Kia Rookie Ladder: Monster efficiency powers Younger to prime

The Kia Rookie of the 12 months race is abruptly getting very fascinating. 

Trae Younger is ensuring of that. 

Final week, I wrote that Younger was pushing the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic due to back-to-back 36-point video games. Wanting again on issues, I ought to’ve given him the highest rung final week. 

However then, Younger had a efficiency for the ages, scoring 49 factors with 16 assists and eight rebounds in final Friday’s four-overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls. Younger was 17-for-33 within the 168-161 thriller, hitting six Three-pointers whereas enjoying 56 minutes. 

His efficiency received over a minimum of one opponent — Bulls veteran guard Zach LaVine.

“Trae Younger is an unimaginable expertise,” mentioned LaVine, who completed with a career-high 47 factors himself. “You may already see. He has the ‘it’ issue.”

Younger’s outburst put him in some rarefied air, as properly. He’s the one the third rookie to notch a 40-point, 10-assist recreation, becoming a member of Michael Jordan (he did it twice) and LeBron James. He additionally turned simply the fourth participant (of any type) to tally a 45-point, 15-assist recreation. The others? James Harden, Isiah Thomas and Gail Goodrich. Vince Carter, his 42-year-old teammate, has seen Younger’s progress, and likes how the Hawks’ rookie has grown.


The Bulls and Hawks waged a traditional recreation final Friday in Atlanta.

“Every part’s beginning to decelerate for him and every part’s beginning to make sense for him,” Carter mentioned. “That is my opinion, however the perfect factor that occurred to him was the battle to start with (of the season) … Now, he’s reaping the advantage of it. It’s been a blessing in disguise. Possibly he doesn’t see it, or his followers, however what it’s completed for him now has been unreal.”

Regardless that Younger got here again to earth (together with getting ejected Sunday in Chicago) after his large night time, I’m not going to make the identical mistake I made final week.

For now, I’m giving Younger the highest rung. 

Whether or not he can maintain on to it will likely be a unique story. 

* * *

1. Trae Younger, Atlanta Hawks


Trae Younger acquired ejected after a puzzling sequence Sunday in Chicago.

Final week:  No. 2

As talked about above, Younger got here again to earth after his big night time towards the Bulls. He had 18 factors and was properly on his approach to one other large exhibiting within the second matchup with Chicago earlier than being ejected for taunting within the third quarter. He adopted that up with a 14-point night time (lacking all 4 Three-point makes an attempt) with eight assists in a loss in Miami, then put up 22 factors, six rebounds and 4 assists in a loss to the Spurs on Wednesday. He was simply 1-for-7 from past the arc and Eight-for-24 general. If that is what we’re going to see from the Hawks rookie down the stretch, Doncic will definitely seize again the highest rung. 

2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks


Luka Doncic was strong in a loss to the Wizards on Wednesday night time.

Final week:  No. 1

Doncic definitely hasn’t completed a lot fallacious to earn this demotion. Name it rewarding Younger for his latest scorching streak. Over three video games this week, Doncic averaged 23 factors, seven rebounds and three.Three assists per recreation whereas additionally getting 2.Three steals and 1.Three blocks per recreation. These strong numbers had been definitely helped by Wednesday’s line of 31-11-7 with 4 steals in a 132-123 loss to the Wizards. On the season, Doncic nonetheless holds the sting over Younger resulting from his consistency and sheer quantity of huge video games, however he’ll must preserve pushing if he needs to achieve again his prime rung. Wednesday’s exhibiting towards the Wizards was a great begin.

Three. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns


Deandre Ayton got here up big within the Suns’ upset win towards the Lakers.

Final week:  No. 5

The Suns are on a three-game successful streak — sure, you learn that proper — and Ayton has been key to all three wins. Within the first of the three, the No. 1 general decide owned the Lakers inside, placing up 26 factors, 10 rebounds with a pair of steals and a block. He adopted that with one other double-double, placing up 19 factors and 12 rebounds in an enormous upset over the league main Bucks. Ayton’s protection on Giannis Antetokounmpo, although, is what had everybody raving. Ayton blocked three pictures and usually induced issues for “The Greek Freak,” main ESPN’s Paul Pierce to match the rookie to Corridor of Famer David Robinson on Tuesday’s episode of “The Bounce”. 


four. Landry Shamet, LA Clippers


Landry Shamet sank seven Three-pointers in a win towards the Knicks.

Final week:  Not ranked

Shamet appears to be discovering his position with the Clippers, changing into the dependable Three-point shooter he’d been early within the season earlier than being traded from the Sixers within the Tobias Harris deal. Shamet has scored in double-digits in his final three video games (all wins), averaging 17.7 ppg whereas taking pictures 50 p.c general and 53.6 p.c from past the arc (15-for-28). If the Clippers are going to make a run on the playoffs, Shamet might play an enormous position. 


5. Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks


Mitchell Robinson scored 16 factors in a loss to the Clippers.

Final week:  No. four

Robinson’s numbers regressed barely in 4 video games this week, however he’s nonetheless proving to be a beast within the paint, particularly on the defensive finish. In 4 video games, Robinson averaged 10 ppg, Eight.Eight rpg and three bpg in simply 23 minutes per recreation. DeAndre Jordan returned to the Knicks’ lineup Wednesday night time after lacking 5 video games, so Robinson might see his enjoying time dip even additional down the stretch. Or, if the Knicks are smart, they’ll let the younger large man run free within the paint and do his factor to see simply what they’ve acquired. 

Simply missed the reduce

Allonzo Trier, New York Knicks
Trier had a really spectacular week because the Knicks battle to seek out wins (they misplaced all 4 video games this week). He averaged 19.Eight factors and four.Three rebounds in nearly 30 minutes per recreation, highlighted by a 29-point outburst in a 115-108 loss in Sacramento. Because the All-Star break, Trier has been probably the greatest rookie scorers, averaging 18 ppg on 52.1 p.c taking pictures and 52.four p.c on Three-pointers.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers
Gilgeous-Alexander had a fantastic week because the Clippers put up a three-game successful streak with wins over the Kings, Knicks and Lakers. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 14.7 ppg on 54.Eight p.c taking pictures (6-for-Eight on Three-pointers) and, much more importantly, solely dedicated two turnovers complete in these three video games.

Harry Giles III, Sacramento Kings
Giles has turn into a vital half to the Kings’ rotation, particularly since fellow rookie Marvin Bagley III (two IIIs on the identical crew needs to be a report) was sidelined by a sprained knee. Over his final 4 video games, Giles has averaged 14 ppg and 5.four rpg in 19.four mpg. He received over Sacramento followers after being ejected within the Kings’ win over the Knicks on Monday. Buddy Hield says Giles is “clearly our greatest passer” and De’Aaron Fox is loving Giles’ enhance off the bench. “He goes on the market and performs with vitality on a regular basis,” Fox mentioned. “Typically he performs with an excessive amount of vitality, nevertheless it’s one thing each crew wants.”

Rodion Kurucs, Brooklyn Nets
Kurucs noticed a rise in enjoying time this week, and made essentially the most of it with three straight double-digit video games. In these video games, he averaged 13.Three ppg, 6.7 rpg and 1.7 bpg because the Nets went 2-1 with wins towards the Mavs and Cavs. Towards Dallas, Kurucs was 5-for-7 from past the arc and completed with 19 factors to spark the win.

* * *

(All stats by way of Wednesday, March 6)

Ship any questions or feedback to my e-mail or discover me on Twitter @drewpackham.

The views on this web page don’t essentially mirror the views of the NBA, its golf equipment or Turner Broadcasting.

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