The glamour of NBA All-Star Weekend is officially over and teams and players are beginning to look forward. The conversations around award races will start to heat up and one of the talking points is the race for Rookie of the Year.

In Today’s piece we look at the top 3 candidates at this stage. The ones with the strongest cases to take home the award come end of the regular season.

#3 – Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons) 

Cade was selected as the first overall pick in last year’s draft and he has been pretty solid. He is an obvious contender for the Rookie of the year award but needs to do a bit more to actually win it. When healthy, he has shown he can be a spectacular player. He came into the league with a huge reputation and has slowly begun to cement himself.  However, due to a few knocks and niggles, the Detroit Pistons have been extremely cautious with him thus far.

The Oregon State product has averaged 15.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. His current 39.2% shooting means there is a marked room for improvement. He still possesses the ability to fill up the stat sheet. Once he adds a consistent three point shot to his repertoire he could easily become a generational talent. 

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#2 – Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors) 

Scottie Barnes has become an instant fans’ favourite. An absolute joy to watch on any given NBA night. He’s ranked near the top of the best rookies of the season in every major category and he looks like the real deal to win the rookie of the year award. One major upside for him is his NBA-ready defence and that has been a huge plus for the resurgent Raptors. 

His offense could use some improvement definitely but he certainly looks like a player ready made for the league. He has become a comfortable spot-up shooter and only needs to gain more consistency as a finisher around the rim. So far, he is averaging 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game on 47% shooting.

#1 – Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers) 

First place on our list goes to the Cleveland Cavaliers Evan Mobley. He has had an excellent season so far.  His ability to defend and finish around the rim has surprised many. He has so far exceeded expectations spectacularly. The 7-foot centre has played a major part in the Cavaliers‘ impressive season. 

Mobley has all the traits to become an elite level defender. He can protect the paint or guard all the way to the perimeter. He has even shown an ability to score at an even higher level than was first projected. Mobley has been phenomenal this season with averages of 14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds per game on 50.3% shooting. His ceiling at this point is certainly a perennial MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in the future.