There’s approximately a month left of the NBA season. How are the rookies drafted top ten in the 2022 NBA draft doing? Regardless of how their overall team is doing, let’s grade their individual performance from F to A+ so far this season:
#1 Paolo Banchero – Orlando Magic
This was a last minute option for the Orlando Magic. Initially, it was said that they would pick Jabari Smith Jr. 1st overall, but it’s fair to say choosing Paolo Banchero was the right choice. The small forward has been an immediate addition to the Orlando Magic’s young core and is a bona fide franchise player for their future. Banchero has made the rebuild extremely promising for the team since he was given the keys to be the number one option. The former Duke University student started the season off strong. In the first two months, Banchero averaged an impressive 22.7 points and 6.9 rebounds while also posting a solid 45.8% from the field. Regardless of how the team was doing, these numbers were strong in the early going.
While Banchero gradually came back down to earth, he continued his impressive play in December and January with near-similar numbers. However, during the month of February, Banchero struggled. He averaged 16.6 points and the entire month of February saw Paolo make only one three pointer over 33 attempts. Additionally, his average free throw percentage fell from 78.8% to 71.1%. The rookie has since bounced back in the early month of March after a few stretch of games.
Regardless of his awful February, Banchero is still the favorite for Rookie of The Year, according to USA Today’s TheRookieWire. His main skillsets are scoring from all over the court and rebounding. As Banchero continues to improve his three point percentage and team play, expect him to become the next franchise cornerstone for the Orlando Magic.
#2 Chet Holmgren – Oklahoma City Thunder
Chet Holmgren unfortunately suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot, taking him out for the entire 2022-2023 season. This might have occurred during a pro-am game when he attempted to defend all-time great LeBron James. His season-ending injury isn’t a huge concern at this time, mainly because the potential is still there.
In fact, many rookies have flourished following a season-ending injury to start their career. Notable ones include Joel Embiid, Blake Griffin, Ben Simmons, and Julius Randle. He will very likely compete for the 2024 Rookie Of The Year against the likes of phenoms Scoot Henderson and Victor Wembenyama.
Plus, OKC is doing very well without him. A young team, they are within reach of the play-in tournament. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is turning into a franchise player along with an excellent facilitator in Josh Giddey. It will be interesting to see how Holmgren plays alongside him when he makes his NBA debut.
#3 Jabari Smith Jr. – Houston Rockets
Many analysts had Jabari Smith Jr. as their top overall pick in the draft. It’s safe to say they were wrong. Smith has had an underwhelming start to his NBA career, averaging 12.5 points and 7.1 rebounds with shooting averages of 40.2%/31.1%/78.8%. His 51.5% true shooting percentage isn’t anything ride home about either. This is after signing a 4-year, $40.3 million dollar deal with Houston.
Keep in mind, these are all during an average of a lengthy 30 minutes. While it’s clear to say Jabari hasn’t adjusted well to the NBA, consider the way he is coached. Rockets Coach Stephen Silas has admitted he doesn’t ever run plays for him. This may be a huge factor in his overall rookie performance. He only shoots 10-11 shots a game and is mostly relegated to the wings on offense.
Known for his two-way potential, Smith is expected to become one of the cornerstones for Houston’s future. Given his slow start this season, he’s played his best brand of basketball in the month of March. Smith has had his greatest stretch of the season recently, recording three consecutive double-doubles. It’s true that the rookie forward won’t have a night like this every time out on the court, but his scoring has been steadily improving as of late. In the month of March, Smith has averaged 16.8 points on 52.1% field goal and 45.2% three-point shooting.
#4 Keegan Murray – Sacramento Kings
Since 2006, the Sacramento Kings have been trying to fight their way back to the playoffs. Getting drafted to Sacramento was often a death sentence for potential franchise players. Examples of this include DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Marvin Bagley, and Willie Caulie-Stein. Fortunately, Iowa’s Keegan Murray has been granted the best case scenario among the rest of the rookies in the top ten.
His team in the Sacramento Kings are the 2nd seed in the playoffs and will likely make the playoffs. After what seemed like forever, the Kings are back to relevancy. In hindsight, Murray making the playoffs in his first year is the best case scenario. On the flipside, Murray hasn’t received ample touches due to the overall teams success. This hasn’t stopped his overall production. Given a low 14.9% usage rate, the six-eight power forward is putting up averages 29.4 minutes for 11.6 points with 4.5 rebounds with respectable shooting splits of 44.4%/40.1%/80% in his first year through 63 games.
Murray would have an increase in touches had Sacramento gone through another year of mediocrity. However, I think Murray prefers a playoff run a whole lot more.
#5 Jaden Ivey – Detroit Pistons
Prior to the NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons needed to find a guard that can shoot the ball well and become a complimentary addition to point guard Cade Cunningham. Enter Jaden Ivey. The guard from Purdue has very high clutch potential and athleticism, and it’s shown throughout his rookie year. With Cunningham out for the season, Ivey has been utilized as a point guard for the young Pistons. His offensive numbers have been relatively adequate, averaging 15.4 points and 4.9 assists. However, Ivey’s shooting efficiency has been shaky, with 41.5% from the field and 33.1% from deep on 12.6 attempted field goals per game.
