- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
NBA Rookie Watch: April 16th
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On April 16, 2013 @ 5:00 am In NBA | No Comments
With teams resting players in preparation for the playoffs or for the dubious goal of acquiring more ping pong balls and the overt propensity to let rookies play through their mistakes as the season winds down, it can be challenging to determine what these last few games are really telling us. At least watching the rookies can be entertaining.
Under the circumstances, it is hard to justify changing the rookie rankings from last week. However, there were some performances recently worth noting. The Bucks’ John Henson had a 17-point, 25-rebound, seven-block performance in Orlando last week. The Magic have a lot of reasons to lose games right now, but Henson’s stat line was still impressive. Andre Drummond put up a monster career-best 29-point, 11-rebound game in Cleveland, but his better than average 9-17 from the free throw line only served to remind us about his 36.2 percent free throw shooting this season. Brian Roberts and Chris Copeland each had a 20-point game last week.
The leaders on our rookie watch list are:
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 19.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.9 steals
The best rookie in this year’s class earned his fifth consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month award in March and has led this race wire-to-wire. On the way, Damian Lillard developed a reputation as a player who can take the big shot in the big moments of a game and helped keep his Trail Blazers in the Western Conference playoff race far longer than anyone expected.
Big games were all too common for this soon-to-be Rookie of the Year. A few of the highlights include the 29-point, seven-rebound, six-assist contribution in the victory over the Spurs in December, the 26 points and 10 assists in the March win over the Knicks and the recent 38-point, nine-assist, three-steal effort in the loss to the Lakers.
Lillard leads all rookies with 1,529 points and 520 assists and has joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson as one of just four rookies in NBA history to record at least 1,500 points and 480 assists in a season. He has also smashed Stephen Curry’s rookie record of 166 three-pointers in a season with 181 and counting.
Lillard’s lead over his fellow rookies is hard to imagine. He has scored over 650 more points, passed for over 240 more assists and hit 90 more three-point shots than his next closest rookie competitor in each category.
2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets: 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.8 blocks
As Anthony Davis sits with an MCL sprain and a left knee bruise, he can look back at a productive yet inconsistent NBA rookie season. The first overall pick in 2012 arguably played his best basketball early on when he lit up Charlotte with 23 points and 11 rebounds as well as a season-high five blocks and two steals in a seemingly rare Hornets’ victory on November 9. A mere eight days later, he scored a season-best 28 points in a loss to the Bucks, but in a recurring theme, Davis injured an ankle and missed 11 games. Minor setbacks continued to plague this very promising young rookie right up until today.
However, with 20 double-doubles, Davis has accumulated more than twice as many double-doubles as the next best rookie and leads all rookies in rebounds with 522 and blocked shots with 112. In just 64 games played, Davis will end up top three in rookie scoring with 867 points. It isn’t nearly enough to challenge Lillard for top honors, but it’s more than enough to set some pretty high expectations for next season.
3. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 13.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals
If you were scripting a fantasy rookie’s month-to-month progress it would read a lot like Bradley Beal’s story. At least it would right up until the multiple ankle injuries in March and the resulting stress reaction in his left leg. Beal averaged 11.2 points on 34.1 percent shooting in November and added about 2.1 points with improved his efficiency each month until he was averaging 17.5 points on 48.1 percent shooting in February. In March, he kept up the nice shooting, but the injuries cut back on his minutes and games played. Beal only made one brief appearance in April.
Beal took on a major role in Washington and had his share of impressive games. In January, he played a season-high 48 minutes in a double-overtime loss to the Nets scoring 24 points, grabbing six rebounds and collecting four assists to go with a block and three steals. Against the Nuggets in February, Beal had 17 points while hitting a season-high nine free throws on 11 attempts in the win. He also collected a season-best 12 rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals. In a loss to New York on March 1, Beal had a season-high 29 points and 11 rebounds.
Beal was honored as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December and January and will finish the season fourth in rookie scoring with 780 points. A player whose progress was as steady as it was dramatic; his season averages of 41 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three-point range are dramatically lower than his post All-Star averages of 47.1 and 45.5 respectively. This is one young shooting guard who is set to impress next season.
4. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers: 14.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals
Dion Waiters made an unexpected return from injury to play limited minutes in a couple of games recently and as a result, the shooting guard has leapfrogged Davis to reclaim second overall in the rookie scoring race. Apparently, the loose cartilage fragment in his left knee doesn’t require surgery.
