The Whiteboard: Top candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images /

With Chet Holmgren off the board and preseason action rolling, who are the top candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year this season?

Chet Holmgren’s injury took a huge name off the board in what was a very crowded field of potential Rookie of the Year candidates. But the first batch of preseason games have also revealed some players, a bit below the radar, who could insert themselves into the conversation.

Who are the top contenders for 2022-23 NBA Rookie of the Year?

Paolo Banchero is the heavy betting favorite and was picked by a whopping 79 percent of NBA GMs as the likely rookie of the year. The No. 1 pick has struggled with efficiency in preseason — shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and 2-of-7 from beyond the arc. However, he’s been getting to the line at a high rate and flashing the passing ability that makes him such a compelling prospect as a big-man creator. He’ll be lavished with as much offensive primacy as any other rookie this year and even if it takes a while for his shooting percentages to come around he’ll have plenty of opportunities to put up big counting numbers.

Keegan Murray is second in betting odds and finished second in the GM survey, probably thanks to a dominating performance at Summer League. But he hasn’t slowed down at all in the preseason. He’s played just two games and about 42 minutes so far but racked up 32 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals and a block, shooting 12-of-17 from the field and 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. Murray could be playing his way into the starting lineup and could feast on a team with established creators like De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis holding defensive attention and setting him up.

Jabari Smith seemed like a slightly unlikelier Rookie of the Year candidate, given his translatable NBA skills as a 19-year-old — versatile defense and spot-up shooting can help win games but might not translate to the most compelling box score lines. But he certainly impressed in his lone preseason game so far, going for 21 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists, shooting 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. If the Rockets’ offense is creating that many open shots for him, he very well could put up the kind of scoring totals it will take to compete with Murray and Banchero.

Tari Eason is a deep sleeper — the No. 17 pick in last year’s draft. But he’s a player who makes a difference with his energy and effort and he’s already demonstrated his ability to pick up points, rebounds and impact defensive plays all over the floor. Across three preseason games, Eason is averaging 20.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game, shooting 64.1 percent from the floor and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. He’s also piled up 16 offensive rebounds in those three games and he could absolutely insert himself in the conversation simply by thriving in the chaos around the Rockets’ other young players.

Jaden Ivey has to share offensive primacy with Cade Cunningham and learning to play more off the ball will be a transition for Ivey. His shooting percentages have been a disaster in just under 60 preseason minutes — 38.1 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from beyond the arc — but he’s gotten himself to the free throw line 12 times already and generated 7 rebounds, 8 assists and a pair of steals. It make take him a bit longer to settle in but his physical tools give him a base to build from and he seems like the kind of player who could really surge in the back half of the season.

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The Step Back 25-under-25 is back

For the sixth year in a row, The Step Back rolled out our selections for the 25 best players in the NBA, under the age of 25. We finished up the reveal on Friday with the rest of the top 10. Check out the whole list.

  1. Ja Morant
  2. Luka Doncic
  3. Jayson Tatum
  4. Trae Young
  5. Zion Williamson
  6. LaMelo Ball
  7. Anthony Edwards
  8. Shai Gilgeous Alexander
  9. Deandre Ayton
  10. Cade Cunningham

And in honor of Ja Morant finishing at No. 1, we had artist Rosanna Kalis create these custom kicks for him, honoring his past, present and future.

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Jordan Poole has yet to forgive Draymond Green

Everyone from Draymond Green’s mom to Steve Kerr has reacted to the now-leaked footage of the incident involving Draymond Green lunging at Jordan Poole at a closed Warriors practice. Except Poole himself.

According to Cyrus Satsaaz of Locked on NBA, sources say Poole has not spoken to — and certainly not forgiven — Green for the incident.

  • It was reported that Green might see disciplinary action from the incident, but not a suspension.
  • Draymond Green publicly apologized to Poole and noted he was aware that the incident is embarrassing for him.
  • TMZ obtained, and leaked, footage of the incident, which was closed to the media. Head coach Steve Kerr condemned the leak and said the organization needed to be better.
  • Kerr is scrambling to make sure younger players on the Warriors’ roster know this isn’t the norm.
  • Kerr — as well as other coaches in the NBA, according to Marc Stein’s paywalled newsletter — have said altercations at practice are much more frequent than the public realizes.

LaMelo Ball sprained his ankle in preseason game

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball sprained his ankle in a preseason game.

  • Ball did take his free throws following the injury despite remaining on the ground for several minutes.
  • Head coach Steve Clifford said “fingers crossed it’s not something more serious” in regards to the injury.
  • Ball will undergo tests on Tuesday to determine the extent and severity of the injury.

When are preseason games and how can I watch?

We’ve got you covered with the remainder of preseason games. Here’s a schedule of remaining games and info on how to watch.

  • 24 games remain including Oct. 11.
  • Most games are on ESPN or NBATV.

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