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Who Are The NBA’s Early Breakout Stars of 2021-22 Season?


Whether it’s because of injuries, the N.B.A.’s Covid-19 health and safety protocols or a general yearly churn, the league has seen an unexpectedly rapid ascension of young stars this season. Some of this is unique to this year: With several top stars missing in action, there is more room in the spotlight for new talents.

Tyler Herro, the third-year Miami Heat guard, is helping to keep the team afloat in the face of injuries to its top players. Cole Anthony, the second-year guard for the Orlando Magic, has developed into a strong all-around player with a workable jump shot. And the 23-year-old center Jarrett Allen is scoring almost 17 points a game for the Cleveland Cavaliers on better than 70 percent shooting. Allen has a strong chance to make his first All-Star game this season.

The strong play from three players in particular has given hope to their teams’ beleaguered fans: Evan Mobley, the lanky Cavaliers rookie, and Anthony Edwards, the Minnesota Timberwolves swingman in his second year. And in the case of the second-year Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane, he thrived during the injury absence of the team’s top player, Ja Morant, which could have sent Memphis into a tailspin.

All three succeed in different ways — Mobley with his height and agility; Edwards with his slashing and dunking; Bane with his shooting prowess. But all of them are helping their teams be competitive and they’re — if nothing else — fun to watch.

None of the three are likely to make the All-Star team this season, but making future ones is certainly within reach.

Here’s what makes them three of the season’s early breakout stars.

As the Cleveland Cavaliers have pulled themselves out of the league’s cellar, one of the most exciting developments for the franchise’s future has been the emergence of the rookie forward Evan Mobley.

With a body type and skill set that have drawn comparisons to a young Anthony Davis, Mobley is an early contender for the Rookie of the Year Award. He was named the season’s inaugural rookie of the month, which covers October and November. During that span, Mobley’s 30 blocks were twice that of the next best rookie, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes.

More important, his play is helping his team win. The Cavaliers were the only team that played a rookie more than 400 minutes through November to also have a winning record.

Heading into Christmas, Mobley led all rookies in blocks per game with 1.8 and was tied with Barnes for most rookie rebounds per game. His defensive rating is among the top 10 of players who have played at least 25 games this season.

The 6-foot-11 center from Temecula, Calif., was expected to shine in the N.B.A. He was a star in high school and spent one season at the University of Southern California, where he was named the Pac-12’s player of the year, defensive player of the year and freshman of the year.

But rookies don’t always enter the N.B.A. quite this polished.

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