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Atlanta Hawks

NBA Rookie Ladder presented by Juicy Fruit: The best rookie performances so far this season

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NBA Rookie Ladder (NBA.com Illustration)

To keep tabs on this season's crop of rookies, we'll be showcasing the NBA Rookie Ladder presented by Juicy Fruit throughout the season.

We're switching things up for this week's edition and counting down the top five single game performances so far.

Is Luka Doncic in the top spot? Or has someone else outshined the Dallas Mavericks rookie sensation?

5. Wendell Carter Jr. vs. Denver Nuggets (Oct. 31)

Stats: 25 points (9-21 FG), eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals

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Wendell Carter Jr. put his two-way potential on full display in an early season game against the Nuggets.

It wasn't quite enough - the Chicago Bulls ended up losing in overtime - but Carter went toe-to-toe with an MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic and came up only two blocks and two steals shy of a rare 5x5.

After the game, Jokic had nothing but praise for the rookie.

"He's a really good basketball player," Jokic told The Athletic when asked about Carter. "I think he's not a rookie. He played like he's not a rookie."

Zach LaVine took it a step further, saying Carter and Jokic are "going to be battling each other as the top big dudes in the league one day."

4. Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. New York Knicks (Nov. 25)

Stats: 16 points, seven blocks, six rebounds and three assists

Jaren Jackson Jr. is showing a knack for filling up the box score.

In 29 minutes of play against the Knicks, Jackson recorded 16 points, seven blocks, six rebounds and three assists, joining Charles Smith, David Robinson and Tree Rollins in the process as the players since 1946 to post those numbers in an NBA game without missing a single shot.

The difference between Jackson and them? Jackson is only 19 and they were each in their mid-to-late 20s when they pulled the feat off.

Unfortunately for Jackson, his historic came came in a loss, as a monster double-double from Enes Kanter fueled a second half comeback for the Knicks.

3. Luka Doncic vs. Houston Rockets (Dec. 8)

Stats: 21 points (7-17 FG), seven rebounds, three steals and one assist

While Luka Doncic has had better overall games and put up bigger numbers, but no moment shines quite like this one.

With less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Doncic was having one of the worst games of his rookie season (10 points on 3-13 FG) and the Mavericks found themselves trailing 102-94 to their division rival.

Then Doncic took a game that featured James Harden and Chris Paul over, going on a personal 11-0 run on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the field.

Doncic's third bucket tied the game at 102 and his fourth put the Mavericks ahead by three points with 57 seconds on the game clock. That would be the last time Doncic would score on the night, but the Mavericks held on to win by a final score of 107-104.

2. Jaren Jackson Jr. vs. Brooklyn Nets (Nov. 30)

Stats: 36 points (13-22 FG), eight rebounds and two assists

The second appearance on this list for the Grizzlies rookie, who came just one point shy of matching the franchise record for points in a single game by a first-year player. Shareef Abdur-Rahim dropped 37 for the Vancouver Grizzlies back in 1997.

The most memorable part of Jackson's career night came down the stretch, when he went on a personal 7-0 run in the game's final 30 seconds to force an extra period. He got that run started with an and-one 3-pointer and finished it with a tough triple over Brooklyn Nets centre Jarrett Allen to tie the game.

"He's got a big heart, man," Mike Conley said of Jackson. "He's got the gene to make the big shots in the big time moments."

"Man, he is built for it. The shots he made were shots a lot of young guys won't attempt."

1. Trae Young vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Oct. 21)

Stats: 35 points (13-23 FG), 11 assists and two rebounds

In the first week of his rookie season, Trae Young joined LeBron James and Stephen Curry as the only first-year players in almost 20 years to post at least 35 points and 10 assists in a game.

Pretty good company for the 20-year-old to be in, right?

Young got those numbers efficiently, too, shooting 13-for-23 from the field (6-for-14 from 3-point range) and committing only one turnover. Based on Basketball-Reference's Game Score, which gives a "rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game," it's the best game rookie performance so far this season.

He has had his ups and downs since, but Young showed why the Hawks believe he has superstar potential in this one.

Honourable Mention

Deandre Ayton vs. Detroit Pistons: 25 points (11-13 FG), 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists

Luka Doncic vs. LA Clippers: 32 points (10-20 FG), 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals

Kevin Knox vs. Charlotte Hornets: 26 points (10-25 FG), 15 rebounds, 1 assist

Collin Sexton vs. Washington Wizards: 29 points (13-23 FG), 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals

Allonzo Trier vs. New Orleans Pelicans: 25 points (9-12 FG), 8 rebounds, 4 assists

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