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NBA Rookie Rankings: Davion Mitchell sees role grow with Kings; Jonathan Kuminga making most of opportunity

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The rosters are set for the Rising Stars Challenge, and perhaps the most exciting team to keep an eye on for the round-robin style tournament is the one selected by Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton. Each of the four Rising Stars coaches drafted their teams, and somehow Payton ended up with reigning Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, current Rookie of the Year contender Scottie Barnes, Ayo Dosunmu (who is having an impressive season with the Chicago Bulls), as well as fellow rookies Chris Duarte and Davion Mitchell. That team has the scoring with Ball and Duarte, the defense with Barnes and Mitchell and the overall excitement factor from top to bottom. If we’re picking teams to win the Rising Stars Challenge, that certainly would be where I place my bet. For a look at the rest of the Rising Stars rosters, we’ve got you covered with this tracker.

Let’s move on to this week’s rankings. Remember these will reflect a rookie’s performance on a week-to-week basis only, and not the collective season. These are not Rookie of the Year standings. With that straightened out, here is a look at the top-performing rookies around the league.

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The last two weeks Mitchell has been on a tear, which just so happens to coincide with the fact that he’s been starting the last six games due to De’Aaron Fox’s ankle injury. He’s put up 15+ points in each of those starts, and came close to a double-double in a loss to the Golden State Warriors

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Though the Kings have gone just 2-4 during that stretch, it has given Sacramento an opportunity to see what a starting lineup featuring Mitchell would look like. Sacramento traded guards Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield to the Pacers on Tuesday for big man Domantas Sabonis, which should open up even more opportunity for Mitchell.

Mitchell’s consistency has been one of the main issues this season, as his shooting efficiency has been all over the place. Just in this past week he went 3 of 5 from downtown against the Warriors, but that was sandwiched between a 2-for-8 game from deep and a 3-for-9 performance to end the week. Mitchell’s 3-point percentage this season (32 percent) ranks in the 32nd percentile amongst guards in the league, so he’ll need to become a more consistent shooter.  

However, while Mitchell’s 3-point shooting needs some work, where he’s really excelled this season is in shots around the rim. Mitchell not only gets to the basket with relative ease, but more importantly he finishes at a high clip (61 percent) for a rookie. He’s got a quick first step that catches defenders on their heels, and when he turns the corner he’s incredibly quick going downhill. Mitchell’s strength and frame help him handle contact well down low, and as he advances in his career he’ll become even more creative as a finisher to protect his shot from getting blocked against bigger defenders.  

After spotty minutes at the start of the season and being in and out of the rotation, Kuminga saw perhaps his most consistent week of minutes recently, and he made good use of the opportunity. The timing isn’t a coincidence, with Draymond Green still sidelined, and guys like Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins missing the occasional game here and there, Kuminga’s rise in minutes has come as a necessity. But it’s not as if he’s just out there taking up space, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Kuminga’s traditional numbers were impressive this week, but he also finished the week a plus-14, the highest of any rookie on this list. That means he was impactful on the floor, outside of just putting up points and rebounding. He was setting great pin-down screens for Thompson against the Kings, was aggressive on defense and showed off some of his playmaking ability en route to 18 points. 

The seventh overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft said after the win against Sacramento that things are coming a bit easier to him now compared to the beginning of the season.

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“I feel like I’m getting better,” Kuminga said. “Because at the beginning of the season, it was just too much thrown at me at the same time. Pin down, cut and go to the basket. It was just kind of too much, but now it’s getting a little easier. I still haven’t gotten everything yet, but I feel like I’m doing good for the most part.”

You can certainly see the progression with Kuminga, and while he does make a handful of rookie mistakes each night — which is to be expected — you can see that he has a better understanding of his role within this dynamic Warriors offense, and it’s resulting in some positive performances.

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The Thunder started the week with a huge win over the Dallas Mavericks, in which Giddey had a 14-points, 10-assist, seven-rebound performance. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander still sidelined, we’ve gotten to see what an offense centered around Giddey looks like, and it’s been a treat. The Australian guard is just always two or three steps ahead of the defense, and it results in great ball movement for the Thunder, like on this possession:

It’s like watching a pinball move around with how quick and sharp Giddey’s passes are. Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson didn’t even have time to find his man again before Giddey delivered a pocket pass to Aaron Wiggins for the knockdown 3-pointer. Oh then there’s this game-tying assist where Giddey takes advantage of Luka Doncic on defense to send the game to overtime:

After the game, Giddey said that wasn’t the designed play in that situation.

“We drew up a play and I kinda completely disregarded it,” Giddey said. “Kenrich (Williams) and I were looking at each other, we have a connection.”

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You know the rookie’s good when he can just improvise in a high-pressure situation to deliver a perfect pass with the game on the line.

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Green hasn’t been getting as much attention as some of his rookie counterparts this season in part because of the high-volume, low-efficiency stats he’s been putting up. But what better way for Green to navigate his first year in the league than having the green light to take whatever shot he wants. The efficiency should come with time, and we’ve seen flashes of it already this season, like in Houston’s big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Green shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from deep on his way to a 21-point, five-assist, five-rebound performance. His athleticism results in some wild finishes at the rim, and his 3-point shooting seems to be taking shape. Green’s committed to competing in the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend, and if his in-game dunks are any indication, then we should be in for a exciting evening with his participation.  

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The Pacers are having a bit of a fire sale after trading Caris LeVert to the Cavaliers and Sabonis to the Kings. As a result, we’ve been seeing some of the younger talent on Indiana’s team get more opportunity, and guys like Taylor are taking full advantage of that. Taylor had back-to-back 20-point performances this past week, and recorded an absurd 16 rebounds and 14 rebounds in the games, respectively. Taylor is an undrafted rookie who was just signed to a two-way contract with the Pacers back in December, and right now he’s showing what he’s capable of.

Honorable mentions: Tre Mann, Oklahoma City Thunder (16.3 points, 2.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds); Ziaire Williams, Memphis Grizzlies (16.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists); Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors (15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists)





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How to watch Appalachian State vs. James Madison: NCAA Football live stream info, TV channel, time, game odds

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Who’s Playing

James Madison @ Appalachian State

Current Records: James Madison 2-0; Appalachian State 2-1

What to Know

The James Madison Dukes watched the action from their couches last weekend, but are set to take to the field. James Madison and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will face off in a Sun Belt battle at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The odds don’t look promising for the Dukes, but the bigger the opponent is, the harder they fall.

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A well-balanced attack led James Madison over the Norfolk State Spartans every single quarter on their way to victory two weeks ago. James Madison claimed a resounding 63-7 win over Norfolk State at home. The game was pretty much decided by the half, when the score had already reached 35 to nothing.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State didn’t have too much breathing room in their contest with the Troy Trojans last week, but they still walked away with a 32-28 victory. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice was slinging it as he passed for two TDs and 279 yards on 34 attempts. Near the top of the highlight reel was Brice’s 53-yard TD bomb to WR Christan Horn in the fourth quarter.

Their wins bumped the Dukes to 2-0 and the Mountaineers to 2-1. Watch the matchup and check back on CBS Sports to find out who keeps up the positive energy and who hits a stumbling block.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, North Carolina
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $40.99

Odds

The Mountaineers are a solid 6.5-point favorite against the Dukes, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Mountaineers as a 7.5-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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