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A huge shake up for the rookie ladder this week, while the sophomore top 5 stays the same. As usual, all games played until Wednesday, November 16th are considered.
3 wins and 1 one loss for Emmanuel Mudiay‘s Nuggets this week. He had two bad games, where he went back to being the player he was earlier in the season, and two good performances in the loss against the Pistons and in the win against Phoenix. In the latter two he shot roughly 40% from the field, not exactly mind-blowing but still a good mark for an inefficient and inconsistent player. He is still out of the top 5 (and will continue to be until be for a while), but things seem to be getting better in Denver, despite the loss (against the Warriors). It probably has a lot to do with coach Malone’s change in the starting lineup, with the end of the Jusuf Nurkic-Nikola Jokic experiment.
A quick note on Frank Kamisky and his first truly good game, against Minnesota, finished with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. It was just one game, but it’s the first time the ex Wisconsin takes such a big role for the Hornets, and if he had to build on this performance, things could change quickly in Charlotte.
5 – Devin Booker, G, Phoenix Suns
Three blowouts in three games for the Suns this week. The game against the Warriors was an expected loss, but the games with the Nets and Nuggets showed all the team’s deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. And if the team’s best scorer is shooting 30% from the field in two of three games, there is no way the Suns can grab a win. The only good performance, a 24-point game against the Nuggets, was not enough to keep his team in the game, and the tanking plan for the Phoenix Suns keeps rolling. Booker also seems to be too nervous at times, certainly too arrogant, especially when he gets himself ejected from the game with a few seconds left in garbage time.
4 – Myles Turner, C, Indiana Pacers
Turner slips another position, and at this point it seems obvious he did not live up to the promises he made. Defense might have been better in the last few games, but it might as well be a case of playing against bad offenses. The loss at home against the Celtics might be acceptable without Paul George (although the Boston’soffense is not as good as it was earlier in the season), but allowing Philadelphia to score 109 points when the 76ers average is 97 points per game seems really bad. And he is not making a case for himself on offense either, since he never reached the 20-point mark this week.
3 – D’Angelo Russell, G, Los Angeles Lakers
A very good week for Russell, who averaged over 20 points and only had one bad game in the loss against the Timberwolves. The Lakers are now sitting on a 7-5 record after completing an easy stretch in their schedule, but they will now enter a tough stretch through December 9th where the only team below .500 they will play is the New Orleans Pelicans.
2 – Kristaps Porzingis, C, New York Knicks
A quick recap of Kristaps Porzingis week: 21 points in a loss against Toronto, 14 points in a loss against the Celtics, 24 points in a win against Dallas and a career high 35 points against Detroit. The biggest difference between wins and losses? Porzingis seems to be playing center a lot more than before, and to nobody’s surprise, he seems unstoppable when he does. Will the Knicks return to their closing lineup with Joakim Noah at center, or will the keep playing the Latvian there? Related, is it too early to start a #FreeKristaps campaign?
1 – Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Good news for the Timberwolves: Towns averaged 22 and 10 in the three games of the week, Ricky Rubio is back in the starting lineup and they won against a surprisingly good Lakers team despite the emergency situation on the wing that forced coach Thibodeau to start sophomore Nemanja Bjelica at small forward in an ultra-big lineup. Oh, and they are still a league-pass must watch.
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Plenty of changes this week in the rookie ladder. It is early in the season, and given that this rookie class has been disappointing so far, changes were bound to happen: two players are out of the top 5 and two new players are in. And more changes will probably come in the next weeks.
Jaylen Brown is out of the top 5. It was a likely outcome, the bad losses against the Nuggets and Wizards were not his fault but he is the one who pays in terms of playing time. He played 30+ minutes against the Cavs, 20 minutes against the Nuggets, he averaged 15 minutes per game against Washington, New York and New Orleans and only 7 minutes against the Pacers, and his spot in the starting five went to Marcus Smart. To nobody’s surprise, the Celtics actually played better with Smart, and with Jae Crowder and Al Horford about to return from injuries, he is likely to settle for 15 minutes per game in the future.
