In this week’s “It’s early still, but…” consideration of the league’s newcomers, Orlando’s Paolo Banchero might want to target something loftier than All-Rookie status or the Rookie of the Year Award to make his debut season special.
Here are two possibilities: A Secretariat-like separation from the rest of the field in ROY balloting. And an invitation to play in the NBA All-Star Game Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City.
Banchero, the Duke product who has played up to and beyond folks’ expectations for the No. 1 overall selection, is averaging 23.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 3.6 apg. If those stats were to hold up for the full season, that would be the highest scoring average by a rookie since Allen Iverson in 1997, the most rebounds since Karl-Anthony Towns in 2016 and the most assists since LaMelo Ball in 2021.
And the top-rung holder again in the 2022-23 Kia Rookie Ladder has posted better stats in four November games (25.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.3 apg) than in his seven October contests (22.7, 7.6, 3.9). So his numbers might improve, pending Banchero’s introduction to the league’s infamous rookie wall.
Paolo Banchero per game averages over the first ten games of his @NBA career:
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 7, 2022
Already, there’s a man-among-boys look to his rookie ranking. That could make him the latest to turn the ROY race into a runaway.
Towns dominated the voting in 2016 like no other in recent memory. The Minnesota center was a unanimous choice for all 130 first-place votes with 650 points in the award system. That turned Kristaps Porzingis (363 points), Nikola Jokic (59) and Devin Booker (49) into distant second-, third- and fourth-place finishers.
In 2019, Memphis’ Ja Morant got 99 of 100 first-place votes, given Zion Williamson’s cameo season of just 24 rookie appearances (and one stubborn voter). The season before, it was Dallas’ Luka Doncic hoarding 98 first-place votes to Trae Young’s two.
But it’s as a possible All-Star that Banchero could really show out. Only two rookies since 2000 have earned spots in the game: Blake Griffin in 2011 and Yao Ming in 2003. Five did it in the 1990s: Tim Duncan in 1998, Grant Hill in 1995, Shaquille O’Neal in 1993, Dikembe Mutombo in 1992 and David Robinson in 1990.
The achievement was a little more common in the decades before that. But the creation of the Rookie Game in 1994, later spun into the Rising Stars contest, gave the NBA a way to include more new guys in All-Star Weekend without having them participate in the Sunday game.
paolo in his bagggg 💥@Pp_doesit pic.twitter.com/FaEqjZeVZu
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 8, 2022
Again, it’s early still but … Heading into Wednesday’s action, Banchero has amassed stats and contributions to rival or top-known All-Stars. He ranks in the top 20 in points, rebounds, field goals, free throws and minutes played.
For some fun with filters: He has scored more points than Towns or Paul George, grabbed more rebounds than Bam Adebayo, made more buckets than LeBron James, and gotten to the line for more free throws than Morant or Jayson Tatum. His usage rate (29.4) tops that of Zion Williamson or DeMar DeRozan, among others.
The season is still young, but the No. 1 pick looks ready to reach for honors and accolades beyond Rookie of the Year.
The Top 5 this week on the 2022-23 Kia Rookie Ladder:
(All stats through Tuesday, Nov. 8)
1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
Season stats: 23.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.6 apg
Since last Ladder: 28.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 3.7 apg
Last Ladder: 1
Draft pick: No. 1 overall
Anyone still confused about Orlando’s Draft decision to make this guy the top pick over, say, Jabari Smith Jr. needs only to look at Monday’s head-to-head: the Magic big man scored 30 points with six boards, four assists and two steals while shooting 12-of-14 from the line. Smith? Three points, 1-of-4 shooting, three turnovers and four fouls in 22 minutes. In Banchero’s 11 appearances so far, he has totaled 20% more minutes, 34% more points, 63% more rebounds, 11% more assists and 45% more field-goal attempts than the runners-up in each category. That’s a clear indication of his spot atop the pecking order not just among the Class of 2022 but in the Magic’s current and future iterations.
