as a rookie is highly impressive. The Hawks definitely got a steal selecting Huerter at 19, and I look forward to watching his career unfold.