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SBNation Reacts: Young Stars Rising in the Central

The odds-on favorite for Rookie of the Year resides in Cleveland.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA season has passed the midway point, and the picture of “what’s what” in the NBA is becoming a bit clearer. The Milwaukee Bucks are still in the middle of the conversation (although I might argue it’s not always the most productive conversation!) and will be for the foreseeable future...but life comes at you fast. What are some of the up-and-coming names that Bucks fans need to be aware of across the league?

The people have spoken, and the results contain a pair of names that Milwaukee will become well-acquainted with over the years. First off, first overall pick Cade Cunningham shook off some early-season struggles and has compiled a respectable first campaign with the Detroit Pistons. With 15% of the vote, it’s widely expected that he’s in the mix for the league’s Rookie Of The Year award...which, y’know, he should be, since he was the top pick in the NBA Draft! He’s no Sandro Mamukelashvili, he’s no Justin Robinson Javonte Smart Lindell Wigginton, but maybe that’s just because he’s not our guy. When we last saw Cunningham in action, he managed 19 points and 7 assists in a rare Detroit win over the Bucks.

Maybe Mamu missed out in this poll, but it’s fair to say that Evan Mobley deserves the votes more. Right now, anyway. The 3rd overall pick out of USC has been a mainstay for the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers, playing over 34 minutes per game (!) for the Eastern Conference’s current 6-seed. No, really! Mobley has been a positive contributor for the Cavs, which is impressive for a rookie, and he’s getting involved in a little bit of everything. We’ve only seen him once this season (Mobley missed the shellacking Cleveland put on the Bucks last month), but it’s safe to say that we’ll see him again soon. He’s not a Giannis stopper, but we can already tell that he’s no slouch.

This poll is almost like a distant memory for Bucks fans, who haven’t had a highly-touted draft pick since Jabari Parker in 2014. But it wasn’t so long ago (2017!) that Malcolm Brogdon (rightfully!) was named the Rookie of the Year as a Buck. This was pre-Bud, pre-Giannis-as-MVP, so it may as well be ancient history, and who knows when the Bucks will ever have a young player on the path to achieving such an accomplishment again? This is not a complaint, of course, just another reminiscing over where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we hope to stay.

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