The trade deadline has been interesting for several rookies.
In Dallas, the Mavericks made a bold move for the future, landing Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks in exchange for DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr. and a pair of first-round picks. Dallas brought back Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke, but the core of the deal boils down to pairing Porzingis with Luka Doncic.
Doncic has proven he’s a franchise-changing player. Porzingis, for his part, proved to be as well, winning over New York fans before suffering a torn ACL in his knee exactly one year ago Wednesday.
Now, the two of them will pair up in what could be a dynamic duo that shapes the NBA for years. “Our goal is to keep these two together for the next 20 years,” Cuban said when introducing Porzingis to the Dallas media this week. Doncic and Porzingis already seem to have a bond, and even with Porzingis taking his time to return, it should work out well for Doncic’s future.
The other rookie involved in a major trade was Philadelphia sharpshooter Landry Shamet, who has been no stranger to the Kia Rookie Ladder this season. Shamet has been in the Top 5 once and in the Top 10 in six of the 13 editions. Shamet, who had become a key contributor off the bench, was part of the Sixers’ package to bring in Tobias Harris from the Clippers.
Shamet had become a key contributor for the Sixers and seemed to becoming more and more valuable as a spread-the-floor shooter as the season progressed.
Now, he’ll move to the Clippers and play alongside another rookie, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Clippers, who are clearly looking toward the future. How he fits in with that roster and mindset will be interesting to watch. Will he continue to put up numbers like he has in Philly (8.3 ppg in 20.5 mpg) or will he see his role grow on a team that’s taking a different approach?
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1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Last week: No. 1
Doncic played in just two games this week after missing last Thursday’s loss to the Pistons with left ankle soreness. Still, Doncic was impressive in his two games to keep his top rung. In a had 35 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the Mavericks’ 111-98 win against the Cavs. Then, Doncic tallied his third triple-double (first teenager ever with three in a season) with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists as Dallas beat Charlotte 99-93 Wednesday night. Doncic struggled from the field (5-for-20 FG, 2-for-10 3FG), but had several clutch plays to seal the win.
2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Last week: No. 2
Over three games this week, Young averaged 21.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 9.0 assists as the Hawks went 2-1 with road wins in Phoenix and Washington. Young was especially clutch in Phoenix, scoring 16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to spark Atlanta to a 118-112 win. Young was also named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January (he averaged 18.7 points and 7.2 assists) and was named a participant in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend in Charlotte.
3. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Last week: No. 3
Another week, another run of double-doubles for Bagley, who is quickly gaining attention as a potential superstar. In three games, Bagley averaged 16 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks in 30.4 minutes per game. His most impressive performance came in a 127-112 win over the Spurs in which he scored a career-high 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had one of the most memorable dunks of his young career. ''It's been fun, man,'' he said. ''I'm a totally different person from Game 1. I just feel different. I'm seeing a lot of things differently out there. The game is slowing down.''
4. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Last week: No. 4
Ayton returned to the Suns this week, but it’s hard to bump him back up to his No. 2 rung as I’d hinted to previously when I bumped him down the Ladder. Don’t get me wrong, Ayton has been his usual self since returning from a sprained ankle, but the guys above him have been outstanding. In three games (all losses), Ayton averaged 16.0 points, 10.3 rebounds while shooting 48.9 percent from the floor.
5. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Last week: No. 5
The Grizzlies appear headed toward trading Marc Gasol, which means more responsibility for "Triple J." The Grizzlies have strung together two wins (the only two games for Jackson this week), and Jackson Jr. was huge in both victories. Sunday in New York, Jackson put up 16 and seven and followed that up Tuesday by going for 23 points, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal to help Memphis edge Minnesota 108-106. He finished 4-for-7 from 3-point land and his numbers should only increase if Gasol ends up elsewhere Thursday afternoon.
Just missed the cut:
Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks’ sharpshooter has strung together four double-digits games and proving he’s a big piece to the Hawks’ future. Over that stretch, "Red Velvet" has averaged 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, five assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 51.4 percent overall and 53.8 percent from 3-point range.
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
Bridges is establishing himself as the defensive leader of this rookie class. Over his last three games, he’s had eight steals (2.7 per game) and continues to lead all rookies on the season (1.5 spg). He's also averaged 12 ppg while shooting 53.8 percent (46.7 percent on 3s).
Kenrich Williams, New Orleans Pelicans
With Anthony Davis still in limbo (at least until Thursday’s trade deadline), Williams continues to produce while seeing big minutes. In his last three games, the TCU product averaged 10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists in 33.5 minutes per game. The 6-foot-7 swingman is proving he can shoot from deep, too, going 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) on 3-pointers.
Kevin Knox, New York Knicks
With the changes in New York, Knox has already seen a bump in playing time. In three games this week, Knox played 36.5 minutes, averaging 16.3 points and 4.7 rebounds. He struggled a bit from the field (35.3 percent, 31.8 on 3s), but he should have some big games down the stretch as he learns to play alongside Dennis Smith Jr. and DeAndre Jordan.
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(All stats through Wednesday, Feb. 6)
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