NBA Rookie Rankings: Jabari Smith turning a corner after strong week; AJ Griffin hits the game-winner for the Hawks

In honor of this week’s version of Rookie Rankings operating on Thanksgiving, it solely appears becoming to consider what a few of these groups must be grateful for on the subject of their younger gamers. For occasion, the Indiana Pacers ought to be grateful for the undeniable fact that they’ve two rookies who might be beginning for them proper now in Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard. Mathurin has Rookie of the Year potential and he is nonetheless coming off the bench, however Nembhard has been beginning and is making stable contributions on each ends of the ground.

The Orlando Magic ought to be grateful that at the very least proper now it seems as if they nailed the No. 1 decide in taking Paolo Banchero. While Banchero continues to be sidelined with an ankle damage, he is already proving to be far and away the greatest rookie this season. When you pair him with Franz Wagner, who additionally had a standout rookie season final yr, the Magic appear to be forming a formidable younger core. Teams like the Pistons ought to be grateful that the Kings handed on Jaden Ivey — though Keegan Murray isn’t any slouch both — and the Trail Blazers ought to be grateful that Shaedon Sharpe is making such a strong impression off the bench already.

Now it is time to break down this week’s NBA Rookie Rankings. Keep in thoughts that these rankings will replicate a rookie’s efficiency on a week-to-week foundation solely, not the collective season. These aren’t Rookie of the Year standings, however somewhat a reflection on what the participant has carried out over the previous week.

In a loss to the Golden State Warriors this week, Smith broke out of a taking pictures droop in a huge means, placing up a career-high 22 factors on 8-of-14 from the subject to go along with seven rebounds. Prior to that sport, Smith had been taking pictures simply 31.3 p.c from the subject on the season, and whereas one sport actually is not a pattern, it is a constructive signal for the No. 3 general picks.

Smith was coming off screens and pulling up for 3s, scoring off the bounce from midrange and scoring at the rim in a number of methods. It was a full offensive sport for Smith, who confirmed off his defensive chops as nicely.

Smith’s efficiency towards the Warriors was a fruits of his progress over the final handful of video games after a gradual begin to the season. In his final six video games, he is averaging 12.5 factors, 9.2 rebounds and taking pictures an improved 38.5 p.c from the subject and 30.6 p.c from deep. Those numbers could not look excellent, particularly his taking pictures effectivity, however whenever you evaluate it to the 10 factors, 5.6 rebounds and 30.3/30 taking pictures splits he was averaging in the first 10 video games of the season, you possibly can see that he is beginning to flip a corner

After the loss to the Warriors, Smith spoke about his turnaround sport.

“I really feel like I’m in a good headspace,” Smith mentioned. “I commend myself for simply maintaining my head. Lots of people cannot undergo these taking pictures slumps and stuff like that and nonetheless go on the market each night time and nonetheless attempt to contribute, nonetheless have a good angle. And simply, I’ m blissful for myself. Yeah, I’m simply prepared for the subsequent sport. Ready to see how the season retains going.”

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Griffin’s week began with a 17-point efficiency towards the Toronto Raptors, a sport by which he despatched the followers house blissful after changing a layup on a lengthy go from Trae Young as time expired to raise the Hawks to an extra time victory over the Raptors:

First off, let’s simply respect that stunning play by the Hawks to even get that straightforward of a look off with time expiring. Young simply zooms previous three Raptors defenders to get into the open court docket, then delivers the ball at the good time for Griffin to get the shot off. Tip of the hat to Griffin for understanding the way to minimize to the rim with Young coming down the ground to get the straightforward layup. Just lovely execution throughout.

After that thrilling end, Griffin was then elevated to the beginning lineup in the following sport by which he once more completed with 17 factors, to go together with three steals and two rebounds. Atlanta ended up dropping that sport to the Cavaliers, however Hawks coach Nate McMillan nonetheless praised his rookie ahead.

“He did a good job,” McMillan mentioned. “He made some pictures on the market and was capable of make some 3s and be productive. The problem was going to be for him on the defensive finish of the ground, however I believed he has been taking part in the means he has been taking part in — with confidence. He goes to make some errors however I believed they had been aggressive errors. I believed he performed OK.”

After taking part in simply eight minutes a night time in the first couple weeks of the season, Griffin has now performed himself into a regular 21 minutes a night time. He’s possible not going to place up 17 factors on a nightly foundation off the bench on a deep Hawks group, however he is contributing when wanted and filling in for no matter function Atlanta wants him to fill.

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In a win over the Denver Nuggets, Ivey put up simply seven factors on 3-of-11 from the subject and 1-of-4 from downtown. It was an uncharacteristic scoring efficiency from what we have come to count on from the rookie guard this season, however whereas he did not rack up a ton of factors, he nonetheless helped his group to a win together with his passing. Ivey had 5 assists to go together with six rebounds and a steal, rounding out a efficiency that highlighted his expertise as a facilitator whereas his taking pictures went ice-cold. This bullet go to the weakside corner with a double group on him was particularly spectacular, and a nice indicator that the rookie can function beneath defensive strain:

Ivey has develop into Detroit’s lead guard with Cade Cunningham nonetheless sidelined, and it is opened up a wealth of alternative as a outcome. He’s actually in the Rookie of the Year dialog, and if he continues to attain at an environment friendly degree like he did this previous week in a 24-point outing by which he went 8-of-14 from the subject and 4-of-4 from deep, then it will not be stunning to see him holding that {hardware} at the finish of the season.

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Mathurin is one other man in the dialog for Rookie of the Year, and what’s been most spectacular about his output is that he is placing up monster numbers all whereas coming off the bench. In a win over the Magic, he completed with 22 factors, 5 rebounds, and a plus-13-point differential. The Pacers rating one level extra when he is on the ground in comparison with when he is on the bench, and whereas which will appear inconsequential, the undeniable fact that a rookie is making even that a lot of an impression whereas coming off the bench is a vital accomplishment.

Including his efficiency towards Orlando, Mathurin has reached the 20-point mark seven instances already this season — all whereas coming off the bench — which ranks second amongst rookies behind Paolo Banchero. His 42.1 p.c from 3-point territory ranks 14th in the total league amongst guys who take 5 or extra makes an attempt per sport, making him a dependable menace from downtown for Indiana. I say this each week, nevertheless it’s solely a matter of time earlier than Rick Carlisle begins Mathurin, and when that occurs, he’ll get much more alternatives to point out off his skills.

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Williams is a nice instance of constructing on every efficiency and repeatedly progressing as a rookie. In the previous week and a half alone he is had level totals of 13, 16, 10 and 14. That 16-point efficiency towards the Grizzlies was additionally coupled with seven assists, six rebounds and two steals. It was a full efficiency from Williams who performed a key function in the Thunder maintaining that sport shut towards a highly effective Memphis group.

What’s much more spectacular about Williams over the previous few video games is his protection. He’s received a ridiculous 7-2 wingspan, and he places that to good use when guarding out on the perimeter. Just have a look at how he makes use of his size to disrupt David Roddy mid-dribble, which ends up in a steal and an help by Williams at the different finish:

On a younger group the place there are already gifted passers like Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Williams is one more spectacular facilitator that the Thunder must construct round.

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