Waiters got off to a fast start in terms of scoring in the NBA averaging 15.3 points per game in November; unfortunately his shot selection left a lot to be desired. In December, a bad ankle sprain caused him to miss the first half of the month and missed time only seemed to make things worse.
Waiters wasn’t exactly thrilled by a demotion to the bench in January, but he quickly improved his decision making and it wasn’t long before he started living up to his fourth overall draft status. On January 14 in Sacramento, Waiters had a season-high 33 points on 12-18 shooting. Waiters averaged 41.9 percent shooting in January and then really stepped things up in February by averaging 51.4 percent. Before the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for February was sidelined on March 18, Waiters had put together three 20-plus point games in a row to end the month of February and then three more in March.
As of Monday, Waiters has scored 878 points in 60 games.
5. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: 8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks
The Raptors selected Jonas Valanciunas fifth overall in 2011, but since the young center was under contract in Europe at the time, it wasn’t until this season that they were finally able to bring him over. Being the best young player in Europe didn’t gain Valanciunas any leeway in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation and to start the season, Valanciunas saw his minutes limited mostly to the first and third quarters even after putting together a few impressive games with extended minutes towards the end of November. Valanciunas’ best game early on was a 22-point, seven-rebound and three-block performance in double-overtime against the Spurs when he got to play 39 minutes on November 22.
Valanciunas missed the entire month of January with a broken ring finger on his shooting hand, but after he returned, his minutes and production started to increase. In March, Valanciunas was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month averaging 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 27.1 minutes over 15 games. Then in six days starting on March 29, Valanciunas played in two home-and-home series against Detroit and Washington that confirmed his coming out party.
On the road in Detroit, Valanciunas faced off against a fellow rookie in Drummond’s first start of the season. Valanciunas had 14 points and a season-high tying 13 rebounds to go with a season-high four blocks. Three days later in Toronto, Valanciunas had 17 points, six rebounds and a new season-high five blocks. Valanciunas out-dueled his rookie competitor by out-scoring him 31 to 21, out-rebounding him 19 to eight and collecting more blocks by a nine to two count.
On the road in Washington, Valanciunas had an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double with two blocks and shot an impressive 8-10 from the free throw line. Three days later in Toronto, he had a season-best 24 points to go with 10 rebounds and two blocks for another double-double and went 16-18 from the free throw line. No rookie center has been that successful from the free throw line since David Robinson. Earlier this season, fellow rookies Lillard and Waiters had been to the free throw line 14 times in a game and just recently Drummond went 9-17.
6. Maurice Harkless, Orlando Magic: 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 0.8 blocks
Before the game on January 28 in Brooklyn, Maurice Harkless wasn’t getting many minutes and he wasn’t doing much with the minutes he was getting. Then, everything changed. Harkless went from scoring 4.8 points in 14.6 minutes in January to 11.5 points in 34.5 minutes in February and things have only gotten better from there. Even with the addition of the surprising Tobias Harris in the last week of February, Harkless has continued to get more time on the court.
Excluding the recent game in Chicago when he tweaked a knee and left after just eight minutes, Harkless has only failed to score in double-digits four times since the All-Star break. Two games after tweaking that knee, he played a season-high 51 minutes against Milwaukee in a rare win and shot 7-13 from the field for 14 points.
Harkless has taken full advantage of opportunities head coach Jacque Vaughn has been giving him and since the All-Star break, he has averaged 13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.9 blocks in 35.3 minutes. The 19-year-old forward scored a career high 28 points on 10-18 shooting on April 1 in Houston, but his most memorable games were against the Thunder. In March, Harkless had a 25-point, nine-rebound, four-block, four-steal game at home the week after he had a personal best six steals in Oklahoma City.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: 7.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.6 blocks
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 9.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.9 blocks
Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers: 7.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.9 blocks
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.6 steals
Rookie of the Year is an award that typically rewards production, but that can’t be the only thing taken into account when doing rankings. As the season moves along, team improvement over the previous season and overall team success is also factored in, as well as the improved production of teammates.
How would you rate this year’s rookies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! Follow Stephen Brotherston on Twitter @stevesraptors and hit up his weekly chat Monday at 3pm Eastern.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-rookie-watch-april-16th
Copyright © 2013 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.