Okbet NBA Paolo Banchero : Even at this early stage, it’s clear that this year’s crop of fresh new talent is going to go down as one of the most exciting ever. Even beyond Rookie of the Year, there are players like Paolo Banchero and Bennedict Mathurin who deserve recognition. From what we’ve seen thus far, this team also has a plethora of high-caliber bench contributors like Shaedon Sharpe and Andrew Nembhard, who are able to make an immediate and significant contribution whenever they are on the court. Who among these rookies will have the greatest career remains to be seen, since there are multiple possibilities, but it’s clear that many of them have what it takes to continue in this league.
This week, the NBA released its rookie rankings. Remember that these rankings are for a single week, not the whole season, and will thus represent a rookie’s performance just in that particular game. These are weekly evaluations, not Rookie of the Year voting.
Banchero returned to Orlando’s starting lineup this past week after missing seven games with an ankle injury and started up right where he left off at the beginning of the season. Banchero played his 15th season in the NBA and scored 340 points after scoring 20 points with 5 assists and 2 rebounds in a defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.
|Paolo Banchero (2022-23)||22.7||6.8||3.6||45.8%|
|Blake Griffin (2010-11)||22.5||12.1||3.8||50.6%|
|Yao Ming (2002-03)||13.5||8.2||1.7||49.8%|
|Tim Duncan (1997-98)||21.1||11.9||2.7||54.9%|
|Grant Hill (1994-95)||19.9||6.4||5.0||47.7%|
With those 15 points, Banchero surpassed Shaquille O’Neal as the Magic’s all-time leader in scoring through the first 15 games of a player’s career. In his first 15 games with the Magic in 1992, Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal scored 338 points, setting the tone for a remarkable rookie season in which he would go on to win Rookie of the Year and be selected as an All-Star (just the 21st rookie to do so).
Banchero has had a promising start to the season, and although it is still very early, his play has merited consideration for All-Star honors. Even though Blake Griffin was the last rookie to make the All-Star game, it has happened before. Take a look at how his stats compare to those of other previous first-year players who were selected as All-Stars.
Considering the Eastern Conference’s depth at forward, Banchero may not make the final roster, but he should at least be considered. Now, he ranks higher than players like Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Zach LaVine in the Eastern Conference’s scoring rankings for forwards, where he is now seventh (though LaVine could be considered a guard-forward). Voters may not include him just because he’s a rookie, but his play this year has more than earned him consideration.
And yet, here we are, a quarter of the way through the season, and Mathurin is still coming off the bench for the Pacers, despite the fact that he seems to prove every game why he should be starting. That may change if the Pacers deal Buddy Hield, who has been linked to the Lakers in a number of trade rumors. So far, though, Mathurin has been a huge help off the bench, to the point where he’s a serious candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
Mathurin is one of just two rookies in NBA history to average 15+ points, 2+ made 3s a game, and shoot 40+ percent from deep. His 19.2 points per game are the most by a wide margin among bench scorers. One more inexperienced player? Oh, just Stephen Curry, the two-time NBA MVP and four-time NBA champion. However, what makes Mathurin’s stats even more astounding is that he is achieving everything that Curry accomplished in his first season despite the fact that he is a reserve.
Interestingly, Mathurin is in the running for both Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year. However, Banchero may have an opinion on the latter.
Smith has hit three or more 3-pointers in each of his previous five games, matching Luka Doncic and Anthony Edwards for the longest such stretch by a teenager in NBA history. The percentage of three-pointers Smith has made over this stretch is 44.7, a significant increase from the 29.9 percent he made through the first 15 games of the season. Although it was to be expected, given that Smith shot 42% from deep in his lone season at Auburn, that the No. 3 overall choice would eventually begin making his 3-point attempts, it is encouraging to watch him do so after such a poor start.
Williams scored 27 points on 11 of 15 shooting from the field and added six boards and two assists in a victory against the Spurs this week. It was the climax of a strong few weeks for the rookie, who is quickly becoming a key member of the Thunder’s promising young core.
After Williams’ stellar night, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said, “He was big time, he was extremely excellent.” “I’m aware that he scored today, but what really intrigues me about him is the fact that he’s becoming bigger and better at defense. It’s unusual to see such a large defender on the wing, but he’s also very intelligent and gritty, with terrific length and height to boot. He’ll be an excellent defender once his technique catches up with the rest of those elements.”
Daigneault pointed out something obvious to everyone who has seen Williams play: his extraordinary length. Last week, I brought out his 7-2 wingspan as an asset to his development into a tenacious defender in this league.
In a 116-115 away victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, Nembhard was a major factor. Even though all of his 12 points came on 3-pointers, the last one was the most important as he beat the buzzer to make the game-winning basket and shock the Lakers.
Given that Nembhard had previously hit three other baskets from long range in the game and was shooting 40 percent from 3-point area on the season, the Lakers’ decision to leave him wide open on that try was extremely bizarre. It seems like the Los Angeles team didn’t put much thought into their strategy, as LeBron James tried to make up for it by closing out on Nembhard, but it was too late. Nembhard will never forget sinking the game-winning shot against LeBron.