NBA Draft

NBA rookie rankings: Evan Mobley shines, Cade Cunningham makes jump

We’re at the midway point of the 2021–22 season, and this year’s crop of rookies appears to be one of the most impressive in recent memory. Evan Mobley is helping anchor a revival in Cleveland, while Scottie Barnes is helping Toronto keep pace in what’s emerging as a competitive playoff race among 12 teams in the East. A pair of point guards in the Motor City and Oklahoma City are also displaying glimpses of their All-Star potential, while a look to the Sunshine State reveals a potential franchise anchor in the making.

Should we pencil any of these youngsters onto future All-NBA ballots through the first three months of their career? Not quite. But the upside of multiple future stars is clearly present.

As we roll through the second week of 2022, check out Sports Illustrated’s latest rookie rankings.

1. Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

Mobley should contend for Defensive Player of the Year honors in future seasons, pairing an advanced mind for the game with some of the lightest feet for a big man in recent memory. Such a skill set wasn’t a secret entering the 2021 draft. His precocity on the other end of the floor is a relative surprise. Mobley has deft touch around the free throw line and on the baseline, and he’s more of a brute force in the post than his slender frame would suggest. It’s not just the scoring ability that steals the show. Mobley uses post possessions not as an immediate avenue to score, but rather a mechanism to generate open looks for teammates. He tallied seven assists in Wednesday’s blowout win over the Jazz, marking his sixth game this season with five-plus dimes. Mobley and Jarrett Allen are a delightful duo anchoring Cleveland’s frontcourt, and they should wreak havoc across the league for years to come.

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