Although the NBA season is well beyond its halfway point, the 2022-23 NBA card release season is barely in preseason form.
That can be good or bad news, depending on the collector’s outlook and for what players said collectors had high (or low) expectations. Regardless, the rooks have definitely given collectors a body of work to evaluate to this point.
Here’s a list of five high performing rookies in the current year’s crop and youngsters that are giving collectors some worthy cardboard.
Orlando Magic man-child Paolo Banchero is far and away the top rookie in the league this year. Any conversation to the contrary is just for the sake of debate, argument, or just flat-out hot air blowing. He’s the only rookie averaging over 20 points per game, and he also adds over six rebounds and 3 and a half assists per game. The number one overall pick is performing even better as the season progresses. Banchero is so physically advanced that he appears to be a seasoned vet out on the court. The rookie forward is built for this and can be the centerpiece of a young and rapidly developing Magic squad.
The Indiana Pacers have a young rookie star in the lineup. Benedict Mathurin has been averaging nearly 17 points per game. The Arizona product is a key component to the team’s future. Unfortunately, as of the writing this piece, he was carried off the floor after a right ankle sprain. His goal of playing in all 82 games this season may be compromised but regardless of the minor setback, the 6th overall pick in the draft has stardom written all over him and has a legitimate argument for NBA Sixth Man of the Year considerations.
22nd overall pick Walker Kessler had his name attached to a third team before even landing in Utah to begin the season. A part of the Rudy Gobert trade, Kessler filled in nicely in the multiple time Defensive Player the Year’s absence in the lineup. He’s filled in so nicely that there didn’t appear to be an absence at all.
The Auburn seven footer’s numbers are eye-opening, as he’s averaging nearly 14 points, 13 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per 36 minutes. Although it’s obviously early, it appears as though Kessler could produce at this level for the next decade plus. His shot rejecting frequency places him in the top five per game in the entire league. As his playing time increases, his numbers will only grow in Salt Lake City. The big trade already looks a little lopsided and with continued impressive play Walker may put himself and the Jazz on the right side of the trade and in a position of complete dominance.
The number four overall pick out of Iowa, Sacramento Kings rookie forward Keegan Murray has shown flashes of brilliance during his rookie season. Averaging 12 points and 4 and a half boards. Murray is an accurate three-point threat. With a little more consistency, he could be a key player in the Sactown future and offer plenty of year’s worth of playoff greetings from a young and loaded up Sacramento Kings team.
Ivey is as explosive as any first year player in the league. So much so that the Purdue product was drawing pre draft comparisons to one Ja Morant. That’s pretty lofty and if Ivey cane even resemble the young Grizzlies star, the Pistons are in for one heck of a run. Ivey is a bucket, an assist and a highlight reel waiting to happen. During the first week of March he followed up a 13 point, 13 assist game against Portland with a 26 point, 12 assist game against the Wizards. Staying consistent and staying healthy, Ivey should be a fixture in the league for a long time.
Jalen Williams of Oklahoma City, Jalen Duren of Detroit and Jabari Smith Jr. of Houston are three other members of the 2022 NBA Draft class who are worth keeping an eye on. Chet Holmgren’s season was over before it began so we’ll have to wait before we know what type of impact the slender Oklahoma City big man may have at the pro level.
Below is a real time list of the most watched 2022-23 NBA rookie card auctions on eBay.