Franz Wagner boogies to first place

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As the end of the year approaches, the NBA is struggling to stay afloat as teams and players grapple with health and safety protocols and other issues related to the coronavirus.

More than 200 players entered health and safety protocol in December alone, with 10 games postponed as a result. The teams have called up more than 80 NBA G League players to replace those in protocol, creating opportunities for the guys under the radar.

With several players sidelined, the rookie class has seen more action this month, with some unlikely guys being given more playing time and bigger roles lately. In addition, the usual cast of standout rookies also continued to perform at a high level.

To make sense of it all, we’ve taken a look at the recent best performances of these freshmen and ranked them in the latest edition of the Rookie Wire Power Rankings. Rankings are not meant for Rookie of the Year, but rather to showcase the best players week after week.

Note: Players with 5 or more appearances since December 15 were eligible for this week’s Rookie Wire Power leaderboard.

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Last row: N / A

Statistics: 4.4 points and 4.6 rebounds

Yurtseven, who was not drafted last year at Georgetown, has been thrown into the rotation with the several-player down Heat due to injuries and health and safety protocols. The 7-footer responded and is averaging 8.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and one steal in his last seven games. He leads the rookie class on the rebound and is sixth among all players during that span. He’s far from a finished product and is constantly learning in his increased role, but he’s shown why the Heat love him.

Photo by Jacob Kupferman / Getty Images

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Statistics: 4.9 points and 1.5 rebounds

The Warriors recently turned to Kuminga with players out of the lineup, and the seventh pick had a solid performance. He is averaging 9.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in his last six games with a career-high 26 points in his first start on December 18. He plays with a physical style at both ends of the court that allows him to get what he wants. sometimes, and it should only get better as he plays more. Her role will continue to fluctuate this season, but the team must certainly be excited about what they have seen so far.

For more information on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

AP Photo / David Zalubowski

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Statistics: 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Hyland responded after a recent bench by dropping a career-high 24 points to lead the Nuggets to a win over the Atlanta Hawks on December 17. He earned the team’s respect with that performance following a team violation as he established himself as a key player this season.

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

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Statistics: 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds

Robinson-Earl, who was the 32nd pick, has become a key player for the Thunder this season and has arguably been the top second-round pick this season. He’s averaging 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds on 42.4% shots from the field in 32 games, including 24 starts. Sadly, the Thunder will be deprived of their services for the foreseeable future after entering NBA health and safety protocol. He had played some of his best basketball of the season before the recent news, but will likely pick up where he left off soon.

For more Thunder coverage, visit Thunder Wire

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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Statistics: 6.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists

Christopher is registering for the first time this season after seeing a bigger role in recent times with the Rockets among teams dealing with players in health and safety protocol. He entered the rotation this month and has 10.3 points, three assists and 2.8 rebounds in his last eight games. To illustrate how young the Rockets are, Christopher was among five rookies on the field recently as the team continues to build towards the future. The recent playing time certainly bodes well for Christopher and he seems to gain confidence and consistency every time he steps onto the pitch.

For more information on the Rockets visit Rockets Wire

AP Photo / Derick Hingle

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Statistics: 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals

With the Pelicans missing several key players due to injuries and health and safety protocols, Jones has stepped up in recent times. He’s averaged 12.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his last six games and just earned a career-high 26 points on Tuesday in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. His recent play has helped the Pelicans win six of their last eight games as the team appear to be on the right track. He’s known to be a lockdown defender, but his attacking play seems to be turning the corner and it could be scary moving forward.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Last row: 8

Statistics: 9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists

Sengun has become a key player for the Rockets this season, averaging 9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He was sometimes blown away by his passes and his ability to impact games on both sides of the field. He plays the game with such patience that he allows himself to read the ground and make the right decision whether to keep the ball or pass it. As he showed against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, and countless other times, his footwork is something to see.

For more information on the Rockets visit Rockets Wire

AP Photo / Garett Fisbeck

Last row: 6

Statistics: 10.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists

Giddey produced just the second double-double in NBA history without scoring on Sunday after registering 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s only trailing Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the most double-doubles by a rookie this season and is apparently a threat to post one every night. Sadly, Giddey will be sidelined indefinitely after entering NBA health and safety protocol on Tuesday. He’s a big part of how the Thunder plays, so his absence will certainly be felt.

For more Thunder coverage, visit Thunder Wire

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last row: 5

Statistics: 13.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals

Duarte has become one of the best rookies this season and a key player for the Pacers. He has scored in double digits in five straight games and is averaging 15.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists during that span. Duarte is back in the starting lineup as the Pacers struggle to find some consistency this season. He currently sits second in total goals and third in field goals among all freshmen as he only gets better the more he plays.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Last row: 3

Statistics: 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals

For the first time this season, Wagner takes first place in our bi-weekly power ranking and the eighth pick certainly deserved it. He exploded to a career-high 38 points on Tuesday in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, becoming the third rookie in team history to reach that mark in a game. His 38 points have been the highest by a rookie this season as he has now scored in double digits in 17 straight games.

Wagner is now tied with Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors for the best scoring average among all rookie players. He already leads the class in total with 547 points and seems to be entering the conversation for Rookie of the Year. It looks like Barnes, Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham are the first to take home the award, but the number 22 in black and blue might have something to say about it.

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