The NBA Playoffs are quickly approaching as the Play-In Tournament tips off next Tuesday. With this comes the end of the season honors and awards as they don’t consider postseason performances. The 2021-2022 season was the first for players like Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors. They did not disappoint and have each become solid starters for their respective teams, contributing to franchise success. Out of the entire 2021 rookie class, who is most deserving of the Rookie of the Year title? The sports section writers have their takes:
As someone personally named Evan, I have to support the Cavs’ big man, who has been a huge part of why Cleveland is even in a playoff race. If any NBA fan imagined the Cavaliers as a potential playoff team, they would’ve easily been laughed at. Yet, the Cavaliers sit right at No. 7 in the standings with the Play-In Tournament up ahead. Anyone can see how much Mobley brings to this new and improved Cleveland Cavaliers team and he’s been an utter force on both sides of the ball. Despite struggling with the injury bug throughout the season, he’s been able to average about 15 points per game along with 1.6 blocks per game. The immediate impact that Mobley provides for Cleveland easily makes him not only my pick for Rookie of the Year, but also a future star in the NBA. With the season almost over, I fully expect Mobley to be holding up the prized Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season.
While Mobley has become the Cavalier’s next franchise center, Giddey has turned into the Thunder’s next big shooting guard. Pairing him with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander until at least 2025 is going to do wonders for a program that has become the draft capital of the world. But why is Giddey their next name-brand superstar? In 54 games, the sixth overall pick averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game while averaging 31.5 minutes. Amongst the 2021 rookie class, Giddey ranks seventh in PPG, second in RPG to Mobley and first in APG. With numbers like these, the Australian sensation has the potential to post a Russell Westbrook-like season of a triple-double on average. Giddey is 6-foot-3, so if the Thunder were to splash on a guard in the draft or free agency, then Giddey could transition into a small forward or power forward role. The Thunder could be a playoff contender next season, and Giddey will be a major contributor.