Monday, 22 Jul 2024

Stats Breakdown: A Closer Look at Rookie Standouts

As we eagerly await the announcement of the Kia Rookie of the Year award, let’s take a deep dive into the stats of the three finalists – Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic, Jalen Williams of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz. We’ll compare their performances throughout their first NBA season and see how they stack up against each other.

A Highly Anticipated Finalist

Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, is exactly where everyone expected him to be – a finalist for the Kia Rookie of the Year award. In fact, in the NBA App GM survey, 79% of the league’s general managers predicted Banchero to win the prestigious honor. It’s worth noting that only two other players received votes – Keegan Murray (17%) and Jabari Smith Jr. (3%). However, the other two finalists, Jalen Williams (the No. 12 pick) and Walker Kessler (No. 22, via Memphis and Minnesota), didn’t make the list.

Tracking Their Journey

Let’s take a visual recap of’s Kia Rookie Ladder, a weekly column that ranks the top 10 rookies throughout the season. Banchero consistently held a top-three position, while Williams and Kessler started outside the top 10 but gradually climbed their way up, securing spots in the top three by the end of the season.

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Offensive Prowess

When comparing the offensive performances of these three finalists, we see that Banchero is the centerpiece player for his team, carrying a significant offensive load with a usage rate of 27.2%. He led all rookies in scoring, averaging 20 points per game, and shot attempts, with 15.6 per game. Although his shooting efficiency was not the highest at 42.7%, his volume compensated for it.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kessler displayed remarkable efficiency, recording the highest rookie field goal percentage ever at 72%. As a complementary offensive player for the Jazz, he had a usage rate of 13% and excelled as a finisher in the paint. The majority of his field goal attempts, a staggering 378 out of 414, came from within five feet of the basket.

Williams, meanwhile, showcased his versatility on offense. As part of the Thunder, he didn’t bear the same offensive burden as Banchero, thanks to the presence of All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Williams shot an impressive 57.9% on 2-point shots, displaying his skills in both the paint and mid-range. Additionally, he attempted 2.7 3-pointers per game, converting them at a 35.6% clip.

Defensive Excellence

In terms of defense, Williams led all rookies in steals, averaging 1.4 per game, and deflections, with 2.1 per game. His steals ranked 17th among all players in the league. On the other hand, Kessler dominated the rookie class in blocks, recording an impressive 2.3 per game. This performance placed him fourth in the NBA for blocks and fifth in terms of rim protection, limiting opponents to a mere 51.5% shooting at the basket against him.

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The three finalists for the Kia Rookie of the Year award also excelled in defensive win shares, with Banchero leading the way at 6.9, followed closely by Williams (5.5) and Kessler (5.1). It’s important to note that Banchero’s advantage in minutes played – topping all rookies with an average of 33.8 minutes per game – provided him with more opportunities to contribute on both ends of the court. Comparatively, Williams finished fourth among rookies in minutes (30.3 per game), while Kessler ranked 11th (23 mpg).

A Glimpse of the Future

All three finalists have showcased flashes of brilliance throughout their rookie seasons. As they enter their sophomore years with valuable experience under their belts, we eagerly await to see how they will continue to develop and contribute to their respective teams.