Poeltl is out of the top 5 as well, after a couple of bad games as a starter with Valanciunas out last week and 4 consecutive DNPs. He would have stayed out of the top 5 anyway, but losing his spot in the rotation to Lucas Nogueira is what really makes him plummet in this ranking.
Of all the rookies who just entered the Nba, only 5 of them are averaging at least 3 assists per game, and among them, Malcolm Delaney of the Atlanta Hawks is having the best time of his career. So far, he was one of the most under-the-radar rookie in the Nba, because of the other two rookies drafted by the Hawks, of the polarizing stars at roster and because he is a 27-year-old journeyman who played in Europe. The Hawks, as of right now, are at the top of the Eastern Conference standings together with the Cavaliers, Delaney is averaging 3.6 assists per game in 17 minutes of play and is the first guard off the bench when Dennis Schroder needs a breather. If he had to continue on this trend, he will be in the top 5 pretty soon.
About Brandon Ingram: he is playing well, although he did not do enough to make the top 5. A lot will depend on the games in the next weeks, given the tough stretch of schedule the Lakers are about to go through. His scoring is still a non factor but he is doing well in all those areas that do not show in the box score. And he already proved that his length will be a problem, once he will know how to use it.
5 – Domantas Sabonis, PF, Oklahoma City Thunder
A bunch of anonymous games for the Lithuanian this week, who scored in double figures only against the Clippers and was never a factor on the glass. The team did not help him either, with three consecutive losses that had the Thunder drop from the top spot in the Western Conference. It seems he took a step back compared to last week, but the potential to be Steven Adams‘ future partner in the Thunder froncourt is still there. And his spot as a starter is not in jeopardy either: Enes Kanter is better as a sixth man off the bench and barring drastic changes in the lineup he will be OKC’s starter for the whole season.
4 – Pascal Siakam, PF, Toronto Raptors
Siakam had two bad games in the Raptors wins against the Knicks and the Hornets, and two good games in the back-to-back that had them play the Cavs and the Warriors on consecutive nights. His usual effort and hustle on defense are a positive, but his offensive deficiencies will soon be a concern. On the other hand, Siakam and Nogueira were the only two players to have positive plus/minus both against the Cavs and Warriors, and that should say something about Siakam’s character.
3 – Malcolm Brogdon, G, Milwaukee Bucks
Brogdon enters the top 5 without big performances, but only because he has been consistent with his game early on. Only 8 points, 3 assists and 1 steal for the ex Virginia, but his 13.4 PER is third among rookies who played at 150 minutes, behind only Embiid and Jaylen Brown, he is the first guard off the bench behind starters Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell and sometimes he is the one bringing up the ball before handing it to Giannis Antetokoumpo to initiate the offense.
2 – Dario Saric, PF, Philadelphia 76ers
Two wins in a week for the 76ers and a couple of good games for Saric, although Ersan Ilyasova might have won the starting spot in the 76ers lineup. Lost in the Embiid hype, Saric started really slow, suffering the better competition of the Nba, but adjusted quickly and he might have found his footing right now. In the win against the Wizards, them of the “worst bench in the Nba” according to Washington’s starting center Marcin Gortat, he had a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds. And the possible loss of the starting role is not necessarily a bad thing, he is still averaging 10 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists, and if he had to play against second units his numbers might get even better.
1 – Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
He will be the Rookie of the Year, barring any injury that might keep him on the shelf. And of course, it would be a very bad loss for the 76ers and everybody else who finally has a chance to watch him play. He was on a scheduled rest when Philadelphia played the Wizards, but the overtime win against the Pacers has his signature: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 turnovers in 25 minutes, despite a 6-of-18 from the field he can certainly improve on. Your usual Joel Embiid.