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TOP 5 PERFORMANCES TO BEGIN IN 2022-23 ON THE KIA ROOKIE LADDER

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Small sample sizes have long been a source of concern for the Ladder committee. The first week of the NBA regular season can be compared to the first song in a game of musical chairs, with a lot of activity but little lasting achievement.

It’s not until chair after chair is yanked away and the music stops that you really get to see the blood-lust competition kick in, shoving that other contestant to the floor to claim your throne. At least, something along those lines.

The first week of games can cause false positives in all categories, including the 2022-23 rookies whose work will be tracked here. Some deep reserve newbie comes out for 12 minutes in garbage time and suddenly he’s claiming a rung with a misleading scoring or rebounding average.

So, for this edition, we’re simply ranking the best rookie single-game performances to date. The Ladder’s focus in Week 2 will be on ranking the first-year players overall on their way to All-Rookie honors and the Rookie of the Year Award.

Here’s a rundown of some of the new guys’ big nights:

ORLANDO MAGIC, PAOLO BANCHERO
27 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in a game against Detroit on October 19th.

Notes: Banchero’s scoring career has taken off at a breakneck pace, with the young Magic big man scoring 20-plus points in each of his first four appearances. This performance is at the top of his list because it took place on Opening Night, with all eyes on him from the start. It was also the only game in Orlando’s 0-4 start in which he finished in plus territory (+2). The 6-foot-10 Seattle native is taking 17.0 shots per game, more than Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, Julius Randle, Tyler Herro, and a slew of other veterans. However, his 9.3 foul shots per game rank fourth in the league.

2. INDIANA PACERS’ BENNEDICT MATHURIN
Stats: 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists against Detroit on October 22.

Notes: Mathurin, the Pacers’ highest draft pick (No. 6) since Rik Smits in 1988 (No. 2), has come off the bench in each game but appears to be Tyrese Haliburton’s natural and long-term backcourt partner. The Montreal native of Haitian descent hit five 3-pointers against Detroit and is currently averaging 7.0 attempts from beyond the arc and shooting 42.9%.

3. HOUSTON ROCKETS’ JABARI SMITH JR.
Against Utah on October 24, he had 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Notes: The No. 3 pick in the Class of 2022 had a particularly efficient night, hitting six of his ten shots and two of three three-pointers. Significant improvement over his 6-of-17 debut, which lowered his field goal percentage (35.7%). He has started every game for the Rockets, averaging 15.3 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game, with a double-double against Milwaukee on Oct. 22.

4. DETROIT PISTONS’ JALEN DUREN
14 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist vs. Orlando, Oct. 19

Notes: Throughout Duren’s line against the Magic, there were bonuses. For starters, he did it on the same night Banchero made his debut. He’s only 18 years old. He had three blocked shots. He made seven of his thirteen shots. And he grabbed half of his rebounds on the offensive end. So far, the No. 13 pick has averaged 3.5 offensive rebounds and 5.9 points per 36 minutes. Last year’s league leader, Memphis’ Steven Adams, averaged 3.6 official points and 3.9 points per 36 minutes.

5. DETROIT PISTONS’ JADEN IVEY
Stats: 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists against Indiana on October 22.

Notes: Ivey, the No. 5 pick in June, played for about 26 hours. His performance against the Pacers came on the heels of back-to-back games in which he scored 17 points and dished out nine assists. Ivey has averaged 16.0 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 42.9% from three-point range.

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