The 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year race is going to be interesting with the 2022 draft absolutely loaded at the top. The likes of Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith are seen as generational type talents.
A bit further down the totem pole, former Purdue star Jaden Ivey and high-scoring forward Keegan Murray from Iowa are going to make names for themselves.
Fresh off Scottie Barnes earning the 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year, we look at the 10 early candidates to come away with the top individual honor next year. This will be updated once the 2022 NBA Draft comes calling, throughout the summer and weekly during the 2022-23 season.
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10. Ochai Agbaji, guard, Kansas
Ochai Agbaji college stats (2021-22)
- 18.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 48% shooting, 41% 3-point
- One of the few fourth-year seniors projected to go in the first round over the past few years, Agbaji picked up his game big time as a senior. In fact, he improved all four seasons with the Jayhawks.
- This type of experience and his three-point shooting ability could make the wing an immediate-impact performer at the next level and impact his standing in the NBA Rookie of the Year rankings.
Verdict: Right now, we have Agbaji landing outside of the lottery. Depending on where he goes during the draft, we could be looking at a surprise ROY candidate.
9. E.J. Liddell, forward, Ohio State
E.J. Liddell college stats (2021-22)
- 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 49% shooting, 37% 3-point
- Yet another upperclassman expected to go in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft, Liddell wasn’t even a top-40 recruit back in 2019. With that said, the Illinois native morphed into a tremendous force with the Buckeyes
- After averaging 16.2 points on 47% shooting as a sophomore, the 6-foot-7 forward took his game to a whole new level this past season. He scored 20-plus points in 13 of his 32 games, proving himself to be a consistent scorer. Add in that average of 7.9 rebounds per game, and there’s a lot to like here.
Verdict: Pro-ready. That’s the best way to describe Liddell’s game. We’re expecting him to see a similar rise up the draft board as what happened with eventual 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes.
8. TyTy Washington, guard, Kentucky
TyTy Washington college stats (2021-22)
- 12.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 45% shooting, 35% 3-point
- A top-14 recruit out of Arizona back in 2021, Washington played exceedingly well for John Calipari as a freshman. There’s a whole heck of a lot to like about his game.
- His quickness off the dribble and ability to blow past the defender out on the perimeter should help him make an immediate impact at the next level.
Verdict: Likely to be taken within the top-10 picks, Washington should get the usage necessary to make an immediate impact. It just depends on where he lands when it comes to earning NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
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7. Malaki Branham, wing, Ohio State
Malaki Branham college stats (2021-22)
- 13.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 50% shooting, 42% 3-point
- The second of two Ohio State products on this list, Branham remained home to join the Buckeyes. It was seemingly a great decision with the 6-foot-5 guard looking very much like a lottery pick.
- Branham compares favorably to wings such as DeMar DeRozan in that he’s a great pull-up shooter from the mid-range. That’s a lost art in today’s game. An ability to create off the dribble and actually hit the three when he looks for his shot is also big.
Verdict: Branham’s ability to compete for the NBA Rookie of the Year depends heavily on where he’s drafted. Right now, we have him at the bottom of Round 1 to a contending team.
6. Bennedict Mathurin, wing, Arizona
Bennedict Mathurin college stats (2021-22)
- 17.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 45% shooting, 37% 3-point
- The 91st-ranked recruit back in 2020, Mathurin has turned himself into a lottery lock after improving each of his two seasons with the Wildcats.
- What we saw from him down the stretch last season should help the guard in the pre-draft process. He averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists over the final 15 games of the season.
Verdict: An ability to score in isolation has proven to be a huge bonus to Mathurin’s game. If he lands in the top 10, that’ll create the usage necessary to compete for the top rookie honors.
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Top-end 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates
5. Keegan Murray, forward, Iowa
Keegan Murray college stats (2021-22)
- 23.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 55% shooting, 40% 3-point
- A Naismith Award finalist as college basketball’s best player this past season, Murray offers a great combination of experience and upside. He saw extensive action as a freshman before taking over a lead role this past season.
- Of the 35 games the 6-foot-8 forward played for the Hawkeyes as a sophomore, he scored 20-plus points 26 times. That’s just absurd.
Verdict: Compared to Pascal Siakam by some, Murray’s game translates extremely well to the next level. That is to say, top-notch shooting and an above-average presence on defense.
4. Jaden Ivey, guard, Purdue
Jaden Ivey college stats (2021-22)
- 17.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 46% shooting, 36% 3-point
- Yet another low-level recruit (87th in 2020), Ivey expanded his game big time for the Boilermakers as a sophomore. The 6-foot-4 guard improved in every major statistical category.
- There’s a lot to like here from an athletic ability. Ivey can blow past defenders out on the perimeter and does a tremendous job finishing in the lane. That’s a great first step at the next level.
Verdict: An improved mid-range and outside shooting game has Ivey skyrocketing up the board and as a likely top-five pick. His usage will dictate whether he’s a top-end NBA Rookie of the Year contender. But we’re banking on it.
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3. Chet Holmgren, forward/center, Gonzaga
Chet Holmgren college stats (2021-22)
- 14.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.7 BPG, 61% shooting, 39% 3-point
- The No. 1 recruit in 2021, Holmgren more than lived up to that billing as a freshman for Gonzaga. His ability to score from all three levels is exceptional for someone who stands at 7-foot.
- Holmgren can spot up and shoot over pretty much any defender with his frame. He’s elite when it comes to putting the ball on the court and can spot up from distance.
Verdict: The only real question here is how well Holmgren’s 195-pound frame will hold up at the next level. Either way, we’re talking about a top-end talent here. There’s no question.
2. Paolo Banchero, forward, Duke
Paolo Banchero college stats (2021-22)
- 17.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 48% shooting, 34% 3-point
- The wow factor is definitely there for Paolo, as evidenced by his ability to lead Duke to the Final 4 as a freshman.
- Banchero pretty much checks all of the boxes. He boasts tremendous athleticism for a 6-foot-10 forward and shows flashes on defense. He’s strong, quick, can hit the mid-range and has all of the intangibles to be an elite-level NBA performer.
Verdict: Regardless of where Banchero lands, he’s going to be a top NBA Rookie of the Year candidate. This isn’t even up for debate.
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1. Jabari Smith, forward, Auburn
Jabari Smith college stats (2021-22)
- 16.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 43% shooting, 42% 3-point
- There’s really not a lot to dislike about Smith’s game. The No. 4 recruit in 2021, this 6-foot-10 forward can hit from pretty much any spot on the court.
- Smith has the size, athleticism and potential to be a franchise cornerstone type player. He displayed this continually during his one season with the Tigers.
Verdict: Smith is right there with Banchero and Holmgen as the three most-likely No. 1 picks in a top-heavy class. He’ll be a ROY candidate regardless of where he lands.