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The success of the Golden State Warriors, who currently hold the second best record in the league, makes the draft seem like an afterthought, but it wasn’t too long ago that the team was deep into scouting the top prospects of the 2021-22 NBA Draft class. Just last season, Golden States’ 39-33 record plus the Minnesota Timberwolves’ pick landing outside of the top 3 turned the Warriors and their fans into draft experts as they figured out what to do with the team’s two lottery picks.
The Detroit Pistons ended up with the first overall pick selecting Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State University. The Houston Rockets would go on to pick high-flying Jalen Green out of the G-League Ignite squad leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to pick Evan Mobley out of USC to round out the top 3. With a pair of draft lottery picks at their disposal, Golden State selected Jonathan Kuminga with the 7th overall pick and Moses Moody with the 14th overall pick. As the season passes the mid-way point and the rookies have settled into their roles on their respective teams, the choice for Rookie of the Year is beginning to come into focus. According to the latest SBN Reacts poll, Evan Mobley of the Cavaliers is the favorite to win the award by a wide margin.
Mobley is one of the most exciting young players in the league and has been a major contributor to Cleveland’s surprising 27-19 record this season. His blend of size, length, and lateral quickness makes him one of the most unique players in the league. On defense, he’s a switchable big who is capable of guarding 1-5 while also providing weak-side help as his 1.7 blocks per game is tied for 6th in the league. Meanwhile, he is just beginning to understand how his physical traits give him a massive offensive advantage over NBA defenders which is especially true when he attempts moves like this:
Evan Mobley with shades of Dr. J pic.twitter.com/7UxsKmOBwQ— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 31, 2021
There is an argument that Mobley’s great start to the season has overshadowed the success of fellow rookies Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green who were selected ahead of him. Cunningham has recently assumed a greater responsibility on the Pistons with former all-star forward, Jerami Grant out due to injury. Although Detroit hasn’t been winning much this season, Cunningham has shown that he can be an excellent offensive player in this league as he continues to get healthy and more comfortable with the speed of the game. Green is in a similar boat with the Rockets. His explosiveness and ability to score in transition was never in doubt, but he still needs to show that he can consistently operate on offense when things slow down.
Another rookie that did not get mentioned in this poll but deserves to be recognized is 4th overall pick Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors. Barnes has shown flashes of brilliance with his decision making and ability to make reads out of the short roll in a way that is reminiscent of a certain power forward who plays in the Bay Area.
While his ability to handle + pass at his size is special, I've also been intrigued by the impact Scottie Barnes can have as a roller, dissecting 4-on-3s if teams blitz VanVleet or taking advantage of deep drops with floaters, drop offs + kick-outs. https://t.co/pDpPNGySNT pic.twitter.com/cXMMEKoDMZ— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) January 19, 2022
Last but not least is Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga. Kuminga wasn’t seeing much playing time to start the season as the Warriors opted to have him continue his development in the G-League where he would have the freedom and the minutes to grow his game. Recently, Kuminga has started games for the Warriors due to the absence of Draymond Green who is out with a back injury. In his four games as a starter this season, Kuminga has averaged 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists on 20.7 minutes per game. Kuminga is bursting with massive upside as his rare combination of strength, coordination, and explosive athleticism is evident whenever he is on the court.
The Warriors have unlocked the best version of Jonathan Kuminga by using him as a PnR ball handler to attack smaller guards or slower bigs on switches. Kuminga’s last four games: 17.5 PTS, 6.3 REBS, 3.0 AST in 27 MIN. More on the rookie’s recent rise: https://t.co/pDpPNGySNT pic.twitter.com/eR96xVjj7D— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) January 19, 2022
At 19 years old, Kuminga still has to polish and mature his skillset, but with effort plays like this, Warriors fans can’t help but be tantalized by his potential.
Four offensive rebounds for Jonathan Kuminga on this high-effort possession— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 7, 2022
Via @NBCSWarriors pic.twitter.com/2wVXJ1V4VN
Who is your favorite to win Rookie of the Year? Will Kuminga have a late season surge and put himself in the running? Let us know down below.
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