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With the delayed debuts in Week 2 of Detroit’s Cade Cunningham and Golden State’s Jonathan Kuminga, 29 of the 30 players selected in the Draft’s first round in July officially have begun their NBA careers.
And their potential climb up the Kia Rookie Ladder.
Only guard Keon Johnson, the No. 21 pick out of Tennessee, was still idle. Johnson missed the Clippers’ first five games with an illness, then drew a DNP-CD in the sixth. He has been assigned to the club’s Agua Caliente affiliate in the NBA G League while obviously staying available for call-ups.
In the meantime, Cunningham and Kuminga, the No. 1 and No. 7 selections respectively, dipped their toes into NBA waters after missing time due to injuries. The results were, well, unremarkable and the likeliest of outcomes frankly.
Cunningham, the 6-foot-8, 220-pounder from Oklahoma State, suffered an ankle sprain early in training camp that kept him out of Detroit’s first four games. Coach Dwane Casey assured everyone the team would go slowly with the prize prospect, explaining his inactivity to start followed now by minutes monitoring and a back-to-back prohibition.
Against Orlando Saturday, Cunningham played 19 minutes, made one of eight shots, grabbed seven rebounds but scored two points with two assists and two turnovers. He skipped the game in Brooklyn, then played 29 minutes against Milwaukee Tuesday. Those stats aren’t reflected in this week’s Ladder, but for the record, Cunningham is 2-of-14 with six points and three assists. He is 0-of-14 on threes, 3-of-22 overall.
But Cunningham, while trying to catch up to NBA speed and physicality, showed some court awareness and defensive skills to keep Pistons fans enthusiastic.
That's a DEEETROIT basketball. pic.twitter.com/tRqHCNrmPw
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 30, 2021
Kuminga, 19, had been out with a preseason knee injury until coach Steve Kerr went to him late in a blowout victory over Oklahoma City. The 6-foot-8 wing selected after his season with the G League Ignite logged six minutes, hitting one of his three 3-pointers, getting a steal and later getting the game ball from Kerr after his inaugural appearance.
“Everybody was waiting for this moment,” Kuminga said afterward. “I see the crowd went crazy for me.” In fact, the crowd seemed to be clamoring for highlight plays, though Kuminga played it pretty straight.
First bucket in the league for @JonathanKuming6 👏 pic.twitter.com/WEhLYPhVTh
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 31, 2021
Heading into their game Wednesday against Charlotte (10 ET, ESPN), the Warriors have six left on their eight-game homestand, so fans at the Chase Center probably will get bigger doses of the teenager.
Just when we thought the Ladder would have (almost) everyone present and accounted for, pending Johnson’s fortunes, it’s not “all hands on deck” after all. Literally, in fact, with Raptors forward Scottie Barnes missing at least a pair of games with a sprained thumb.
Not that the injury stopped Barnes from making his presence felt for this week’s Ladder.
The Top 5 this week on the 2020-21 Kia Rookie Ladder:
(All stats through Monday, Nov. 1)
1. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
Season stats: 18.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 20.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 2
Boy, you recognize another rookie’s quick start and major role for a team with playoff aspirations for one week and an entire nation lets you hear about it. That’s how Raptors fans lined up behind Barnes in campaigning for his Ladder ascendancy. Just so those folks know, it came not from marketing or mob volume but Barnes’ performances. Barnes averaged 20 points and shot 54.2% as Toronto won three straight, twice beating Chris Duarte’s Pacers. But a sprained right thumb sidelined him at New York and likely again Wednesday at Washington.
Another night, another double-double for the rook.
21 Pts | 12 Reb pic.twitter.com/EjXSDERJ2T
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 31, 2021
2. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
Season stats: 13.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.6 apg
Since last Ladder: 13.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 3
Mobley didn’t just bump up a rung this week, he weathered the first serious road trip of his NBA career. In five games across four time zones, he averaged 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds, shot 45.5% and helped the Cavaliers to a 3-2 record. Not only is the 20-year-old averaging more blocks (1.4) than teammate Jarrett Allen (1.0), he’s contesting myriad foes into misses without touching the ball. LeBron James lauded his old team’s pick after the rookie’s career-best 23 points vs. the Lakers, saying, “He’s going to be a damn good basketball player … Cleveland has a good one.”
3. Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers
Season stats: 17.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.4 apg
Since last Ladder: 15.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.8 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 1
First week’s leader got leapfrogged, but still among rookies averaging at least 10 minutes Duarte ranks Top 5 in points, rebounds, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage and minutes. He had an efficient 18 points (6-of-11 in 28 minutes) in Indiana’s victory over San Antonio Monday. He has scored in double figures every game and is shooting 42.3% on 3-pointers, 43.5% on 15.5 FGA overall.
🗣 R.O.Y. 🇩🇴👌@C_Duarte5 | #GoldBlooded pic.twitter.com/SilT7yx1Wb
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 30, 2021
4. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic
Season stats: 15.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.9 apg
Since last Ladder: 18.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.8 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 5
Three-pointers, running hooks, a poster-worthy dunk, a career-high 28 points and fourth-quarter heroics, all in Orlando’s comeback victory at Minnesota Monday. Third-fastest Magic rookie to get 28 (eight games), behind only Shaquille O’Neal (three) and Dennis Scott (four). Wagner was shooting 46.3% from the arc and 50.5% overall at our stats cutoff.
5. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder
Season stats: 11.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.9 apg
Since last Ladder: 14.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 8.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 7
At 5.9 assists to 2.0 turnovers, he tops rotation rookies in that ratio. Has led the Thunder three times in rebounds, five times in assists. Giddey’s first double-double (18-10) came in upset victory over Lakers. Showed a little 1-on-3 trickery at the Clippers Monday, too.
The Wizard of Aus 🪄@joshgiddey | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/YxquouSgke
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) November 2, 2021
The Next 5:
6. Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic
Season stats: 13.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg
Since last Ladder: 13.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.8 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 8
Net rating (-0.2) is a step up from Magic’s -7.7
7. Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
Season stats: 13.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg
Since last Ladder: 14.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 4
Inconsistent early but big game vs. Lakers last night will help on next week’s Ladder
8. Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets
Season stats: 8.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.1 apg
Since last Ladder: 10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: N/A
Six games in, joined MJ, Pierce with 54p, 27r, 11a, 15s, 3b
9. Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings
Season stats: 9.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.9 apg
Since last Ladder: 6.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.3 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: 6
Way more D than 3 at this point (21.4%, 6-of-28)
10. Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans
Season stats: 6.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.6 apg
Since last Ladder: 10.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.0 apg
Last Ladder’s rung: N/A
Guarded Towns, Edwards, Russell and Fournier into 2-of-19 FG.
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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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