Kia Rookie Ladder: Evan Mobley injury opens door to wild finish

A somewhat clear-cut Kia ROY lawsuit led by Evan Mobley might get a little fuzzier.

At a point in the season when we would normally expect to see separation, we are getting convergence instead.

Which hopefully won’t lead to confusion as the Kia Rookie Ladder enters its final two weeks.

A race for the Kia Rookie of the Year award that was starting to look like so-called settled science has had an infusion of new data. The case of Cleveland’s Evan Mobley had been made week after week by his reliability and nuanced, if rarely fast, play both offensively and defensively. He played like a veteran almost from his start on the Cavaliers front line, providing a boost beyond expectations for the No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft.

But with Mobley’s sprained ankle on Monday in Game 75 potentially jeopardizing his appearances — not to mention his play — in the Cavs’ remaining games, the door to this ROY has been opened for Detroit’s Cade Cunningham or even Toronto’s Scottie Barnes sneaks in.

• Ranking rookie stats

Voters for the annual award might not budge from their assessments of the first five months, but they are surely compelled to take another look.

It’s the time of year when the team’s PR staff slice and dice their award-winning recruits’ seasons to make a compelling case.

Occasionally, trinkets and trinkets are sent to voters’ homes as part of campaigns (none of them ever seem to think about money, alas). It’s usually more of a show for the player and his pals, than the team has their backs, rarely reversing the order of the ballots.

Then again, with Mobley, Cunningham and Barnes so tightly grouped on a distinctly higher level than the rest of this unusually deep class, that means an insightful breakdown of stats or compositions might not be as surely convincing as a finish. burning by one or more candidates.

After Cunningham’s 34-point night in Brooklyn on Tuesday — including a return to the Paul Pierce of the coaching table for 29 in the second half — Kevin Durant gave the Pistons point guard one of those blurbs we see usually on movie posters. “You have a 6-7 point guard…that’s a good start, you know?” Durant said. “Someone who can destroy an entire defensive game plan with his size, timing and skill, so that’s a great start.”

Fans of all three will cite (or have already cited) Mobley’s mature two-way play versus Cunningham’s need to carry a bad team versus Barnes’ knack for providing his crew with everything they need on any given night. Critics will talk about Mobley’s inability to create an attack on Cunningham’s erratic shot against Barnes’ place on a roster just a year away from seven straight playoff appearances.

Here at The Ladder, the committee was tempted to rank them 1a, 1b and 1c this week, until we got a stern reminder about men this size sharing rungs. An unusually tight ROY race therefore heads into the home straight with only one certainty for now: two-thirds of the fans will be disappointed.


The Top 5 this week on the Kia Rookie Ladder 2021-22:

(All stats through Monday, March 21)

1. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Season statistics: 14.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
Since the last Ladder: 8.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
Step of the last scale: 1
Draft Pick: No. 3 overall

It was probably Mobley’s otherwise consistent worst week of the season, with losses to Toronto and Chicago, a 4-for-13 night against the Bulls, and then the ankle sprain against Orlando on Monday that ended his night. after just 13 minutes with six points and three rebounds. That put Mobley out for Wednesday’s game against Dallas and maybe longer. Playing without Jarrett Allen by his side has been a challenge for Mobley and the Cavs. But his defensive impact compared to other rookies is what has kept Clevelander on top.


2. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Season statistics: 17.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.6 apg
Since the last Ladder: 19.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 8.0 apg
Step of the last scale: 2
Draft pick: No. 1 overall

Cade Cunningham went for 34 points in a loss to the Nets.

For statistics listed with each recruit’s weekly entry, Monday night is the deadline. But in this case, in this space, the Ladder Committee allows Cunningham’s performance in Brooklyn to be reviewed. Heck, only the second half would be convincing – he scored 29 of his 34 points after halftime, after coming back from a tailbone bump in the first half. Thereafter, he received congratulations from Durant and Kyrie Irving, although Detroit fared better before the break (64-58) than after (59-72) in the 130-123 loss. Cunningham’s 22.5 ppg in March got 47% accuracy on his 19.3 night shots.


3. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Season statistics: 15.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.5 apg
Since the last Ladder: 13.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.0 apg
Rank of the last scale: 3
Draft Pick: No. 4 overall

Mobley and Barnes exchange powerful shots in the Cavs-Raptors game.

You wake up on Wednesday, look at the Eastern standings and see that the ‘contribute a lot to a winning team’ criteria that has favored Mobley all season – and it’s a valid filter for rookies – is currently pointing in the direction of Barnes. The Raptors’ all-around starter helped them to a 3-0 week, shooting 53.1 percent, averaging just 1.3 turnovers and posting a plus-6.3 in his 32.3 mpg. Barnes edged out Mobley in becoming the first member of the Class of 2021 to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.


4. Jalen Green, Houston Rockets

Season statistics: 16.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.6 apg
Since the last Ladder: 21.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
Rank of the last scale: 5
Draft Pick: No. 2 overall

Jalen Green has 30 points against Spurs on March 28.

It’s not considered a scoop given how likely it seems, but you’re looking at a new Western Conference Rookie of the Month based on two things: the absence of injured Josh Giddey in March and Green’s play that would have could have ended the OKC trickster’s stranglehold on the prize anyway. With one game to go, Green was averaging 20.1 points on 48.8% shooting (39.3% on three). He even tightened his pesky plus/minus (one week plus-2.5). dunks like this against San Antonio on Monday? He always had.


5. Franz Wagner, The Magic of Orlando

Season statistics: 15.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg
Since the last Ladder: 15.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.8 apg
Rank of the last scale: 4
Draft pick: 8th overall

Being able to write Wagner’s name in the starting lineup every night must be a joy for coach Jamahl Mosley considering every other Magic player has missed or attended more than 10 games so far. The super-reliable forward shot 1-for-11 from the arc last week, but was also a plus-26 as his team moved to minus-22. The Berlin-by-way-of-Ann Arbor product is on course for the highest average with a No. 8 pick in the past 25 years, dating back to Kerry Kittles’ 16.4 ppg in 1997 .


The next 7:

6. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Season statistics: 12.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.4 apg
Since the last Ladder: DNP
Rank of the last scale: 6
Draft pick: No. 6 overall

The season is over (hip) but four Rookie of the Month honors in the West spoke loudly.

7. Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans

Season statistics: 9.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 apg
Since the last Ladder: 9.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg
Rank of the last scale: 7
Draft pick: No. 35 overall

His defense and “glue” game could help almost any competitor.

8. Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings

Season statistics: 11.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.6 apg
Since the last Ladder: 22.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 8.3 apg
Rank of the last scale: 9
Draft pick: No. 9 overall

Averaged 21.6 ppg, 7.2 apg, 41 mpg from injured De’Aaron Fox.

9. Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls

Season statistics: 8.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.3 apg
Since the last Ladder: 8.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.5 apg
Rank of the last scale: 8
Draft pick: No. 38 overall

Hit 45.2% of 3FGA in wins, 28.9% in losses; 16-19 as a starter.

10. Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors

Season statistics: 9.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.9 apg
Since the last Ladder: 11.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 apg
Rank of the last scale: 10
Draft pick: 7th overall

Starting over as coach Kerr separates Green and Looney.

11. Bones Hyland, Denver nuggets

Season statistics: 9.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.5 apg
Since the last Ladder: 14.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.5 apg
Rank of the last scale: 12
Draft pick: No. 26 overall

One of Kia MVP Jokic’s most surprisingly helpful teammates.

12. Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers

Season statistics: 13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg
Since the last Ladder: DNP
Rank of the last scale: 11
Draft Pick: No. 13 overall

Injury-plagued end, but the Pacers are 4-17 in the games he missed.

* * *

Steve Aschburner has been writing about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.