NBA Awards Race: Will Jeremy Sochan make an All-Rookie Team?
Jeremy Sochan has been a much-needed silver lining for the San Antonio Spurs this season. Entering the NBA as a defensive specialist with limited scoring upside, the teenage forward has experienced tremendous growth on the offensive end, exceeding expectations from diehard fans and draft pundits alike as he pushes the boundaries of his comfort zone.
His per-game numbers have steadily increased every month as he earned more touches, shots, and ballhandling duties. Sochan was well on his way to Western Conference Rookie of the Month consideration, averaging 21.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists across the first four games of March. Then the injury bug struck last Friday, extinguishing his momentum.
Even before Sochan upped his production, he deserved recognition for an extraordinary maiden voyage in the association. While he isn't a legitimate contender for Rookie of the Year, the Polish playmaker has shown enough to add an All-Rookie Team nomination to his resume. But could playing for a bottom-three team and missing 16 games (and counting) hurt his case?
Making the All-Rookie First Team would be challenging for Sochan. Since a panel of vetted media members votes on this honor, they likely balance individual output against club success to determine their final cuts. While Sochan has been brilliant for San Antonio, other youngsters have a leg up on him in the box score or play meaningful roles for postseason hopefuls.
Sochan may not merit top honors alongside standouts from the 2023 NBA Draft, like Paolo Banchero, Jalen Williams, and Bennedict Mathurin. But he is a virtual lock for All-Rookie Second Team. The fiery frontcourt prospect ranks fifth in assists, seventh in points and boards, and tenth in steals out of 78 rookies. Impressive, regardless of the Spurs' dismal 19-52 record.
With that in mind, how might the All-Rookie Teams shake out this year?
All-Rookie First Team
G: Jalen Williams
G. Bennedict Mathurin
F: Keegan Murray
F: Paolo Banchero
C: Walker Kessler
All-Rookie Second Team
G: Jaden Ivey
G: Andrew Nembhard
F: Jeremy Sochan
F: Jabari Smith Jr.
C: Jalen Duren
Are other Spurs in consideration?
San Antonio has four other rookies on their roster: Malaki Branham, Blake Wesley, Dominick Barlow, and Julian Champagnie. Although they have all flashed fascinating qualities, most of that quartet has spent their first go-round with the Spurs fine-tuning their fundamentals in the G League. The lone exception is Branham, who has seen significant NBA minutes.
The 19-year-old swingman ranks eighth in scoring among all rookies, and he has 14.2 points per game since February. A late surge from Branham is the only thing that could thrust him into the All-Rookie discussion. And he might get that opportunity as Gregg Popovich experiments with rotations and lineups during the final month of their regular-season schedule.
At least for now, Sochan is likely the sole Spur in the running for an end-of-the-year accolade.