Magic’s Paolo Banchero earns NBA Rookie of the Month for a third-straight time; Jazz’s Walker Kessler wins his first
Even in what we thought was a poor month for Orlando’s Paolo Banchero, there is still no other player in their first campaign in the league who gets close to his stats. Talkin’ about standards, this kid had us getting used to him exceeding our expectations every night! Today, he is awarded February’s best rookie player in the Eastern Conference.
Achieving this feat for the third time in a row is only an accomplishment that himself and Shaquille O’Neal (Nov. 92′ to Feb 93′) have ever achieved for the Magic franchise. As for Utah center Walker Kessler, he just earned his first ever Rookie of the Month award for his impressive performances during this past month.
Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler and Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero have been named the Kia NBA Western and Eastern Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in February. pic.twitter.com/VlKe6iJuOb
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) March 2, 2023
The No. 1 overall pick of the last draft dropped 20+ points three times, just as well as he registered three double-doubles this past month, still leading rookie averages for points (16.6), and adding 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
One of his best performances of the month was just three days ago, as he capped a 29-point performance when the Orlando Magic beat New Orleans 101-93 on Monday night. His display was especially impactful that time as he delivered three clutch mid-range jumpers in the closing minutes, leaving the Pelicans without a chance.
“In those moments, you kind of just got to be able to go get a basket. I was confident I could do that,” Banchero expressed, also adding that his teammates “trust me to make the right play.”
“I don’t take that for granted. I don’t take that lightly,” Banchero continued. “We’re close as a group and I think on the court it shows in moments like that.”
Other honorable mentions for rookie in the East with great performances in February were Detroit’s Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin from the Indiana Pacers.
Kessler was the only rookie to average a double-double this month
21-year-old Kessler had a great month of February too, averaging 10.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per contest, this latest stat ranking second among all NBA players during the month. The player is now only the fifth Utah athlete to earn Rookie of the Month awards throughout the franchise’s notable history.
Watch this highlight reel made by the NBA to honor his February displays, as Kessler was the only rookie to average a double-double in February:
Just last week, NBA Insiders Bill Simmons and Tate Frazier went into an admiration craze for Kessler, as they were discussing his latest perfomances in their podcast. “Did you know that Walker Kessler was gonna be Bill Russell last year as you were watching?” Simmons asked Tate.
“Unbelievable,” Simmons reaffirmed. “Like if we had redrafted that, he’s one of the top five picks from last year, there’s no question.
Other honorable mentions for the West’s best rookies this month were Malaki Branham from San Antonio Spurs, Houston’s Tari Eason and Jabari Smith Jr., Keegan Murray from Sacramento and Thunder’s Jalen Williams.
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