Kia Rookie Ladder

Kia Rookie Ladder: Josh Giddey climbs to No. 3 before All-Star Weekend

The 2021 draft class will get the chance to shine during the Clorox Rising Stars mini-tournament in Cleveland this Friday.

Josh Giddey dominated at MSG to become the first teenager in NBA history to record a triple-double in back-to-back games.

Not one but two Kia Rookie Ladders are set to face off during the NBA’s Clorox Rising Stars mini-tournament at All-Star Weekend in Cleveland this Friday (9 p.m. ET, TNT).

Of the 24 NBA players scheduled to participate in the event, 17 either hold rungs on this week’s Ladder or earned spots on the final edition of 2020-21.

That includes all 10 from this edition, with Golden State’s Jonathan Kuminga landing a spot on Wednesday due to an injury to Indiana’s Chris Duarte.

Eight of the final rung-holders from last season are booked to play as sophomores, minus only New York’s Immanuel Quickley and Chicago’s injured Patrick Williams missing. That includes the top three finishers in 2021 Rookie of the Year balloting – Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball, Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards and now-Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton – and the top six guys overall on last season’s Ladder.

That means only seven Rising Stars invitees didn’t place in our recreational-purposes-only rankings, though a few such as Houston’s Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun and Sacramento’s Davion Mitchell have made appearances this season and still might nail down spots.

Four more participants in Friday’s mini-tournament – four teams competing in semifinals and championship games – are straight from the G League’s Ignite development squad. So their Ladder opportunities await.

Breaking down the rookie-sophomore showcase game by the numbers:

• There have been 26 games overall, with the only misses coming post-lockout in 1999 and virus protocol-restricted 2021.

• Twelve times, the Most Valuable Player of the game was a rookie. The other 14 MVPS were second-year players. (And remember, the first four games were for rookies only, so a newbie was assured of winning that trophy.)

• As a barometer for how a Rising Stars MVP translates into a Rookie of the Year winner, only five players got the former and went on to earn the second. They were Toronto’s Damon Stoudamire (1996), Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson (1997), Chicago’s Elton Brand (2000), Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans (2010) and Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins (2015).

One member of the Class of 2021 might join that select club Friday.

The Top 5 this week on the 2021-22 Kia Rookie Ladder:

(All stats through Monday, Feb. 14)

1. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Take an inside look at Evan Mobley's rookie season with Cleveland.

Season stats: 14.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.5 apg
Since last Ladder: 12.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 1
Draft pick: No. 3 overall

Mobley helped the Cavaliers to a 2-1 week in which they were 5.7 points per game better when he was on the court. The 7-footer, in fact, is the king of the plus/minus among this season’s rookies. His plus-157 dwarfs all others – undrafted Lakers guard Austin Reaves (116) and Miami center Omer Yurtseven (72) rank second and third. And on this Ladder, only Mobley, Jonathan Kuminga (20), Herb Jones (17) and Scottie Barnes (15) are above water. By contrast, Franz Wagner (-244), Cade Cunningham (-269) and Josh Giddey (-282) have only been able to elevate their teams on a relative basis, at best. And the guy picked right ahead of Mobley, Houston’s Jalen Green, has “helped” the Rockets be 481 points worse than their opponents when he’s playing compared to only 45 points worse when he’s not. (That looks more horrible than it is, allowing for development and starters vs. reserves. But still.)

2. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Season stats: 14.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.3 apg
Since last Ladder: 12.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.8 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 2
Draft pick: No. 4 overall

Barnes’ workload, maybe not extreme by the standards asked of his fellow Raptors by coach Nick Nurse, was heavy by the No. 4 pick’s standards. Since Jan. 1, he has played 731 minutes, compared to the 595 he logged all of last season at Florida State. Some of his stats sagged last month, such as his shooting (42%, 24% on 3-pointers) and rebounding (6.6 rpg) but he’s doing better with less (32.9 mpg vs. 36.7 in December and January) lately. The 6-foot-9 point forward leads this year’s rookies in minutes per game and total offensive rebounds and ranks third in total points.

3. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Josh Giddey erupted for a 28-point triple-double at Madison Square Garden.

Season stats: 12.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 6.3 apg
Since last Ladder: 15.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 8.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 4
Draft pick: No. 6 overall

The Western Conference’s undisputed best rookie took a couple more strides and another Ladder rung in removing that conference qualifier and tightening the race with Mobley and Barnes. He had the best week of the bunch based on individual performance. The Thunder (guard) from Down Under set Madison Square Garden asunder Monday with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. And he went in intending to plunder. “You hear so many things, so many stories about the Garden, and I had circled it on my calendar for a long time,” Giddey said. “This was the place I was most excited when I got drafted to come in to play.” On the heels of his 11-12-10 game at Chicago Saturday, Giddey, 19, became the first teenager in NBA history with back-to-back triple-doubles.

4. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Season stats: 15.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5.1 apg
Since last Ladder: 12.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 3
Draft pick: No. 1 overall

The No. 1 pick of the Class of 2021 came back on a minutes restriction after missing five games following the right hip pointer he suffered on Feb. 1. The Pistons played it cautiously, then brought Cunningham back on a minutes restriction, which explains a dip in this week’s numbers. Rust might explain his 34.5% shooting, including 2-for-10 from the arc, in the two he played against Charlotte and Washington, and the six turnovers against the Hornets. “Certain movements cause some discomfort, more than anything and pain,” said Cunningham, who has lost 14 games to the hip, an ankle injury and a virus-protocol stretch. “But I’m just trying to work through it, get it back right and get better.”

5. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

Franz Wagner continued to roll with 26 points against the Nuggets.

Season stats: 15.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 15.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 5
Draft pick: No. 8 overall

In Orlando’s past five losses, it was outscored by 105 points. But 64 of those came in the 93 minutes Wagner wasn’t on the floor – the Magic were only 41 points worse in the 155 minutes he played. There’s a positive in those negatives: The Berlin-by-way-of-Ann Arbor newcomer is a minus-244 for a team that is a minus-497, and Wagner has played 66% of Orlando’s available minutes. Now consider Mobley, who is plus-140 for a Cleveland team that is plus-240. So the Cavs are good without their prize rookie, better with him, while the Magic are not good with Wagner and way worse without him. Also: He shot 9-for-19 (47.4%) from three last week.

The Next 5:

6. Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls

Season stats: 8.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 7.7 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 8
Draft pick: No. 38 overall

Nine games with 8+ assists in past month (Cunningham nine all year).

7. Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans

Season stats: 9.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.1 apg
Since last Ladder: 10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 6
Draft pick: No. 35 overall

3FG improvement: 28.8% in college, 37.5% for Pels since Dec 1.

8. Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers

Season stats: 13.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg
Since last Ladder: 15.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 7
Draft pick: No. 13 overall

Jammed toe will sideline him through Rising Stars game.

9. Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors

Season stats: 7.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.7 apg
Since last Ladder: 14.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 9
Draft pick: No. 7 overall

Jitters against LeBron & Lakers? Nah, 18 points, nine boards, three dunks.

10. Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic

Season stats: 12.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.4 apg
Since last Ladder: 11.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: N/A
Draft pick: No. 5 overall

Dialing up his and Orlando’s pace as he stacks up games post-injury.

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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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