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NBA Rookie Rankings: Walker Kessler is a rebounding machine; Jabari Smith Jr. makes LeBron James feel old

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Of all the notable plays these rookies made over the past week, one really standout moment was the exchange that occurred between LeBron James and Jabari Smith Jr. when Lakers Face missiles. The four-time champion rookie reported playing against his father in his first league game.

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You can hear the genuine shock in James’ voice when he says “Really?” After Smith told him his father lined him up in his NBA debut against Sacramento. To really make James feel his age, Smith followed up with “You feel old, right?” It was a great moment to show how long James has been doing this and at a high level too.

Now it’s time to analyze this week’s rookie rankings. Keep in mind that these ratings will only reflect the rookie’s performance on a weekly basis, not the collegiate season. These are not the Rookie of the Year rankings, but rather a reflection of what the player has done over the past week.

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If there had been a Defensive Rookie of the Year, Kessler would have run away with the award. It’s not every day that you see a first-year player come into the league and immediately make an impact on the defensive side of the ball. This is because the game moves so fast and there isn’t a pool of talent like Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant on every college team. So when a rookie comes along and shows they have what it takes to defend at a high level once they get into the league, you’ll notice.

Enter Kessler, a 7-0 quarterback who became an expert at edge protection at Utah, filling the void left by Rudy Gobert. In a match against Joubert W TimberwolvesKessler scored 20 points and 21 rebounds to become the first Jazz The rookie has the most 20-point, 20-rebound game in franchise history. He’s also the first rookie in league history to post that baseline since Georgui Ding did so in 2014. Incidentally, nine of those 21 balls were on the offensive end, and yes, Joubert played in that game, and Kessler showed he was the best. Of being able to hold his own against multiple winning Defensive Player of the Year.

But what really stands out beyond the rebounds and second chance chances, is how well Kessler moves on defense, even as athletic guards move down the hill toward the rim.

He also moves well in space against big guys who can put the ball on the ground, as shown in this block against Luca Garza:

If this is the starting point for Kessler’s defense, he’ll be a great defender in two years. And for jazz else The defensive stalwart in the middle after being traded away last summer, this is great news.

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It might be boring to see Banchero on this list every week, but it shows just how much he’s been likable this season. He’s my pick for Rookie of the Year, something he should easily win at the end of the season, and the low-pressure minutes he’s getting in Orlando are yielding great results for the season. Charm From the point of view of development. He had another week filling out the stat sheet all over, hitting his first double-double of the season in a win over Trail Blazers.

Panchero’s success this season, like that of Ja Morant, Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson before him, has accelerated Orlando’s rebuilding. While the playoffs may be a long way off this season, it’s entirely possible that this time next year the Magic will be on the hunt for at least a place to play. Another thing that may be closer to reality is Banshiro becoming the first All-Star next year. He may not have the votes this season, but on the last ballot he was a top 10 tackler in the East, and if he continues that climb in his second season, voters will have no choice but to vote for him.

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Although Mathurin was primarily a spark off the bench for Indiana, with Tyrese Haliburton’s recent injury, he was inserted into the starting lineup and, in his first start this week, dropped 26 points on 50 percent from the field in a loss to the hawk. Mathurin was used primarily as a 3-point thrower for PacersHowever, against the Falcons, he attempted only one shot from deep, ruthlessly attacking the paint with a variety of hard shots.

Mathurin has become a darling in Indiana, and this performance against the Hawks proves he can attack in a variety of ways. In CBS Sports’ mid-season awards projections, I picked Malcolm Brogdon to win Sixth Man of the Year, but Mathurin wouldn’t be an entirely wild pick. He leads the league in scoring off the bench, (17.5 points), he averages four rebounds and although he’s been struggling with his 3-point shot lately, there was a point early in the season where he was almost automatic from depth. He probably won’t win the award, but the fact that he’s even in the running is proof alone that Indiana has something special with this kid.

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Ivey’s efficiency goes in the opposite direction of what you’d like to see, starting with shooting 46 percent from the field in the first month of the season, followed by two and a half months of shooting 40 percent. Those numbers aren’t perfect, but you hope that with all those low pressure casts he’s bound to get that efficiency that’s bound to jump at some point either this season or next year.

Proficiency aside, Ivey has shown time and time again that he’s just a scorer. Scored 21 points vs Nix Last week, he provided six assists, marking his third straight game of 5 or more assists. His improvement as a facilitator is what has been really remarkable, a by-product of his larger role with Cade Cunningham for the season.

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There has been a lot of chatter about the Rockets’ young core, and Not in a positive lightNone of which have anything to do with Smith. The Rockets have a bunch of individually talented players on their roster, but in terms of playing collegiate basketball, they don’t always succeed. It’s a problem some rebuild teams find themselves with from time to time. But through all the noise, Smith has shown his defensive capabilities on more than one occasion against some of the top stars in this league. He broke free from his early season shooting slump.

Smith outing 27 points vs Kingsin which he shoots 55 percent from the field, was just the latest example of his talent, and while he still struggled to connect efficiently from deep, he had no problem getting buckets inside the arc.

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