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NBA Rookie Rankings: Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley are setting the pace

Checking in on one of the best rookie classes since 2003

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Rookies are one of the most exciting storylines each season, regardless of sport. This NBA rookie class, headlined by Cade Cunningham, is no different.

In fact, many draftniks expected this class of rookies to be one of the best in decades.

We are only a couple weeks into the NBA season, but so far they have not disappointed.

In this series, we will compile a list of the top rookie performers. Unlike some rankings you may come across on the web, the rankings you will find here will be heavily based in traditional and advanced statistics, and focus less on what we’ve seen with our own eyes.

Another key difference in this series is that players on this list are chosen based on their minutes per game, and not an arbitrary number like “top 5 rookies” or “top 10.”

Methodology

Rookies who made this list averaged at least 20 minutes per game (as of the time of this writing). If only five rookies are eligible, only five rookies would make the list. Additionally, if 23 rookies averaged 20 minutes per game, 23 rookies would make the list. That will be important to remember as we publish future iterations of this series.

Players who meet the minutes per game criteria will then be evaluated using traditional and advanced stats. Lastly, we will take the ranking for points, assist %, true shooting %, rebounding, turnover, and defensive rating for each player and then average their rank in these categories to determine our final rankings for this article.

Stats for this article, and future articles in the series will be compiled from Basketball Refence’s NBA rookie page and NBA.com’s advanced statistics page.

Obviously some players have played less than 10 games so far, and that’s ok. The purpose of this series is to take snapshots in time of this rookie class and see how they trend throughout the year, with this serving as the inaugural article and baseline for the series.

One of the main reasons it is beneficial to review the data this way is it takes all the volume and efficiency data into account when deriving the rankings.

Let’s jump in to the data! (All stats are up to Nov. 5)

Traditional Stats

Per Game Stats Ranked by MPG

Player G MP FG% 3P% FT% FGA 3PA PTS REB AST TOV STL BLK
Player G MP FG% 3P% FT% FGA 3PA PTS REB AST TOV STL BLK
Scottie Barnes 8 35.4 0.52 0.22 0.71 14.63 1.13 17.6 8.9 2.3 2.25 0.63 0.75
Evan Mobley 10 34.2 0.49 0.15 0.79 11.20 1.30 13.8 7.9 2.3 1.80 1.00 1.30
Chris Duarte 10 33.9 0.44 0.42 0.92 14.00 5.90 16.1 4.4 2.4 1.80 1.00 0.10
Jalen Green 8 32.8 0.36 0.32 0.76 14.00 7.38 14.8 3.6 3.3 2.75 0.75 0.50
Franz Wagner 10 31.8 0.48 0.40 0.67 11.80 5.30 14.1 3.5 1.9 0.90 1.10 0.60
Josh Giddey 8 29.5 0.42 0.29 0.62 10.50 2.63 10.5 6.0 6.1 2.25 1.63 0.75
Jalen Suggs 10 29.0 0.31 0.23 0.85 12.90 5.70 12.6 3.3 3.4 3.50 0.90 0.50
Cade Cunningham 4 27.5 0.23 0.14 0.93 14.00 7.00 10.8 5.8 2.8 3.25 0.50 0.25
Davion Mitchell 9 27.0 0.41 0.29 0.64 10.22 4.67 10.6 2.2 3.6 0.89 0.67 0.22
Herb Jones 8 24.4 0.54 0.20 0.60 5.13 0.63 6.0 2.3 1.6 1.38 1.13 0.50
Trey Murphy 10 20.8 0.32 0.36 0.80 5.60 4.20 5.5 2.5 1.0 0.80 0.30 0.30
Alperen Şengün 8 20.4 0.43 0.30 0.75 6.75 1.25 8.8 4.4 2.5 2.88 2.13 0.38
Austin Reaves 8 20.4 0.43 0.30 0.75 3.88 2.50 8.8 4.4 2.5 2.88 0.00 0.00

Advanced Stats Sorted by Usage % (RK indicates MPG rank)

Rk Player G MP TS% USG% AST % DEF RTG
Rk Player G MP TS% USG% AST % DEF RTG
8 Cade Cunningham 4 27.5 34.6 28.5 18.3 106.8
7 Jalen Suggs 10 29 43.1 26 18.6 101.6
12 Alperen Şengün 8 20.4 52.8 21.7 17.9 110.4
1 Scottie Barnes 8 35.4 55.3 21.1 10.1 102.8
3 Chris Duarte 10 33.9 55.2 20.2 10.1 105.3
4 Jalen Green 8 32.8 48 19.7 16.4 110.8
6 Josh Giddey 8 29.5 46.8 19.6 33.3 113.8
9 Davion Mitchell 9 27 49 18.1 19.6 105.5
2 Evan Mobley 10 34.2 54.5 17.9 10.8 105.2
5 Franz Wagner 10 31.8 57.2 17.8 10.3 105.1
11 Trey Murphy 10 20.8 47.3 12.6 7.9 104.2
10 Herb Jones 8 24.4 55.6 11.4 8.2 105.6
13 Austin Reaves 8 20.4 65.6 10.2 4.5 104.1

Rookie Rankings Volume 1 (Updated through Nov 5th)

Total Rank Player PTS REB AST % TS % TOV DEF RTG Average Ranking
Total Rank Player PTS REB AST % TS % TOV DEF RTG Average Ranking
1 Scottie Barnes 1 1 9 4 2 2 3
2 Evan Mobley 5 2 7 6 4 6 5
2 Franz Wagner 4 9 8 2 2 5 5
4 Chris Duarte 2 5 9 5 5 7 6
5 Jalen Suggs 6 10 3 12 4 1 6
6 Josh Giddey 9 3 1 11 2 13 7
7 Davion Mitchell 8 13 2 8 2 8 7
8 Austin Reaves 10 5 13 1 10 3 7
8 Jalen Green 3 8 6 9 4 12 7
10 Alperen Şengün 10 5 5 7 10 11 8
10 Cade Cunningham 7 4 4 13 10 10 8
12 Herb Jones 12 12 11 3 2 9 8
13 Trey Murphy 13 11 12 10 1 4 9

Takeaways from Volume 1

Scottie Barnes is having a special season. In comparison to his fellow rookies, Barnes ranks in the top 5 in terms of usage, but it hasn’t been at the expense of efficiency, where he is also makes an appearance as a top 5 player. Barnes also ranks as the leading scorer in the rookie class, and he is 2nd in defensive rating. So basically, Barnes is being used a lot, scoring a lot, doing it in an efficient way, and it’s not at the expense of his defense, which is near the top.

Barnes is far and away the best rookie in the class in the infancy of the 2021-22 season.

Evan Mobley and Franz Wagner fall into the next tier of players. Both players are in the upper half of defensive rating and scoring, and they are efficient on the offensive end. It’s been a strong showing for the big guys.

Other rookies worth mentioning in this section are Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green, the top 2 rookies drafted, and crowned jewels of the 2021 draft. What is hurting Cade and Green the most in my rankings system is the lack of efficiency in what they are doing. Both players are in the bottom half of true shooting percentage, and defensive rating. In fact, Cunningham ranks dead last in true shooting %.

That being said, I also think Cunningham has the best chance to rise in these rankings. He has the lowest sample size of the group (4 games) and two of his four games played were coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him for over a month.

Cunningham ranks in the top 5 in AST % and REB, and the top half in PPG. Based on what Cunningham has done in his last two games, where he played without restrictions, it is reasonable to expect his PPG to continue to climb, and for his shooting splits to improve at least some.

For an update on how the rookies are doing, check back next month for NBA Rookie Ranking: Volume 2!