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SB Nation Reacts: Duarte starts season off the radar for top rookie

The Pacers rook made everyone around the NBA take notice after his first game.

Indiana Pacers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Pacers rookie Chris Duarte had a monster debut in the Pacers loss to the Hornets on Wednesday night. The rook scored and extremely efficient 27 points on 15 shots, which included making six of nine three-pointers. Two of those threes splashed down the stretch in the fourth quarter when every possession was huge. The last of those threes was after rising up and snapping the net directly in Kelly Oubre’s eye. Major league shot regardless of NBA experience.

Just prior to opening night, fans across the NBA voted on who they feel will win Rookie of the Year and not surprisingly, those rooks at the top of the class were selected as favorites, led by top pick Cade Cunningham. Eight rookies received votes but Duarte was not among them.

After posting the best debut of any rookie, Duarte certainly raised his profile across the league. If he continues to produce consistently while taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him with Caris LeVert and TJ Warren sidelined, Duarte seems like a safe pick for an All-Rookie team.

The top rookie award will require many more nights like the opener though, since the first stat most people mention about Duarte is his age, which at 24 is indeed a short-term advantage over the rest of his classmates. Fortunately, the Pacers didn’t worry about his age and Duarte doesn’t care about anything but playing.

Cade Cunningham was unable to play in preseason and is not available yet for the Pistons, so there’s no doubt the young fella will need some time to acclimate to the NBA game. After a stellar Summer League, Jalen Green has shown in preseason that this ain’t Summer League.

So it will be interesting to follow the rookie year of Chris Duarte and see how long it takes for league analysts to stop talking about his age and simply enjoy his game.

Who are your top rookie? Let us know in the comments below, and go here to sign up for SB Nation Reacts if you want to participate more!

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