04/03/2024

Kai Sotto showed his potential in Round 8 (photo: NBL)

Kai Sotto made a huge impression on the offensive end to top the Rookie watch for Round 8 of the NBL22 season.

The NBL over the last couple of seasons has experienced a wealth of great young talent. Players that have gone into the NBA since their stint in the NBL and some that have set themselves up in this league for years to come.

This year’s rookie class is no different with a load of NBA prospects mixing with soon-to-be established faces of the league. There are also former Developmental Players that are classified as rookies by the NBL. 

Here are some rookies that have impressed in Round 8 of NBL22.

Kai Sotto

Season Averages

13 minutes, 6.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.7 blocks, 0.3 turnovers

His round

vs Melbourne: 16 minutes, 6 points, 9 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 steal, 1 turnover

vs Illawarra: 14 minutes, 12 points (8 from the Free Throw line), 5 rebounds, 28 per cent from the field

Sotto monstered the box score this week with an incredible impact off the bench offensively for the 36ers. He’s finally getting some game time after coming back from health and safety protocols.

However, he has struggled on the defensive end. He isn’t strong enough to contend with other bigs in the league currently and is going to find it tough to defend them in the post throughout the year.

In his first three games, Sotto has one of the worst Defensive ratings in the league with 118.4 (via spatialjam.com). His improvement on the defensive end will come with time. 

Sotto won’t win Rookie of the Year, but he will become a very good player for years to come.

Ariel Hukporti

Season Averages

15 minutes, 6.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.6 turnovers

His round

vs Adelaide: 15 minutes, 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist

vs Brisbane: 12 minutes, 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, fouled out

Hukporti is a very interesting prospect for this year’s NBA Draft. He’s a solid five man with a knack for scoring in the post and shaking stanchions with vicious dunks. He is a top five rookie in the league, and he is truly a ‘Next Star’. 

His game this week against Brisbane was unfortunate with him fouling out due to illegal screens. This happens to a lot of new international player to the league though.

Unlike Sotto, Hukporti has the best Defensive Rating in the league with an insane 84.1 and he is a true rim protector that can hold his own guarding more experienced players. 

Hukporti could be NBA-bound, but he needs to show a bit more to be NBL Rookie of the Year. 

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Bul Kuol

Season Averages

23 minutes, 8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1 steal, 0.2 blocks, 1.4 turnovers

His Round

vs Phoenix: 21 minutes, 13 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 turnovers

Unlike the others, Kuol is not an NBA prospect at the moment. But what he is, is an amazing first year player with elite defence and a great jump-shot. He used all years of college eligibility, and it shows as he is a ready-made NBL player in comparison to some other rookies. 

Kuol shows similarities to Sunday Dech, though slightly taller.

While he is 6’8 and played as a forward during college, he has found himself a spot in the guard rotation in Cairns with the injuries to Machado and Djeric. He even started at point guard in the new year’s clash against the Wildcats due to the injury of Tahjere McCall.

While he didn’t have the greatest game against the Phoenix this week, it was Cairns’ first game back since New Year’s and it wasn’t the teams greatest performance either.

Luke Travers

Season Averages

25 minutes, 6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.6 turnovers

His round

vs Illawarra: 11 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block

It is very tough to judge Luke Travers’ game against Illawarra with him only playing 11 minutes and it being his first game back from health and safety protocols. But he is a true NBA prospect, and he has everything that an NBA team wants.

He is a versatile 6’8-9 wing that can play point guard if required. His defence is one of the best for smaller positions (rating of 91) and he can playmake out of tough situations. 

This is all shown during the Illawarra game. 

He didn’t get the stats on the box score but his defence is what makes him a great player in the NBL.

Season-long Rookie Ladder

  1. Hugo Besson*
  2. Luke Travers
  3. Bul Kuol
  4. Ariel Hukporti
  5. Izayah Le’Afa 
  6. Mason Peatling
  7. Biwali Bayles
  8. Kai Sotto
  9. Kyrin Galloway 
  10. Makur Maker
  11. Tom Digbeu
  12. Ousmane Dieng
  13. Akoldah (AK) Gak
  14. Nikita Mikhailovskii*

*These players do not qualify for the Rookie of the Year Award due to the NBL’s classifications but still can be classified as rookies in the NBL media.

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