NBA rookie grades: Examining the debuts of each lottery pick

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Excitement spread across the sports world on Wednesday as the NBA continued to tip off its 75th anniversary season with 22 teams in action around the country.

The evening saw several elite performances from the biggest stars in the game, while the bulk of the rookie class also hit the court for the first time. Several of the top first-year players were in action as the final results produced a mixed reaction.

Of course, No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham was absent from the Detroit Pistons’ lineup due to a right ankle sprain but Wednesday saw plenty of other high draft picks make their debuts, including Jalen Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs among others.

Rookie Wire went through and took a look at how each lottery pick played in their debut game. We offered a grade for each performance, and some analysis on how they looked on the court.

Moses Moody, Golden State Warriors

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Moody on Tuesday made his debut versus the Los Angeles Lakers, recording two points and two rebounds in five minutes of work. He hit the court in the second quarter, giving the team a few effort plays and sound defense. Afterward, the Warriors presented Moody with the game ball after scoring his first points in the NBA.

Prior to the contest, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Moody had a very good training camp and made a strong case to earn minutes this season. He looks to have a place in the rotation off of the bench moving forward. Despite seeing limited time, Moody had a solid debut game with the Warriors.

Grade: B+

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Duarte, who earned the start on Wednesday, had the best debut of any rookie, and the best in team history. He finished with 27 points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range in the loss. The 27 points and six 3-pointers by Duarte were a Pacers franchise record by a rookie in a debut game. He also became the first Pacers rookie to record at least 25 points and five rebounds with five 3-pointers in a game since Jamaal Tinsley in 2002. The team trusted Duarte to be in the game in the closing minutes of a tight contest and he even hit a couple of key 3-pointers to keep the Pacers in it.

You know what grade we’re giving him.

Grade: A+

Joshua Primo, San Antonio Spurs

Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

With the Spurs sporting a 25-point lead over the Orlando Magic, Primo got his first run during the regular season. He checked in with just under five minutes to play and closed out the game, hitting one 3-pointer during his time on the court.

Grade: B

James Bouknight, Charlotte Hornets

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Bouknight did not play in the Hornets’ 123-122 victory over the Indiana Pacers. The decision to sit him was a bit surprising considering he averaged 15.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, one assist and one steal in the preseason, finishing third in scoring among rookies. The Hornets did trail by as many as 23 points in the second half so head coach James Borrego likely wanted to rely on his veterans to get back into the game.

Grade: N/A

Ziaire Williams, Memphis Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nikki Boertman

Williams logged 17 minutes in the Grizzlies’ regular-season opener, recording three points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He put forth a nice sequence in the fourth quarter by hitting his 3-pointer to put the Grizzlies up by 14, and then forcing a turnover on the other end of the floor. His stats don’t jump off the page, but Williams showed flashes in his first action on Wednesday and he should only build upon this moving forward.

Grade: A-

Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings

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Welcome to the NBA, Davion Mitchell, now go guard Damian Lillard. That was life for Mitchell on Wednesday, and the rookie, who is known to be a defensive stopper, had some success with his assignments. Mitchell helped limit Lillard to 20 points on 8-of-24 shooting from the field, including 0-of-9 from 3-point range. The display by Lillard wasn’t all Mitchell, as he looked to just be in a shooting slump, but he provided sound defense on several possessions and made his life difficult.

Mitchell finished the contest with two points, three rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes of work. He struggled mightily from the field, converting on just 1-of-6 and was unable to get into a groove on offense. However, his defense was likely more rewarding for him, something the Kings will be utilizing often this year.

Grade: B-

Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

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In a game in which the Magic struggled with turnovers, rebounding and defense, Wagner was one of a few bright spots in the loss to the San Antonio Spurs. He earned the start in the opener and responded by recording 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and one steal in 32 minutes of work. The Magic like what Wagner can do defensively with his versatility and ability to switch onto smaller players, and it should ensure he continues to see a large role this season. He showed that and more on Wednesday.

Grade: B+

Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Kuminga did not play in the Warriors’ season opener on Tuesday versus the Los Angeles Lakers due to a patellar tendon strain in his right knee. He suffered the injury in the second game of the preseason and would not play in the final three games. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said on Sunday that Kuminga was not yet ready to resume on-court work so the seventh overall pick will likely be out for a little while longer.

Grade: N/A

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Giddey registered four points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes as the Thunder lost to the Utah Jazz; his 10 rebounds set a Thunder rookie record in a debut. He showed off some of his dynamic playmaking ability and once again had some flashy passes to his teammates. He struggled at times, but what rookie wouldn’t against the team with the best record in the NBA a season ago?

Grade: B-

For more coverage on the Thunder, visit Thunder Wire

Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Suggs had perhaps the toughest debut of any rookie to this point. He was a late addition to the starting lineup after Gary Harris was unable to go with a hamstring issue, and struggled in the loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Suggs finished with 10 points, one rebound and one assist on 3-of-14 shooting from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. He looked uncomfortable at times on the court and struggled to finish in the paint, often chucking up difficult layup attempts. The Magic initially wanted to limit his playing time after recently recovering from a stomach virus but were forced to rely on him with the injury to Harris. The start wasn’t what the team, or Suggs, wanted but it is clear he’ll have ample time this season to get things right.

Grade: C-

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Barnes finished as one of just three Raptors players to finish in double figures as the team lost to the Washington Wizards. He scored 12 points, nine rebounds, one assist and one steal in 32 minutes. Barnes was tasked with leading the offense at times, and looked to play effectively in that role. He did finish with six turnovers and committed five fouls but that is likely to be expected in a debut game. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said Barnes will have the opportunity to log heavy minutes this season and play through his mistakes. Despite that, Barnes looks to have a strong rookie campaign ahead.

Grade: B-

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

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Mobley got his NBA career started off with a bang on Wednesday after posting a rather rare final stat line in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. He produced 17 points, nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 38 minutes of work in the 132-121 loss. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Mobley was just the second rookie in history to record at least 17 points, nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block in a debut game. He flashed each area of his game in the loss, from his sound defense to his ability to hit from beyond the arc. He even turned in a strong sequence in the second quarter, blocking a shot on Jaren Jackson Jr. and then running the floor for the easy dunk in transition.

In other words, Mobley is the real deal.

Grade: A+

Jalen Green, Houston Rockets

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The first game in the NBA for Green didn’t quite go as scripted. He finished with nine points, four assists and four rebounds in a 124-106 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He finished a minus-37 on the court and struggled from the field, shooting just 4-of-14 and 1-of-6 from 3-point range. On the bright side, Green had no turnovers and had a couple of plays that showed why he was so highly touted entering the draft.

Grade: C+

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Cunningham was ruled out of playing in the regular-season opener on Wednesday due to a right ankle sprain. He returned to practice this week and was able to participate in various portions as he progresses toward gaining medical clearance to play. Pistons head coach Dwane Casey has maintained the team will not rush him back and would not put a timetable on his return but it appears as though he could make his debut soon.

Grade: N/A

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