NBA Rookie Rankings: Walker Kessler Releases Historical Stat Line; Paolo Banchero leads comeback win over Sixers

As the calendar rolls into February, we’re in the middle of the busiest month of the NBA season. The close of trading is just days away on February 9th, followed by the All-Star Weekend just over a week later. For the rookies, All-Star Weekend means participation in the 2023 Jordan Rising Stars tournament on February 17, and this year the selection of first-year players was great. The rookies that will be represent their teams during the Rising Stars tournament are:

All of these players totally deserve this honor as they have all been highlighted multiple times during this weekly leaderboard. This list is also not complete with the several other rookies who are having solid seasons for their teams, showing just how deep the 2022 NBA draft really was.

Now it’s time to break down this week’s rookie rankings. Keep in mind that these leaderboards only reflect a rookie’s weekly performance, not the overall season. These are not rookie of the year ratings, but rather a reflection of the player’s performance over the past week.

Earlier in the trading period, the Jazz announced that the only untouchable players on their roster are Lauri Markkanen, who could very well earn his first All-Star selection if reserves are announced, and Kessler, the 7-footer Rookie Rising A question from everyone watching him: how did he slip to 22nd in the draft?

A few weeks ago, Kessler caused quite a stir when he hit a double-double with 20 points and 21 rebounds, and this week he pulled off something similar with a performance of 17 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks in a win over the Raptors. He’s the first player since Dwight Howard in 2009 to post that stat line while shooting at least 80 percent from the field. He’s also the only player this season to have seven blocks in two games.

Each number from this stat line is more impressive than the last, and it all ties into how Kessler plays the game. He’s aggressive on the offensive glass, leading to second-chance chances for himself.

His blocks create transitional opportunities for the jazz, which then leads to dunks like this at the other end for the rookie:

Kessler’s ability to time blocks and hit shots without drawing fouls is rarely seen in a rookie. His size and length mean he can cover a lot of space, but he also has feline agility to make last-second blocks.

“He’s off the ground very fast late if that makes sense,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said after the Toronto win. “Not only does he give up early, he can close a lot of space with his last step and his length.”

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Eason had one of the the most bizarre boxing scores You’ll see not just from a rookie, but from every player in the league. In a win against the Thunder this week, Eason grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, a tally rarely seen in the league. In fact, it’s happened three more times in NBA history. Popeye Jones accomplished this feat in 1994, Zydrunas Ilgauskas accomplished it in 2005, and Tristan Thompson accomplished it in 2014. It’s something that seems to happen every decade or so, and Eason is the one who’s been doing it for this decade.

One would think that with so many offensive boards, Eason must have had a monster game where he snagged rebounds on the other end, but oddly enough he only had one defensive rebound. It’s an odd boxing score to stare at, but if you’ve watched Eason play at all this season, you’ll find that he’s a ballhawk when it comes to offensive rebounds.

Just look at Eason’s dedication to this game, getting four offensive boards on one possession and finally being rewarded with the and-1 after all his hard work.

He’s third among all rookies in offensive rebounds this season with 2.4 per game, but the two guys ahead of him — Kessler and Jalen Duren — are starting out for their teams averaging over 20 minutes a game. Eason does all of this while coming off the bench and playing 19 minutes a night. The rebound leads to second-chance points for Eason and the Rockets, and on a night that Houston was without two of his top scorers in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., Eason’s aggressiveness on the offensive glass helped the Rockets take the Thunder shock a victory.

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Mathurin now has at least 20 points in five games, capped off by a performance of 27 points and eight rebounds against the Grizzlies. Though the Pacers went down just 4-1 in Mathurin’s impressive game streak, he continues to prove his worth off the bench for a slithering Pacers team. But we all know that Mathurin can score points. What stands out most at this stretch is that he’s averaging 6.2 rebounds per game. In that two-point loss to Memphis, he led Indiana in total rebounds while coming off the bench. In Mathurin’s last two games combined, he totaled 16 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive glass.

It’s an impressive area of ​​Mathurin’s game that has unfolded over the past few weeks. When he snags those defensive boards, he instantly pushes the pace for the Pacers and often gets in the paint for an easy bucket. If he shatters the offensive glass, Indiana either has an opportunity to reset or Mathurin has another scoring opportunity.

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The Magic pulled off a big surprise win over the Sixers this week, with Banchero scoring 29 points 50 percent from field and 60 percent from deep. He also had nine rebounds and three assists in the win. It’s just the latest example of Banchero truly rising to the challenge, something we’ve seen countless times this season against the Boston Celtics. Banchero was essentially unstoppable in that first game against Philadelphia, hitting Joel Embiid once squarely in the chest and effortlessly maneuvering through pick-and-rolls multiple times.

But what goes up must go down, and when the Magic played the Sixers again two days later, Banchero was held in the loss by an inefficient 13 points. It had to happen after Philadelphia gave up a 21-point lead to a 20-win Orlando team. But it proved that Banchero is not afraid of the moment, even against some of the best sides in the league.

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Sochan posted a career-high 30 points this week against the Phoenix Suns, in which he grabbed three 3-pointers, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists. We’re starting to see multiple parts of Sochan’s game coming together and it’s changing the boundaries of what his career could be. His continued improvement in his 3-point shooting suggests that with more development he might be able to do damage from afar in a few years. But this week his assists have caused quite a stir, showing that this kid clearly has a lot of untapped potential going forward.

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