His time playing point has also been a mixed bag. At times, his facilitation has flourished, scoring double digit assists in several games this season. However, at other times, he commits ill-advised passes and turns the ball over, averaging three turnovers per game.
Although this is normal for most rookies, there is still relative upside for Jaden Ivey. His shot selection and efficiency will improve overtime, especially when Cunningham comes back.
#6 Benedict Mathurin – Indian Pacers
There’s a definitive argument that Benedict Mathurin could have been the best pick in the NBA draft in the early going. In the months of October, November, and January, Mathurin was on a tear, averaging 20.4, 18.5, and 19.5 points per game of the bench. Mathurin is not afraid of taking drives to the basket often, as he averages 5.8 free throws per game on a crisp 82.6%.
Since his struggles in the last month, Mathurin is putting up averages of 16.6 points and 4 rebounds in 27.8 minutes off the bench. This includes a plus minus of -4.5. These are on 42.8% percent from the field and 31.5% from deep on 12.4 field goal attempts per game.
February and the month of March haven’t been too kind to him, but there’s definitive potential to his game. Perhaps the length of the NBA is getting to him, which is normal. Overall, his presence off the bench solidifies the Indiana Pacers in the back end. This is especially crucial when one of their starting players goes down with an injury.
#7 Shaedon Sharpe – Portland Trailblazers
Drafting a player in Shaedon Sharpe was done for the sole purpose of rebuilding their future in case star Damian Lillard leaves the team. Right now, he is the young energy guy off the bench, and he has done his job. Sharpe is averaging 7.9 points with 47.4% from the field and 34.9% from deep on three attempts per game in 20.6 minutes.
While he is certainly a step down in production compared to the higher draft picks, Sharpe has the upside of versatility and can certainly improve his game if the team moves on from Dame. Portland has been in playoff limbo after making the Western Conference Finals in the 2018-2019 season, so it’s possible Sharpe can become one of those glue guys that contributes to their future.
#8 Dyson Daniels – New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans’ up and down season includes a frustrating start to Dyson Daniels career. Along with other teammates, the Australian 6’7 point guard has dealt with injuries, playing 46 games out of 65. Additionally, New Orleans doesn’t seem to be utilizing his potential, as Daniels is only averaging 4.2 points and 3.4 assists in 19.3 minutes. This is on a 4-year, $25 million dollar deal with $11 million guaranteed.
When given ample minutes, there are hardly any plays drawn for him. In the past two games, Daniels played a total of 51 minutes taking only 11 shots and making two of them.
Dyson’s potential is clearly overshadowed. When he was 17, he made his debut for the Australian Senior National Team at FIBA Asia Cup qualification against New Zealand, scoring 23 points with six steals and four assists. It may be very likely that he might be on the wrong team to develop his game.
#9 Jeremy Sochan – San Antonio Spurs
Aside from his Dennis Rodman-like hair, hardly any press had been made for the San Antonio Spurs rookie Jeremy Sochan. Picked 9th overall in the small San Antonio market, Sochan has quietly had a solid start to his season. A power forward at 6’8, Sochan is averaging 11.1 points on 45.3% shooting while grabbing 5.9 rebounds in 26.4 minutes over 54 games played.
Sochan had arguably his best game of his young career this week against the Orlando Magic, scoring 29 points on 11 for 19 shots including 3 of 6 from three point land over 32 minutes of play. The rookie needs to work on improving his outside shot as a possible stretch four option to increase his versatility. As a non-facilitator, Sochan is averaging 1.8 turnovers per game, which is rather high for a power forward.
Sochan free throw percentage in the early going was around an abysmal 45%. However, since he elected to shoot his free throws with one hand, his percentage climbed to 78%. It isn’t typical for NBA players to shoot free throws with just their dominant hand. But Sochan isn’t a typical player. His personality and upbringing is encouraged by the Spurs as he improves his playstyle throughout his rookie season.
#10 Johnny Davis – Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards tenth overall pick from Wisconsin in Johnny Davis has been a non-factor this season. Davis has spent the majority of his young career in the G-League with below run-of-the-mill stats. His time in the NBA has been very little, which only 15 games played out of the rotation averaging 5.9 minutes. Let’s not even mention his 1.8 PPG on 37.9% shooting. Aside from this, his best performance was his last game against the Detroit Pistons. Davis went 5 of 11 for 11 points in 19 minutes, tripling his average.
What’s worse is that Davis is on a lottery contract (4-year, $21.8 million with $4.8 million made this season), and he’s played like he’s on a 2-way G-League contract. Right now, he is on the Washington Wizards playing through garbage time. If he can showcase his Wisconsin potential over the last month of the season, it’s slightly possible he’ll get a chance to make an appearance in the play-in tournament.
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