Kia Rookie Ladder
Kia Rookie Ladder

Kia Rookie Ladder: Don't count Doncic out for All-Star nod just yet

Week 11: Ranking the top five rookies in the NBA

Drew Packham, NBA.com

Jan 17, 2019 9:43 AM ET

Will Luke Doncic and Stephen Curry cross paths again at NBA All-Star 2019?

Luka Doncic is having an incredible rookie season, but will it be enough to earn him an All-Star spot?

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, for one, thinks so.

"He's a brilliant player. I think he's already an All-Star," Kerr said earlier this week. "I don't know how the vote's gonna shake out, but he looks like an All-Star player to me."

 
Does Luka Doncic deserve an 2019 NBA All-Star Game spot?

The fans, too, think he’s ready. The NBA released the second returns of fan voting last week, and the Dallas Mavericks' rookie (2,220,077) trails only LeBron James (2,779,812) among Western Conference frontcourt players. The fan vote is only part of the equation, though, with media votes and player votes also weighing into the calculations.

If Doncic is voted an All-Star, he’ll be the first rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011 to make the team. Yao Ming also did it during his first season in 2003.

Doncic could secure his spot by winning the fan vote, but he’d have to make up more than 500,000 votes to pass James. If that were to happen, Doncic would be team captain for the West and select his roster for the Feb. 17 All-Star Game.

Fans have until Monday, Jan. 21 to cast their votes and assure Doncic's All-Star spot.


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1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

 
Luka Doncic was solid in a loss to the Spurs earlier this week.

Last week:  No. 1

In three games this week, Doncic put up some ridiculous numbers, averaging 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting 45.2 percent. Doncic just doesn’t seem to be slowing down or showing any signs of fear. In fact, his numbers in the clutch are putting him in rare company. Per Basketball-Reference.com (via Zach Kram of The Ringer), Doncic leads all players with 16 shots to tie or take the lead in the final five minutes and has a 60.9 percent effective FG percentage.

 

2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

 
Deandre Ayton powered the Suns to a big win vs. Denver on Saturday.

Last week:  No. 2

The Suns got one of their biggest wins of the season this week, beating the Nuggets 102-93 on Saturday, and Ayton was right in the middle of it. The big man had 22 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. It was his most blocks since Dec. 26, and the defensive effort was crucial in slowing Denver. ''We were the aggressors today,'' Ayton said. ''That's the main part of it.'' For a guy who’s had some dud games (like last Wednesday’s six-point outing in 20 minutes), the increased effort is a welcome sight.

 

3. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

 
Should the young Hawks continue to seek wins in 2019?

Last week:  No. 3

OK, it looks like the Hawks’ franchise point guard is for real. After struggling mightily with his shot to begin the season, Young seems to be getting more comfortable finding his spots. This week, Young helped the Hawks to two huge wins. First, he scored 18 (hitting 3 of 8 3-pointers) as Atlanta won 123-121 in Philadelphia. Then, Young had a monster showing, scoring 24 and handing out 11 assists in a 142-126 win against Oklahoma City in Dennis Schroder’s return to Atlanta. Young was 4-for-9 from beyond the arc and scored 13 in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

 

4. Kevin Knox, New York Knicks

 
Kevin Knox joined elite NBA company after his 31-point game vs. Philly.

Last week:  No. 4

Knox and the Knicks only had two games this week, thanks to a trip to London for Thursday’s game against the Wizards (3 ET, NBA TV). Still, Knox had one of his best games of the year, scoring 31 points in Sunday’s 108-105 loss to the Sixers. That showing put the 19-year-old in rare company, as he became the youngest Knicks player to score 30 and sixth-youngest player in NBA history to do so (joining Kobe Bryant, Devin Booker, Jaren Jackson Jr., Kevin Durant and LeBron James).

 

5. Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks

 
Kevin Huerter came up big in a win against the Sixers last Friday.

Last week:  Not ranked

Huerter is emerging as a serious scoring threat, and he and Young are forming a nice connection as Atlanta has seen a mini-resurgence. In three games this week, Huerter averaged 19 points on 55.6 percent shooting (57.1 percent on 3s). The No. 19 pick out of Maryland is really finding his groove and has scored in double figures in eight straight.

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Just missed the cut:

Rodions Kurucs, Brooklyn Nets
Kurucs has scored in double digits in four of his last five and was huge in helping the Nets win against the Celtics (19 points on 7-for-11 shooting) on Monday and Rockets (14 points on 7-for-12 shooting) on Wednesday.

Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
Sexton helped the Cavs end a 12-game losing streak by scoring 17 (on 7-for-14 shooting) in a 101-95 win over the Lakers in L.A., but it was the single turnover in 33 minutes that most pleased coach Larry Drew. ''He made some really good decisions,'' Drew said. ''He made some really smart plays that probably a month ago he probably wouldn't make, so I saw growth tonight.''

Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Bagley has been solid since returning last week after missing 11 games with a bone bruise in his knee. The No. 2 pick has averaged 10.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in four games, including a 13-point, 11-rebound showing Monday in Portland for his fifth double-double. The Kings are currently two games over .500 and one game back of No. 8 in the West, so Bagley’s emergence could help them rise up the standings.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
In three games this week, Jackson averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and two blocks. But Memphis is in a tailspin, having lost all three of those contests and nine of its last 10. With the trade deadline fast approaching, it will be interesting to see what path Memphis takes -- do they deal their veterans and turn the reins over to JJJ, or do they stand pat?

Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves
Okogie has seen his playing time increase over the last few weeks, and he had a pair of double-digit scoring games this week while getting a steal in all three games. He had 15 points in 23 minutes in a 119-115 loss to Dallas, then put up 17 points and five rebounds to help the Wolves rally past the Pelicans 110-106. For a guy who’s making his mark with his energy and defense, those offensive numbers are just gravy.

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(All stats through Wednesday, Jan. 16)

Send any qfuestions or comments to my email or find me on Twitter @drewpackham.

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