Award Watch: Rookie of the Year
This season the Rookie of the Year race has been, for the most part, of the one-horse variety. Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers has distanced himself from the rest of this class, becoming the first rookie to be named an All-Star since Yao Ming in 2003.
This week, Griffin averaged a pedestrian (for him, anyway) 21.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Amazingly, that is something of an off week for the former Oklahoma star. Enough about Griffin, though.
Over the course of the last several weeks, highly-touted rookies like DeMarcus Cousins (Kings) and Greg Monroe (Pistons) have shown obvious signs of becoming more comfortable with the NBA game while narrowing the gap between Griffin and the rest of the field.
Here is a look at who is ballin’ and who is fallin’ in the 2010-11 NBA Rookie of the Year race.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings – 19.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals (This week)
Talent and skill have never been the concern for DeMarcus Cousins. The biggest question mark surrounding the center out of Kentucky has been his maturity, both on and off the court. This week, Cousins was outstanding from a physical standpoint, posting three straight double-doubles for the first time in his young career, including a 25-point, 14-rebound performance against the Utah Jazz on Feb. 7, in which he shot .500 (8-16) from the floor and .900 (9-10) from the free throw line. For all his fine work on the basketball floor, however, Cousins’ struggles off the floor reared their ugly head following the Kings’ 99-97 home loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday. Reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans missed a three-point shot in the waning seconds and Cousins, frustrated that he didn’t touch the ball, got into an altercation with teammate Donte’ Greene after the forward went to Evans with the inbounds pass rather the Cousins. The 6-11 Cousins missed Sunday’s game against the Suns (a 113-108 Sacramento win) after being removed from the team plane in OKC Saturday night, and is not expected to join the team for the final two games of its three-game road trip.
John Wall, Washington Wizards – 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists
After battling injury early and poor decision-making throughout the season, Wizards’ point guard John Wall put together a solid week of work, helping Washington to a 2-2 record, including the team’s first road win since April 9, 2010, snapping a 25-game losing streak. Wall, who is shooting .404 from the field and .309 from three-point range this season, made 24-50 (.480) field goals in four games this week; not coincidentally, he took just one shot from distance. The 6-4, 195 lb., Wall posted an assist to turnover ratio of 3:1 and chipped in 1.5 steals and one blocked shot per game. In the team’s streak-ending victory over Cleveland on Sunday Wall posted 19 points, five rebounds, 14 assists, two steals, two blocked shots and just two turnovers.
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves – 9.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 blocks
Coming into the week Timberwolves’ center Nikola Pekovic had scored in double-digits just three times in 35 NBA games; in four contests this week, the Montenegrin big man averaged 9.8 points while cracking into double figures twice and shooting a blistering .667 from the field. On Feb. 12 (in a 107-87 loss to Philadelphia), the 6-11, 245 lb., Pekovic played a career-high 29 minutes, scoring six points (on just two field-goal attempts), pulling down nine rebounds, dishing out two assists and blocking three shots. His 15-point (on 6-9 shooting) performance against Indiana one night earlier set a career-high for scoring, but his efforts on the defensive end have been solid as well. With Darko Milicic missing the ‘Wolves last three games with a hip injury, Pekovic has filled in admirably, helping limit Roy Hibbert (who averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in his six previous games) to just six points and five rebounds.
Omer Asik, Chicago Bulls – 5.7 points, 7.7 rebounds
It may seem odd to see a player averaging fewer than six points and eight rebounds on this list, but Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik set a career-high by recording 11 rebounds in just 14 minutes of action as the Bulls escaped New Orleans with a 97-88 victory over the Hornets on Feb. 12. The seven-footer pulled down 23 rebounds, 11 of which were offensive, while playing only 40 minutes this week. (That is 20.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. Wilt Chamberlain would be impressed.)
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons – 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Pistons’ big man Greg Monroe continued his strong play of late with another solid week of action for a Detroit team that is playing .500 (3-3) basketball in the month of February. The 6-11, 250 lb., center out of Georgetown shot .533 (16-30) from the field, scoring the ball efficiently and rebounding it effectively while giving the Pistons a legitimate play-making low post option. Since the New Year began, Monroe is shooting .596 (98-164) from the field while averaging 11 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Ed Davis, Toronto Raptors – 5.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.0 blocks
After a bit of a slow start to the week, Ed Davis finished strong, posting 13 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots in a 98-93 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Sure, he only scored 21 points in four games, but the 6-10 forward only took 16 shots and had no turnovers in 107 minutes played.
Timofey Mozgov, New York Knicks – 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals
It was something of an inconsistent week for Knicks center Timofey Mozgov, but the 7-1, 250 lb., Russian showed signs of the player the brass at Madison Square Garden envisioned when they signed him to a three-year contract worth more than $8M. Mozgov had 18 points and six rebounds against the Clippers on Feb. 9 and, despite scoring just 13 total points in his next two games, rebounded the basketball well (9.8 per 36 minutes) and provided the porous Knicks defense with a shot-blocking presence.
Gary Neal, San Antonio Spurs – 10.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Basically coming out of nowhere, Spurs rookie Gary Neal continued his strong play this week, helping the Spurs win three of four games with his sharp-shooting and efficient scoring. The 6-4 guard shot 16-26 (.615) from the field and 7-11 (.636) from behind the three point line.
Landry Fields, New York Knicks – 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists
After a surprisingly strong and consistent start to the season, Knicks’ shooting guard Landry Fields has play has slipped recently. This week, Fields shot just 9-21 (.429) from the field and, while he has continued to rebound the ball well, the 6-7 product of Stanford has been wildly inconsistent on the offensive end of the floor. New York has won just two of its last six games and Fields has averaged 19.5 points while shooting .750 (15-20) from the floor in the wins; in the four losses he has averaged 4.8 points on .267 (8-30) shooting.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Los Angeles Clippers – 3.5 points, 3.2 rebounds
After looking like the steal of the 2010 NBA Draft, forward Al-Farouq Aminu has hit the proverbial rookie wall in the last few weeks. The Wake Forest product shot .277 (5-18) from the field this week and, in his last 10 games Aminu has made just 11-46 (.239) field goals.
Wesley Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves – 6.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Wesley Johnson started the season flying under the radar, but putting up solid numbers for the Timberwolves. Recently, however, the former Syracuse star has hit the skids. This week, Johnson hit just 11-35 (.314) field goals and 2-13 (.154) three-point shots.
Rookie of the Year Rankings – Top 5 (Season Stats)
1. (1) Blake Griffin - 22.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, .511 FG%, .538 3FG%
2. (2) John Wall – 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.7 steals
3. (4) DeMarcus Cousins – 13.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.7 blocks
4. (3) Landry Fields - 10.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, .515 FG%, .390 3FG%
5. (5) Greg Monroe - 7.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, .527 FG%
With the All-Star Break upon us, Rookie Watch will take a short break next Monday and return in two weeks. Be sure to check out HOOPSWORLD for in-depth coverage of NBA All-Star 2011 all weekend long. Don’t forget to keep up to date with our NCAA coverage as well. If you have any questions or comments, you can hit me up on Twitter or drop me a question in my weekly chat, held Tuesdays at 1pm Eastern time.