While this rookie class has generally struggled with consistency, one thing it has going for it is breakout performances.
And now, you can add Chicago guard Coby White to the list.
White had fans chanting his name at United Center with a 27-point night that featured an electric fourth quarter for the ages. White erupted for seven 3-pointers down the stretch, setting a Bulls franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter to spark Chicago's 120-102 win against New York.
''I had been shooting it bad, so it was good to see that first one fall,'' said White, who missed his first five shots and entered the fourth quarter with just four points. ''Then I just got into a good rhythm.''
White led a 24-2 run, hitting 3-pointers on three straight possessions and eventually had fans chanting “Co-by! Co-by!” as the Bulls pulled away.
“The kid is just a super talent,'' Knicks coach David Fizdale said afterward. ''He's got incredible speed, so you have to respect it. Once he gets it going, it's hard to stop. He just broke the game open.''
White has struggled with his shot (36.8% overall, 28.6% on 3-pointers), but moments like this are what makes rookies so fun to watch -- you never know who’s going to break out.
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1. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Morant made up for a terrible start to the week with one of the most memorable games of his young career. Morant stuggled with his shot in a loss in Orlando (eight points, 3-for-13 FG) and a win in San Antonio (nine points, 2-for-12 FG) for his only two single-digit scoring games of the season. But playing in front of family and friends in Charlotte, Morant not only got his first career double-double (23 points, 11 assists), but he also notched his first game-winner. He challenged three Hornets in the lane for a ridiculous finish with 0.7 seconds left. It was a moment he’ll likely never forget and helped keep him high on the Ladder after a rough patch.
2. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Until Coby White got hot, Barrett was having one of his best games yet. Before that, he was coming off a pair of poor shooting nights against the Cavs and Mavericks, in which he scored 12 points on 5-for-20 shooting. Against Chicago, Barrett had 21 points, nine assists on an efficient 8-for-16 shooting night. Of course, White’s heroics put a damper on what could have been a boost for Barrett and the struggling Knicks. "This one was tough," Barrett told reporters. "When a guy hits seven 3s in the fourth quarter, it's kind of tough. But we played three great quarters of basketball and we've just got to finish it off in the fourth."
3. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards
Hachimura fell out of the Top 5 last week after a few subpar games, but the rookie responded to get right back into the mix. Hachimura scored 21 points in both of his games this week, shooting 10-for-13 in a loss to the Cavs (hitting his first seven shots) and 9-for-12 in a loss in Boston. “He’s even-keeled,” Bradley Beal said of his teammate. “He doesn’t get too high or too low. I think even an outside person can figure that out about him. He’s very poised for a one-year guy. It’s amazing to see his growth.”
4. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Clarke is flying under the radar a bit with Morant grabbing most of the rookie attention and Jaren Jackson Jr. drawing teams’ focus in the frontcourt. But Clarke has become more involved as the season has progressed, averaging 13.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg in three games this week. Overall this season, he's shooting 60.7% (42.9% on 3-pointers and 91.7% at the line) while leading all rookies in rebounding (6.5 rpg) and ranking second in blocks (1.3 bpg).
5. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat
Nunn has come back down to Earth a bit, but he’s still second among rookies in scoring (16.9 ppg) and tied for first in steals with Matisse Thybulle (1.6 spg). After struggling most of Tuesday night's game vs. Detroit, the undrafted rookie flipped a switch to finish with 20 points to help Miami win 117-108. His poise drew praise from his coaches and teammates. “I like the fact he was able to stay with it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “A lot of that is his makeup. I’m sure the guys were talking to him. We communicate how important him being a threat is to our offense. He’s a talent. He’s a great shooter. He’s also a playmaker. He can do things off the catch or off the dribble, so we need that weapon.”
Just missed the cut:
P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets: Washington is still seeing big minutes (31.1 mpg, second only to Barrett) and shooting at a ridiculous clip (49.5% overall, 46.2 on 3-pointers) despite a rough stretch. This week, Washington averaged 8.3 ppg on 34.3% shooting as the Hornets went 0-4.
Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors: Paschall slips out of the Top 5, but he’s still fourth among rookies in scoring, averaging 15.5 points on 52% shooting. Draymond Green’s return hasn’t cut into his minutes, but Paschall went 0-for-7 on 3-pointers in his past three games.
Coby White, Chicago Bulls: White has scored in double-digits in his last four games, averaging 16.3 points in that span. His shooting woes are noted above as is his ability to change a game.
Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns: The No. 11 pick had back-to-back double-digit scoring games this week (15 points in a win vs. Brooklyn, 11 in a loss to the Lakers). Johnson was 6-for-13 from beyond the arc in those two games and gives the Suns a serious weapon when teams focus on Devin Booker.
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers: The No. 5 pick has been pretty awful early in the season, but the Cavs are sticking with the young guard. Garland put up 15 points and six assists in a Friday win against the Wizards. Two days later, he had 12 points and six assists in a win in New York. He’s shooting 32.7% overall this season (and 25% on 3-pointers), but those games are at least a glimmer of hope.
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(All stats through Wednesday, Nov. 13)
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