Paolo Banchero tonight:
He becomes the 5th teenager in @NBAHistory
to have consecutive 30+ point games:
– LeBron James (2003)
– Devin Booker (2016)
– Luka Doncic (2019)
– Zion Williamson (2020)
(H/T @Sportradar) pic.twitter.com/TdEbKLgVXn
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 8, 2022
2. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
Season stats: 19.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg
Since last Ladder: 15.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 3.5 apg
Last Ladder: 2
Draft pick: No. 6 overall
The Pacers’ aggressive rookie hit his first speed bump of the season in Monday’s victory over New Orleans. After scoring in double figures in his first nine games, he finished with eight points on 2-of-8 shooting, his first night attempting fewer than 11 shots. Still, his 194 points through 10 career games are the most by an Indiana player, topping Clark Kellogg’s 179 in 1982. Teammate Tyrese Haliburton recently told The Ringer: “He’s the only guy I’ve ever seen watch film with the head coach [Rick Carlisle] in the back of the plane.”
the chasedown block from Bennedict Mathurin.😤
watch him time this up.👀 pic.twitter.com/sYst0B72Dc
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) November 5, 2022
3. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons
Season stats: 15.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.6 apg
Since last Ladder: 13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.3 apg
Last Ladder: 4
Draft pick: No. 5 overall
Ivey posted his second points-rebounds double-double with 15 and 11 in Monday’s victory over OKC, with six assists, three blocks and two steals. He is teaming with Cade Cunningham (6.5 rpg) for 11.4 boards nightly, third-best among NBA backcourts. He’s got 15 steals in 10 games but 30 fouls.
🚨.@IveyJaden with the SLAM🚨 pic.twitter.com/SCSnTe2CqT
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) November 5, 2022
4. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings
Season stats: 12.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 apg
Since last Ladder: 5.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 apg
Last Ladder: 3
Draft pick: No. 4 overall
Minutes drop, stats drop, Ladder drop. Murray is averaging 5.3 points, 6.7 shots and 23.1% on threes over his past three games and has turned into a minus player. He cited a family issue as a concern during Sacramento’s four-game trip. Said coach Mike Brown: “Sometimes it’s a little tougher than others, but he’s going to be fine. … We’re going to stay with him.”
5. Tari Eason, Houston Rockets
Season stats: 8.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.7 apg
Since last Ladder: 10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.3 apg
Last Ladder: 9
Draft pick: No. 17 overall
Eason flips into the spot held last week by teammate Jabari Smith Jr. Few rookies are doing more with less than Eason, who ranks ninth in minutes among the new guys but third in rebounds and sixth in points and shots. He’s averaging 17.8 minutes – no player in NBA history has averaged at least 8.0, 5.0 and 1.0 blocks in fewer than 18.0 mpg. Per 36, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 15.6 points, 9.9 boards, 2.1 steals and 1.1 blocks.
OH MY TARI EASON 💥 pic.twitter.com/jxHx5yuK9y
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 8, 2022
The Next 5:
6. Jabari Smith, Jr.
Season stats: 10.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.8 apg
Since last Ladder: 2.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.5 apg
Last Ladder: 5
Draft pick: No. 3 overall
Big dip out of Top 5 as shoddy shooting drags him down.
7. Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers
Season stats: 6.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.3 apg
Since last Ladder: 9.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.5 apg
Last Ladder: N/A
Draft pick: No. 31 overall
Ranks 12th in NBA with 4.29 assists-to-turnover ratio.
8. Jake LaRavia, Memphis Grizzlies
Season stats: 6.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.5 apg
Since last Ladder: 5.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.7 apg
Last Ladder: 10
Draft pick: No. 19 overall
His 54.2% 3FG ranks sixth on NBA leaderboard.
9. Christian Koloko, Toronto Raptors
Season stats: 3.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.5 apg
Since last Ladder: 5.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.8 apg
Last Ladder: N/A
Draft pick: No. 33 overall
In six starts: 5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, plus-54.
10. Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers
Season stats: 8.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.5 apg
Since last Ladder: 7.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.3 apg
Last Ladder: 7
Draft pick: No. 7 overall
Teen drew Brandon Roy comparisons from coach Billups.
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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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