Photo Credits: Coby Van Loan/OKC Thunder
Flurries of former Oklahoma City stars have graced the “NBA’s Rookie Ladder” since the team’s installment in 2008. Names in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Steven Adams have all engraved themselves into past rankings, but this year — the Thunder have been crickets on the leaderboard. That all changed Wednesday morning.
For the first time of the season, the NBA’s April 7 “Rookie Ladder” shed off the first Thunder member to crack the list — Theo Maledon.
Maledon earned his rights on the leaderboard by a thin margin, placing a two-way tie for the number ten spot with Orlando’s Chuma Okeke. He ranked as the list’s fourth point-guard behind Tyrese Haliburton (2), Immanuel Quickley (5), and LaMelo Ball (6) while the draft’s top two picks Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman placed first and seventh respectively.
This was a long time coming for Theo. The 19-year-old has been right outside of reach since late February, but as his role has increased — so has his production. Across his 44 appearances (28 starts,) Maledon has averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists across the season while shooting 36.6% from deep on 4.6 attempts.
The Frenchman’s final push into the Rookie Ladder came from a four-game stint last week. In his showings, Maledon averaged 15.8 points (third-best by rookies on the week,) 5.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game off 27 minutes.
Maledon’s week was highlighted in his April 2 clinic against the Phoenix Suns. In the face-off, he scored a career-best 33 points (10-of-18 FG,) while tallying 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Not only had Maledon’s output been a rookie-best for the week, but it also fell just one tally shy of the Thunder’s rookie single-game scoring record — held by Russell Westbrook.
Aleksej Pokusevski missed the cut, but rightfully so — he has a real case of being snubbed. Pokusevski finished his four-game week posting averages of 21.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 blocks while shooting 39 percent from three on seven tries a night.
Through 30 games this season (13 starts,) the Serbian Assassin has averaged 7.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.0 blocks per contest.
Given that Oklahoma City is currently riddled with the injury bug, the group’s four-game week should provide a surplus of minutes for both rookies to flourish — and potentially climb the ladder.