There have been a number of rookies making an impact this year – some as primary options and some in supporting roles. Whatever it may be, us fans should definitely be excited to track this class going forward.
A few notes before I expand on each prospect. I am a big fan of AJ Griffin, Jalen Duren, Tari Eason, and Ochai Agbaji. As these young studs continue to get more playing time I expect them to stand out even more and establish themselves as starter-caliber players in this league.
1) Paolo Banchero – Orlando Magic
There’s not much to say about Banchero. The guy is a future All-Star and #1 option on a rising squad. Once he becomes more efficient, Banchero will become one of the top scorers in the league.
2) Bennedict Mathurin – Indiana Pacers
Mathurin is a scorer and that will always be his role. I think he’s the perfect fit next to Haliburton as a secondary option who brings the consistent intensity we have seen this season.
3) Keegan Murray – Sacramento Kings
Looking at the rankings we have here, Murray is playing on the best team and he’s a significant contributor at that. He’s a knockdown shooter and plays with a calmness and maturity to his game that keeps him consistent.
4) Jalen Williams – Oklahoma City Thunder
Williams is a culture-setting piece in OKC. He brings energy along with all of the little things that help teams win. As he becomes a stronger defender, which he will become, and a more consistent outside threat, Williams will be a long-term starter for the Thunder.
5) Walker Kessler – Utah Jazz
Defensive juggernaut. Kessler has become a long-term piece for the Jazz next to Lauri Markkanen. An amazing shot blocker with a developing outside shot, I could see Kessler becoming a DPOY candidate year-in and year-out.
6) AJ Griffin – Atlanta Hawks
One of my favorite rookies in the class, Griffin is an efficient 3&D stud already. His shooting splits are insane and is deserving of more playing time. I really think Griffin could be a big piece of the Hawks future.
7) Dyson Daniels – New Orleans Pelicans
Daniels is a defensive dynamo. He grades out as an elite defender already at his young age. If Daniels can develop a consistent outside jump shot then we are talking about another DPOY candidate who plays on both ends.
8) Jalen Duren – Detroit Pistons
The youngest player in the league, Duren will be a double-double machine over the next decade. He plays within himself and is already a brute force in the paint. If he can develop additional skills then we are talking about a potential top 10 center in the league in a few years.
9) Jaden Ivey – Detroit Pistons
This ranking might be a little low for Ivey, as he would be doing much better if Cade Cunningham were playing, but his inconsistency has worried me a little bit. Ivey has all of the tools to become a great scoring guard in the league, but with being thrust into more of a playmaking role
10) Jabari Smith Jr. – Houston Rockets
Smith has all the talent in the world to be a supreme 3&D big for the Rockets. He has the mobility to switch onto guards and his shooting stroke is a thing of beauty. The lack of a point guard on the Rockets has limited Smith’s development but I still think he can become a stud.
11) Tari Eason – Houston Rockets
Eason is either going to be a future 6th Man of the Year candidate or a solid starter for a long time. He does it all on the court and as the game slows down for him he will get even better. Love everything he brings and I think could end up being a solid 15 PPG & 7 RPG type of player.
12) Jeremy Sochan – San Antonio Spurs
All the traits in the world with Sochan. He’s athletic, plays hard, good culture guy, knows his role, etc. It has been made well-known how his shooting has improved as of late, and if he can keep that up, Sochan is a long-term starter for the young Spurs.
13) Andrew Nembhard – Indiana Pacers
Nembhard has been a solid contributor to this surprising Pacers team. He knows his role and limits and plays to his strengths. I don’t think Nembhard will ever be more than a 20 MPG, backup point, but he will be a solid contributor for the next decade.
14) Shaedon Sharpe – Portland Trail Blazers
Out of this world athleticism. Sharpe can fly with the best of them, but his spot up shooting is very intriguing. Pairing him with Simons as the future of the Blazers is a good move. If they can add another piece or two to their young core then I see light at the end of the tunnel.
15) Ochai Agbaji – Utah Jazz
Give me Agbaji as a supporting piece on the Jazz with Kessler and Markkanen and you have strong nucleus already. Agbaji is an ideal 3&D guard with great advanced stats and a beautiful jumpshot. Get a elite playmaker with these guys and you are talking about a bright future.
16) Mark Williams – Charlotte Hornets
Williams is a match made in heaven with LaMelo Ball as a lob threat and pick and roll big. His insane wingspan has already made an impact and I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams becomes one of the best bigs in the class.