NBA rookie rankings: Scottie Barnes, Evan Mobley in early race at the top

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This rookie class is playing surprisingly well six weeks into the season and living up to the hype as one of the most talented and deepest draft classes in recent memory.

There’s a two-way race for the top spot between Toronto Raptors small forward Scottie Barnes and Cleveland Cavaliers center Evan Mobley. Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, is starting to find his way after a slow start, and Oklahoma City point guard Josh Giddey is dishing out dimes, leading the rookie class in assists.

Here’s a look at Yahoo Sports’ updated NBA rookie power rankings.

1. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Previous ranking: No. 3

2021-22 stats: 15.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.2 apg

Barnes was plugged into the Raptors' starting lineup from day one and is electrifying to watch with his long strides in the open court, no-look passes in transition and posterized dunks.

The 6-foot-9 wing struggled with his 3-point shot early, but he’s started to find his rhythm from deep, knocking down 10 3-pointers in the last four games. Barnes has already recorded three double-doubles and is 10th overall in offensive rebounds with 63 so far this season. He’s averaging over 35 minutes per game (13th most in the NBA) and is shooting 49% from the field.

If Barnes continues to stay consistent with his 3-point jumper, there are not a lot defensive players who will be able to stop him. It’s a two-way race for the top Rookie of the Year honor right now between Barnes and Mobley, and it’s definitely on his radar.

“It’s definitely a goal of mine for sure and something I would love to achieve,” Barnes told Yahoo Sports last month. “But right now I’m just trying to play basketball, win games and do whatever I can to contribute to this team when I’m on the court.”

2. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Previous ranking: No. 4

2021-22 stats: 14.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg

Mobley could be the first of his kind as an NBA center and has revived a Cavaliers team that struggled on defense last season. Mobley is the missing piece the Cavs needed and has not skipped a beat from college where he was the best shot blocker in the country. The 7-footer is currently leading all rookies in blocked shots with 38 and is seventh out of the entire NBA.

What’s been most impressive is what Mobley is doing on the offensive end. He’s stepping out and knocking down mid-range jumpshots in pick-and-pop situations. He’s even been the ball handler in the pick-and-roll and reads the defense well. Mobley is very comfortable in the grab-and-go and looks confident pushing the ball up the floor.

“I feel like a lot of bigs these days are learning guard skills, learning to shoot and that’s just what a new-age big looks like,” Mobley told Yahoo Sports prior to the season. “So with me doing that, it’s going to impact the game differently and I know a lot of young players coming up are probably working on the same things.”

Mobley hasn’t skipped a beat after missing four games with an elbow injury. He is averaging 14.5 points, nine rebounds and three blocks since his return.

3. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Previous ranking: No. 8

2021-22 stats: 14.1 ppg, 4.6 apg

Cunningham had a slow start because of an ankle injury. The 6-foot-8 point guard made his debut after missing five games to start the season. He started to find his stride and heard the criticism early on.

“I didn’t pay too much attention to what was being said after I had a slow start,” Cunningham told Marc Spears of the Undefeated. “I wasn’t going to let it beat me up or change my way of thinking. But I definitely knew what was being said, and I tried to move accordingly.”

The No. 1 pick in the draft had his biggest game of the season so far against the Portland Trail Blazers where he scored 26 points (10-for-13, 5-for-7) and added seven rebounds. His size and versatility as a passer makes him a dangerous threat on offense. With his size and length, he’s able to see over the defense and make accurate passes and is averaging 5.3 assists per 36 minutes.

Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons dribbles the ball during a game.
Detroit Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham is rounding into form after missing the first few games of the season because of an ankle injury. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

4. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

Previous ranking: No. 9

2021-22 stats: 13.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 apg

Wagner has great size at 6-foot-10 and has been the most impactful rookie on the young Magic team. In Jalen Suggs' absence, he’s stepped up his playmaking ability on offense and has dished out 10 assists in the last two games. Wagner’s usage rate has started to increase as his role expands. He’s great in the pick-and-pop when Cole Anthony is on the floor and is starting to find his confidence stepping into the 3-point shot. Wagner might not be as flashy as other rookies in the class, but he is showing the potential to be an NBA starter for years to come.

5. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Previous ranking: No. 6

2021-22 stats: 10.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 5.8 apg

Giddey was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November and is leading the rookie class in assists with 116. The Australian point guard is one of the youngest players in the league and isn’t letting that deter him from making an impact early in his career. At 6-foot-8, Giddey is using his size to hit the boards and is nearly averaging a triple-double per 100 possessions with 17.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.6 assists.

6. Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers

Previous ranking: No. 2

2021-22 stats: 13.1 ppg, 4 rpg

Duarte continues to see his minutes increase as the season goes on and has scored in double digits in the past six games. He had early injuries to his shoulder and ankle that gave him a more prominent bench role, but his natural feel for the game and consistent outside shooting make him a great addition to this struggling Pacers team.

Chris Duarte of the Indiana Pacers dribbles the ball while being guarded by Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors.
Indiana Pacers rookie Chris Duarte is becoming a consistent scoring threat on a struggling Pacers team. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

7. Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic

Previous ranking: No. 7

2021-22 stats: 12.3 ppg, 3.6 apg

Suggs is currently sidelined with a thumb injury, and the Magic said last week that he will not need surgery. Prior to his injury, Suggs was leading all rookies in usage rate at 25.4% and his numbers and minutes were trending up. Usage rate is the amount of time the player has the ball at the end of a play and can either end in a field-goal attempt, foul or turnover. Suggs is proving to be a complementary piece in the backcourt alongside Cole Anthony and looks equally comfortable playing off the ball or being the primary ball-handler.

8. Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets

Previous ranking: No. 10

2021-22 stats: 8.0 ppg, 1.7 apg

Hyland had a career-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers, in a win over the Miami Heat on Nov. 29. He’s looking more and more confident stepping into 3-point shots and has excelled in finding his teammates in the open court. The speedy point guard was getting more consistent minutes (before entering NBA health and safety protocols) alongside the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the two developed chemistry.

“For like, five games we didn’t lose. It just looked like [NBA] 2K out there,” Hyland said of playing alongside Jokic in a practice scrimmage. “You could just tell the connection. It was just clicking instantly. And then they put me on a different team because it was just too easy for us, honestly.”

9. Jalen Green, Houston Rockets

Previous ranking: No. 1

2021-22 stats: 14 ppg, 2.3 apg

Green is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury and will be evaluated week-to-week. The No. 2 pick in the draft averaged 14.5 points and two assists per game during November. Green is struggling with consistency offensively but is one of the most explosive guards in the rookie class, shooting close to 40% from the field.

10. Cam Thomas, Brooklyn Nets

Previous ranking: N/A

2021-22 stats: 3.9 ppg, 0.8 apg

Thomas put up 46 points on assignment for the Long Island Nets in a win over the Raptors 905 in the G League earlier this season. The 46 points were the second-most in Long Island team history and tied for the most in a G League game so far this season. Thomas is starting to see a little more consistent playing time for the Brooklyn Nets, averaging 8.4 points in 18 minutes the last five games.

Honorable Mention:

Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings

Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets

Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls

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