NBA Rookie of the Year race update: Mobley takes top spot, Barnes slips

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Andrew, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

With half of the season in the books and the All-Star break and trade deadline around the corner, the NBA rookie rankings 2021-22 are getting tougher to put together.

NBA Rookie rankings 2021-22

The NBA Rookie of the Year race has been one for the ages this season, with multiple young players proving to be superstars in the making. If anything, it’s hard to come up with just 10 great rookies this season, and this could turn out to be one of the best classes in years.

But even despite how competitive and good this class has been, some still stand out from the rest of the pack. That’s why today, we’re going to provide our updated NBA rookie ladder. Who’s going to take home the award? Let’s find out.

10. Cam Thomas

Cam Thomas is getting more and more comfortable within the Brooklyn Nets‘ offense as the weeks go by. Moreover, he’ll be asked to step up big time – especially in home games – now that Kevin Durant is set to miss 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.

Thomas looks poised and in control every time he has the ball in his hands. He can score efficiently from all three levels and looks like a huge scoring threat in the making. Just what the Nets needed, another guy who can put up 20+ any given night.

9. Omer Yurtseven

Omer Yurtseven came out of the blue to crack the top 10 of the NBA rookie ladder. The Miami Heat keep coming up with undrafted gems and Yurtseven figures to have a big role even when Bam Adebayo is back. He made the most of every chance with Dewayne Dedmon out and has earned his minutes going forward.

Besides being a solid rim protector and a strong presence on both ends of the glass, Yurtseven has shown a sweet scoring touch. He won’t be an All-Star or flash with athleticism or speed, but he’s sure entered the NBA Rookie of the Year race.

8. Chris Duarte

The Indiana Pacers drew contrasting takes when they took Chris Duarte in the NBA Draft. On one hand, he was one of the most experienced players coming out of college and looked NBA-ready. On the other, he was a low-ceiling prospect who may have peaked already.


Fast-forward to today and Duarte has been one of the lone bright spots for the struggling Pacers. He’s embraced a leadership role with his teammates out due to injury, and he’s showcased his insane shot-making ability. Age is just a number.

7. Jalen Green

Jalen Green was the top candidate to win the NBA Rookie of the Year race but he missed a big chunk of the season with an injury. Efficiency has been an issue but he’s been one of the most entertaining young players to watch when healthy.

Green will continue to grow through his mistakes and there will be some off-nights, but he’s shown the ability to be one of the league’s next superstars. The Houston Rockets won’t compete any time soon but they’ve put together an up-and-coming, fun squad.

6. Herb Jones

Zion Williamson‘s injury has been a bit of a blessing in disguise for the New Orleans Pelicans. Don’t get me wrong, they miss him badly, but it’s allowed other players to showcase their skills and prove their worth. Herb Jones is perhaps the main example of that.

Jones has improved as a shooter every single week. He’s long, versatile, and can play and guard both forward spots and some small-ball center. While not a star prospect, he’s the ultimate team-first kind of player every coach loves to have.

5. Josh Giddey

Josh Giddey continues to climb the NBA rookie rankings in 2021-22. He’s proven to be the best playmaker in this class already and has become a nightly double-double threat. Giddey plays hard and tries to hold his own on the defensive end, although that’s still a work in progress.

The Australian prospect is long and a very good rebounder for his position, and he keeps getting better in passing lanes. Giddey may not put up huge scoring numbers but he’s one of the few pass-first point guards left in the Association.

4. Scottie Barnes

Scottie Barnes was on top of the NBA rookie ladder not so long ago, but an injury kind of set him back. Needless to say, the Toronto Raptors will be extra cautious with his knee going forward. Even so, he’s been perhaps the best rookie in the league this season.

Barnes has played lockdown defense on some of the best scorers in the league. He’s improved his shooting range and is one of the main reasons why the rebuilding Raptors are in playoff contention. He’s got the potential to be the league’s next two-way superstar.

3. Franz Wagner

Franz Wagner doesn’t get a lot of credit because of how poorly the Orlando Magic have performed but make no mistake, he’s a stud. Wagner is the best shooter in his class but he’s way more than just a scorer. He finds the open man, fights on the boards, and even draws charges.

The Magic were supposed to rely heavily on Jalen Suggs but he’s missed most of the year with an injury. Instead, it’s been Wagner who’s stolen the headlines for this rebuilding squad. Orlando have struggled to hold on to their young stars but he looks like a legit guy to build around.

2. Cade Cunningham

The first-overall pick of the NBA Draft continues to find his groove and get better. Thanks to his versatility, Cade Cunningham has been fairly impressive over the past month or so, reclaiming his spot near the top of the NBA Rookie of the Year race.

Cunningham is one of the most well-round prospects the league has seen in years. He could become the second coming of Grant Hill, hoping he doesn’t have the same luck with injuries. Even if he doesn’t win the award, he’ll be a star in no time.

Read more: How does Cade Cunningham compare to LaMelo Ball? 

1. Evan Mobley

Evan Mobley has been the best among the best rookies this season, mostly because of his consistency. A dominant athlete and impactful defender at the NBA level already, he looks like Anthony Davis 2.0. and a legit generational player.

Mobley has coexisted well with Jarrett Allen and the Cavaliers have put together a long, strong lineup. He’s the main reason behind their defensive turnaround and looks like the kind of player who’ll be a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

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