This year’s class of young players featured in the Rising Stars Challenge was an awesome one. It’s not often that there’s a large collection of players who are already established as franchise cornerstones.
So today, we’ll shine a light on the ones especially well set up for a strong finish to their 2021-22 season, along with an honorable mention at the end.
Josh Giddey — Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Getting the most obvious one out of the way early on here. Giddey went into the break riding a streak of three straight triple-doubles, averaging 18.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 10.7 assists over that stretch, including shooting 50% from three on 3.3 attempts per game.
He’s benefitting from the spread out, athletic brand of ball that head coach Mark Daigneault schemes up. Giddey’s best trait so far is his ability to see plays developing and make the best play before it even opens up, like he does here:
Just another absurd pass from Josh Giddey.
He makes it look so easy. pic.twitter.com/oQjEDAuqu4
— Thunder Film Room (@ThunderFilmRoom) January 6, 2022
Giddey is set to win his fourth straight Rookie of the Month award, and I’ll be especially interested over the final stretch of the season to see how the dynamic between him and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander develops.
Evan Mobley — Center, Cleveland Cavaliers
Mobley is one of the few of the group that is making an impact on a contending team. Despite no one picking Cleveland to make the finals, especially with the injuries they’ve had, I’m sure no one was picking Atlanta to make the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago.
Still the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, Mobley represents a revolutionized version of the center position, though Cleveland doesn’t feel comfortable with him manning those duties on his own yet.
I’ll have my eye out for lineups where he is the only center on the floor and how spread out their offense gets in those scenarios, because he’s shown an ability to play that style as he did in the Rising Stars Challenge here:
absolutely befuddling mobley stepback 3 pic.twitter.com/cof8dhcvtn
— damon allred (@iamdamonallred) February 19, 2022
Dyson Daniels — Wing, G-League Ignite
Hailing from Australia, Daniels is one of my favorite players to come through the Ignite program to this point. I have a soft spot for connecting wings, and Daniels is one of the furthest along in that department out of prospects his age that I’ve evaluated.
Ignite asks Daniels to be a secondary or tertiary initiator a lot of the time, but that’s not really what he’s going to be asked to do at the NBA level, at least for his first few seasons. It’s more likely that he’s a connector that helps finishes plays, as he does here, making the final extra pass to Cade Cunningham in the Challenge:
Things started pretty rough for his playmaking for the first stretch of the G-League Showcase, averaging just 4.14 assists and 2.86 turnovers per game over their first seven games, but has really turned it on, averaging 4.57 assists and only 1.86 turnovers during their last seven.
The one thing to watch for as to what ceiling Daniels will reach is watching his three-point shooting, which is currently just at 25.5% over the Showcase.
Cade Cunningham – Guard, Detroit Pistons
He won MVP of the Challenge, and Detroit is healthier now than they’ve been all season, so it’ll be fun to watch if he can compete for Rookie of the Year against Mobley at all.