Kia Rookie Ladder

Kia Rookie Ladder: 11 first-year players selected to Jordan Rising Stars

The 2022-23 NBA rookie class will get their chance to shine on Feb. 17 at All-Star Weekend.

Check out the best plays from players selected to the 2023 Jordan Rising Stars.

Eleven of the 12 rung-holders on this week’s Kia Rookie Ladder were selected to compete in the 2023 Jordan Rising Stars on Feb. 17 at All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City.

These 11 members from the Class of 2022 were chosen by the NBA’s assistant coaches – Houston’s Tari Eason might want to do the chip-on-the-shoulder thing when facing their teams – and will be joined by 10 second-year players and seven G League honorees. The group of NBA players will be drafted onto three teams, with the G Leaguers sticking together as the fourth team, for a three-game mini-tournament on All-Star Friday at Vivint Arena.

» Everything to know about 2023 Jordan Rising Stars

So it’s possible that Paolo Banchero, No. 1 on the Ladder almost all season, could wind up playing alongside 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes. Banchero still isn’t eliminated from playing in the Sunday game in Salt Lake City either, with All-Star reserves to be announced Thursday. The Orlando Magic big man received 21 votes from NBA players in the balloting process – more than Knicks veteran Julius Randle – and wound up seventh among East frontcourt candidates when the fan and media votes were weighed.

Utah’s Walker Kessler, meanwhile, will be the hometown participant for the Jazz in Rising Stars. Not bad for a guy drafted 22nd overall and traded twice before his first NBA game, and who averaged just 15 minutes and five points through November.

“It’s a dope accomplishment for him,” Utah teammate Jordan Clarkson, a 2016 Rising Stars selection, told reporters. “Coming into the league, it’s something to cherish, enjoy being part of All-Star Weekend. He’s been playing at a high level – it’s a great accomplishment.”

Said Kessler: “At the beginning of the year, [it] was just about learning as much as I could and absorbing as much info going forward. And then I just wanted to impact winning. … I’m a firm believer that if you pride yourself on just doing whatever you can to win, the rest of it kind of takes care of itself.”

From his rise up the Ladder to a likely magical moment in a couple of weeks, Kessler is having a rookie season to remember. As are many in this week’s rankings:

The Top 5 this week on the 2022-23 Kia Rookie Ladder:

(All stats through Tuesday, Jan. 31)

1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Season stats: 20.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.7 apg
Since last Ladder: 20.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.8 apg
Last Ladder: 1
Draft pick: No. 1 overall

Paolo Banchero leads the Rising Stars Rookies into All-Star Weekend.

The favorite to this point for Rookie of the Year, Banchero talked about the mental aspect that might get him to that award when he was a guest on his former coach’s radio show. In fact, he gave Mike Krzyzewski credit for making him hungrier and more aggressive. “You were on me a lot about having that aggression and being strong and dominant as a player,” he told Coach K on his Sirius XM show. “I didn’t kind of have that extra gear, that want-to, to be the absolute best. I’m still working to get there, but I think that’s my mentality.”

2. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers

Season stats: 17.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.4 apg
Since last Ladder: 24.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.3 apg
Last Ladder: 2
Draft pick: No. 6 overall

Mathurin seized one franchise mark with more than a third of the season to spare, breaking Hall of Famer Reggie Miller’s record for points off the bench (809) by a Pacers rookie. Mathurin already has 843 in 46 reserve appearances, plus 87 in six starts. Most recently, he has strung together five straight games of 21-plus points as Indiana’s sixth man, averaging 24.6 with 6.2 rebounds during the stretch. (Most points overall by a Pacers rookie? Clark Kellogg, who scored 1,625 in 1982-83.)

3. Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season stats: 12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.8 apg
Since last Ladder: 20.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 apg
Last Ladder: 4
Draft pick: No. 12 overall

Seven-footer Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 pick in the Class of 2022 who hasn’t played yet in the NBA due to a season-ending foot injury, got four All-Star votes from some less-than-serious peers in the recently completed balloting. Yet Thunder teammate Williams, despite his actual production and lofty Ladder spot, didn’t have his name checked even once. That would be an injustice just based on his play against Atlanta last week when he had 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting with five rebounds and four steals.

4. Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz

Season stats: 7.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.8 apg
Since last Ladder: 10.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
Last Ladder: 3
Draft pick: No. 22 overall

In addition to the SLC folks, Kessler will be repping for his family in the Rising Stars. His father Chad was a fifth-round pick, No. 93 overall, of the Clippers in 1987. He averaged 12 points and six rebounds as a senior at Georgia but never played in an NBA regular season game. Walker’s uncle Alec was a 6-foot-11 big man who was the 12th overall pick also out of Georgia in 1990 and something of a “stretch” pioneer – he hit 41.7% of his limited 3-point attempts in four NBA seasons compared to 42.6% of his 2-pointers. His nephew has yet to hoist a 3-pointer in the NBA, but he did let 54 fly from the arc in college. (Alec, alas, died of a heart attack at age 40 playing pickup ball in Oct. 2007).

5. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings

Season stats: 12.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 12.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.7 apg
Last Ladder: 5
Draft pick: No. 4 overall

Three double-doubles, all in the past seven games. That shows Murray has taken to heart coach Mike Brown’s prodding to work on his rebounding (5.9 rpg in January vs. 3.5 in Dec.). He has made 119 3s, 51 more than any other rookie (AJ Griffin, 78) and tops those who have launched at least 70 with 42.2% accuracy.

The Next 5:

6. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 15.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.5 apg
Since last Ladder: 15.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.3 apg
Last Ladder: 6
Draft pick: No. 5 overall

Scored 10+ pts in 43 of 48 games, tied for 2nd in DET history (Kelly Tripucka, 44).

7. Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs

Season stats: 10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.5 apg
Since last Ladder: 20.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.3 apg
Last Ladder: 9
Draft pick: No. 9 pick overall

Since Jan. 15: 18.0, 5.9, 3.3 plus 13.3 FGA, 50.5%/52.4%/84%.

8. Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 8.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg
Last Ladder: 7
Draft pick: No. 13 overall

Nineteen-year-old averaging 10.5 points, 10.5 rebounds in 19 starts.

9. Jabari Smith, Jr., Houston Rockets

Season stats: 11.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 9.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.7 apg
Last Ladder: 8
Draft pick: No. 3 overall

“Own toughest critic” bothered again by shooting woes (38.3%/17% in Jan.)

10. Tari Eason, Houston Rockets

Season stats: 8.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.7 apg
Last Ladder: 11
Draft pick: No. 17 pick overall

Strong week for only rung-holder not drafted into Rising Stars tourney.

11. Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers 

Season stats: 8.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 10.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 3.5 apg
Last Ladder: N/A
Draft pick: No. 31 pick overall

Off bench for first time since Nov. due to illness absence.

12. AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks

Season stats: 9.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 8.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.0 apg
Last Ladder: 10
Draft pick: No. 16 overall

Plus-22 in 23:12 off bench in Hawks’ 5-point win at OKC.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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