A month is not a season and a season is not a career. But no matter how small that sample size seems, there’s still a lot more work to be done to rank the NBA’s newest players than there was five weeks ago.
And as we learned more about them and their suitability for their teams, the Class of 2022 learned the league, the intensity of its competition, the demands of the NBA schedule, and the hard lessons learned from grumpy veterans, opponents big and small, Bad injuries, shaky shooting nights and a relentless urge to win are granted.
For players at the top of the Kia rookie ladder, early education included stopping a major ankle sprain (Orlando’s Paolo Banchero), a reminder that starting matters less than ending (Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin), and the frequent disconnect between good stats and winner in basketball (Keegan Murray of Sacramento).
Detroit native Jaden Ivey had a little of everything. Already, the fifth overall pick in last June’s draft has lost nearly as many times in one month as he has in his two collegiate seasons at Purdue combined (47-18 to the Pistons’ 4-15). He was trying to complement last year’s team’s rookie star Cade Cunningham until Cunningham retired with left shin pain seven games ago. That put Ivey in another, bigger role, another adaptation. Then there was the usual rookie stuff, like: B. Play twice in two nights instead of twice in a week. And all the free time without classes.
Kicking off Detroit’s current six-game journey, Ivey spoke briefly with NBA.com’s Mark Medina, who shared some of the notes and quotes with the Ladder Committee. The nimble 6-foot-4 guard, who ranked No. 2 for the second straight week, said his NBA experience up to that point was “everything I’ve dreamed of.”
“To be able to play against some of the greatest players every night,” he said, “and to be able to put on an NBA uniform and compete in all these historic arenas. I enjoy every second.”
“Every Second” is clearly about attitude, as it includes back-to-back grinds and the Pistons’ recent seven-game losing streak. Of the former, Ivey said, “You have to wake up the next day and register for the next game. You need a great mental bond for that.” And on the latter: “Shooting the ball is great. But victory counts. I wore that. I’m a rookie but I need to learn as much as possible to put us in a great situation to win.”
An early bonus: Playing for Detroit has Ivey close to his family. His father, Javin Hunter, was from this city before playing wide receiver for Notre Dame and the NFL. Jaden Ivey’s grandfather, James Hunter, was a defenseman for the Detroit Lions from 1976 to 1982. His mother, Niele Ivey, played in the WNBA for Indiana Fever and Detroit Shock before becoming the coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.
“I can visit my grandparents and my father,” Ivey told NBA.com. “I also have ties to my mother’s family. She has her mother’s cousins and part of her family there. It’s an honor to be able to play for a great organization and in Detroit where I’ve spent some of my summers. I love the city, being here and putting on the Pistons jersey every day. I want to represent the city.”
So far Ivey is representing quite well with his speed, quickness and raw potential. Joining him on this week’s ladder are a few new faces vying for the lower rungs.
This week’s top 5 on the 2022-23 Kia Rookie Ladder:
(All stats as of Tuesday 22 Nov)
1. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
Season Stats: 19.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.9 apg
Since the last ladder: 17.3ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.0apg
Last leader: 1
Draft Pick: #6 overall
Mathurin had to shadow box in a two-game showdown with ROY rival Paolo Banchero, who missed both Saturday and Monday’s games in Indianapolis. The Pacers rookie had 22 points in the second duel and averaged 17 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 40% – but his team won both. Oddly enough, Mathurin’s stats aren’t as striking during Indiana’s five-game winning streak (16.8 ppg, 40% FG, 37.5% 3FG) as they were during the team’s 5-6 start (20.4, 46%, 43.7% ), but he still leads all NBA reserves in scoring.
2. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons
Season Stats: 16.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.2 apg
Since the last ladder: 16.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg
Last ladder: 2
Draft Pick: #5 overall
The Pistons grabbed their seven-game sled by beating Denver Tuesday without Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey or Isaiah Stewart. That put Ivey in his biggest role yet, and he recorded seven points, six rebounds, five assists and four turnovers in 3-of-11 shooting with a 10-down in 26 minutes in the two-point win. His ever-present threat of explode to the brim opens up passing lanes for him, even if it doesn’t boost his own outside shot (except for his 4v4 from the arch in Sacramento, he’s been shooting 4v31 from deep since Nov. 14). Backcourt colleague Cunningham (left shin) is out indefinitely, hurting synergy development between the two but increasing Ivey’s reps.
Ivey goes coast to coast in four dribbles ⏩ pic.twitter.com/MuwV6oJlmj
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) November 23, 2022
3. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
Season Stats: 23.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.6 apg
Since the last ladder: DNP
Last ladder: 2
Draft Pick: #1 overall
The ladder committee looks forward to Banchero getting back on the scene if his left ankle sprain – which cost him seven straight games – has healed sufficiently, perhaps by Friday against the Sixers. No one else in the 2022 class is close to Banchero on a game basis in points, rebounds, minutes, FGA or points in the suit (11.8). But because of that layoff (now missing nearly 40% of Orlando’s game), Ivey has played 50% more minutes, Mathurin has accumulated 19% more points and 23 of his fellow rookies have tasted wins more times than the No. 1 (only twice) .
4. Jabari Smith, Jr., Houston Rockets
Season Stats: 10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.8 apg
Since the last ladder: 14.7ppg, 8.0rpg, 0.7apg
Last ladder: 5th
Draft Pick: #3 overall
Admittedly, his previous best of 22 points “only” came on Sunday against the Golden State Warriors. But Smith arced 5-for-5, hitting three of his nine 3-pointers and having seven rebounds against a largely intact version of the defending champion. The 19-year-old has started the most 3-pointers (96) of any rookie and his 29 marks are 30.2% accurate.
Tari & Bari got to work 😤
Check out the highlights 👇 pic.twitter.com/0MWfoQXZpB
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 21, 2022
5. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings
Season Stats: 11.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.1 apg
Since the last ladder: 7.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.5 apg
Last leader: 4th
Draft Pick: #4 overall
Murray returned from back pain to play two games this week. He scored 13 points against Detroit, then had his worst performance Tuesday in Memphis. The kings’ wing scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting, missing his four 3-pointers. He’s missed 11 of 12 3-pointers in his last three appearances. The good news? His sputters on both ends have cover for Sacramento’s winning streak and haven’t disrupted it.
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) November 21, 2022
The next 5
6. Tari Eason, Houston Rockets
Season Stats: 8.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since the last ladder: 10.3ppg, 7.0rpg, 0.3apg
Last ladder: 6th
Draft Pick: #17 overall
Leads the NBA—not just rookies—in steal percentage (3.8%).
7. Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trailblazer
Season Stats: 9.2ppg, 2.6rpg, 0.5apg
Since the last ladder: 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg
Last leader: 7th
Draft Pick: #7 overall
His 42.9% 3FG leads among rookies who have played at least 10 games.
8. Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season Stats: 9.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.8 apg
Since the last ladder: 13.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.3 apg
Last ladder: 9th
Draft Pick: #12 overall
Memphis finished the start with 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
9. Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons
Season Stats: 7.1ppg, 7.4rpg, 0.4apg
Since the last ladder: 9.0ppg, 8.0rpg, 0.8apg
Last Ladder: 10th
Draft pick: #13 overall
Oh to clean up a holiday mess like Duren cleans at the edge.
T-10. AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks
Season Stats: 8.4ppg, 2.0rpg, 0.7apg
Since the last ladder: 13.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.0 apg
Last Ladder: N/A
Draft Pick: #16 overall
Buzzer-beater vs. Raptors beat his father Adrian’s (assistant coach) team.
T-10. Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers
Season Stats: 6.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.1 apg
Since the last ladder: 7.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.0 apg
Last Ladder: N/A
Draft Pick: #31 overall
Shot 57%/43%/100% for a week, no returns at 20.3mpg.
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Steve Aschburner has been writing about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, his archive can be found here and Follow him on Twitter.
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