NBA Rookie Of The Year Rankings

With the NBA season starting, we took some of the top players from the newly drafted class who have the best chances at winning the award.

Tony Peoples, Reporter

1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando

Banchero is entering an interesting situation in Orlando. The surprise top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is sure to log plenty of minutes. Franz Wagner averaged 15.2 points on nearly 31 minutes a night in his first pro season en route to an NBA All-Rookie first team selection, and Banchero could get even more exposure. Duke’s former star forward will play a large part in boosting an offense that ranked 29th in points per game last season. He should definitely be the first option for Orlando and will have a good rookie showing. 

Keegan Murray, Sacramento

The Kings surprised many people when they selected Murray over Jaden Ivey, who was widely considered to be the best point guard in the 2022 draft class, but the Kings feel confident that Murray can be an asset early on. The small-ball power forward out of Iowa shot the ball extremely well during summer league play and averaged 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three before taking home an MVP award in Las Vegas. He likely won’t replicate those numbers against elite NBA talent, but the 22-year-old rookie has the tools to be successful despite playing along a pair of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. Out of the draft class, he’s the most NBA ready. 

3. Jaden Ivey, Detroit

The sophomore standout averaged 17.3 points and 3.1 assists this past season and carried the majority of his team’s offense on his back as the primary ball-handler. Standing at 6-4, his combo-guard archetype and good size gives him plenty of opportunity and potential to be Detroit’s flashy bucket-getter next to Cade Cunningham. When it comes to skill, Ivey’s attributes speak for themselves. His Ja Morant-esque vertical ability and downhill speed, power and aggression drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook has him in a league of his own when it comes to raw athleticism. His first step is unmatched and will have even the NBA’s premier defenders on their heels trying to keep up with the flashy burst and skillful maneuvers that Ivey effortlessly showcases.

4. Benedict Mathurin, Indiana

Mathurin wrapped up the preseason by averaging 19.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in four games with the Pacers. He scored at least 15 points in each game and tied Shaedon Sharpe for the highest-scoring game by a rookie with 27 points on Oct. 12. His 79 total points this preseason ranked sixth among all players. On a rebuilding pacers team alongside Tyrese Haliburton, Mathurin will be one of the go-to scorers.

5. Jabari Smith Jr., Houston

Smith would be higher on this list but with Jalen Green and KPJ as the main scorers he might not get the points he desires, but he still should have a strong year in H-Town. The Rockets opened things up for the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter by sending Christian Wood to the Dallas Mavericks earlier this summer, making him the clear-cut starter at power forward. Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green are sure to be shot hungry in the backcourt, but Smith will have plenty of responsibility as arguably his team’s best defender and rebounder in the starting unit. Smith could be a double-double threat fairly often. He just has to prove that he can bounce back from his Summer League shooting woes to prove his doubters wrong. if he wins Rookie of the Year this season. He would join center Ralph Sampson (1983-84) and guard Steve Francis (1999-2000) as the only Rockets to win the award, and he would be the third SEC product to win Rookie of the Year across the last two decades.