Rookie Power Rankings: Cade Cunningham, and the return of Jalen Suggs

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After a bump in the road due to injuries and the NBA’s health and safety protocol, several of the top first-year players have returned and are performing at a high level once again.

The rookie class recently saw several players sit due to various reasons, but they are back and contributing to their respective teams. Cade Cunningham is playing like the No. 1 pick, Jalen Suggs is back and dunking on people, while Chris Duarte has emerged once again.

To make sense of it all, we took a look at the best recent performances of these first-year players and ranked them in the latest edition of the Rookie Wire Power Rankings. The rankings are not for Rookie of the Year purposes but, rather, to illustrate the best players week to week.

Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: N/A

Stats: 6.4 points, 2.4 rebounds

Kuminga continues to see sporadic playing time with the Warriors but has produced when called upon. He is averaging 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists over his last eight games on 45.8% shooting from 3-point range. While it may not be an official stat, it feels like Kuminga is averaging at least one highlight-worthy dunk per appearance, including this one from Tuesday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks.

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: N/A

Stats: 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists

Without Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, the Bulls have called upon Dosunmu and the second-rounder has produced. He has started in each of the last six games for the Bulls, averaging 15 points, 6.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals, including a career-high 24 points on Monday. In that contest, Dosunmu made each of his first nine shots to set the franchise rookie record for consecutive makes to start a game. Dosunmu has been praised by his teammates and coaching staff for the energy and effort he brings on a nightly basis and that has been on display as of late.

For more coverage on Lonzo Ball and the Bulls, visit Lonzo Wire

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Last Rank: 10

Stats: 14.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steal

With the Raptors’ starting lineup back, Barnes‘ production has dipped some but the fourth pick continues to be integral to the team. He recently produced a career-high 27 points and eight rebounds on Jan. 21 in a win over the Washington Wizards after dominating inside of the paint. That performance gave Barnes his eighth game with at least 20 points and five rebounds, the most by a rookie this season. He missed a couple of games recently due to knee and wrist injuries but they shouldn’t be long-term issues.

Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Last Rank: 2

Stats: 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.0 steal

Since returning from the health and safety protocol, Giddey has scored in double figures in nine out of his last 12 games, including a career-high 21 points on Jan. 21. While his scoring has become more consistent, Giddey continues to be a threat to fill the stat sheet with assists and rebounds. In fact, Giddey ranks 14th among all players in the NBA in total assists (259).

We now present yet another highlight-worthy pass from Giddey.

For more coverage on the Thunder, visit Thunder Wire

Herb Jones, New Orleans Pelicans

AP Photo/Derick Hingle

Last Rank: 6

Stats: 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals

Jones is averaging 12.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals over his last six games for the Pelicans. He has emerged as one of the top defenders from this rookie class but his progression on offense has been a sight to behold. He has often been commended this season for his work in the gym and that is beginning to pay off. Take, for instance, his 3-point shooting. Jones shot just 20% from beyond in October and 33.3% in November. However, he has seen that number jump significantly after converting on 41.7% of his 3-point attempts in December and 40% this month. Needless to say, he is really developing into a strong 3-and-D player this season for the Pels.

Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: N/A

Stats: 12.9 points, 4.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals

Suggs returned to the lineup on Jan. 14 after missing 20 games due to a fractured thumb. He is averaging 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals in six games since returning, including a career-high 22 points on Jan. 21 in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Without Suggs in the lineup, the Magic often missed his competitiveness and playmaking on both ends of the floor. The team has gotten that back with Suggs on the court again as the fifth pick showed it off in a recent win over the Chicago Bulls. He was perhaps as animated as he has been all season long in that win, and it was on full display after yamming one over DeMar DeRozan.

Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: N/A

Stats: 13.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals

Duarte is averaging 16.7 points, five rebounds and 3.3 assists over his last six games, including a career-high-tying 27 points on Jan. 20 in a win over the Golden State Warriors. He started off the season very hot but hit a bit of a lull after that point. However, he looks to be trending upward again for the Pacers. Since recording a season-low three points on Dec. 13, Duarte has scored in double figures in 11 out of his last 13 games.

Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 1

Stats: 15.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steal

Wagner continues to perform like one of the top rookies this season. His production has slipped some compared to his tremendous run in December but is still averaging 13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists over the last two weeks. Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley attributes some of that to Wagner reading and reacting to defenses a bit more, and trying to set up his teammates. The team believes Wagner will continue to be aggressive when necessary and let his game come to him naturally.

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Last Rank: 3

Stats: 15 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 blocks

Mobley registered his 10th double-double of the season on Monday in a win over the New York Knicks. He continues to fill up the stat sheet this season as the Cavaliers are now 9-1 when Mobley records a double-double. Mobley also recently became just the second rookie in NBA history to reach the numbers below in 39 or fewer games:

Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 4

Stats: 16.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals

Cunningham is coming off of a career performance on Tuesday, posting 34 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four blocked shots in a loss to the Denver Nuggets. He joined Jordan as the only two rookies in NBA history to record at least 30 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in a single game. Cunningham is slowly developing into the Pistons‘ No. 1 option on offense and has flashed signs of becoming a player that can take over games late. He is showcasing why he was the No. 1 pick and has his name firmly in the mix as a Rookie of the Year front-runner, as a result.

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