NBA Rookie Watch: December 11th
There is hope that the New Orleans Hornets’ Anthony Davis will get back into action within the week and the early favorite for Rookie of the Year can start to make up some ground on the field before Christmas. That was a long layoff, however, and it’s uncertain what the 19-year-old can produce right away.
The enigma of the 2012 NBA draft, Andre Drummond had his best week of the young season including an impressive double-double in 31 minutes against Golden State as Greg Monroe was in foul trouble. Unfortunately his inconsistent play has yet to earn him the trust of his head coach or Drummond could be in our top five. The big man had zero points and zero rebounds in 13.5 minutes on Monday night.
Damian Lillard continues to led the pack by a wide margin and after some recent slippage, he has reasserted himself as the best of the rookies who we have been able to watch play. However, some of the other rookie hopefuls have looked a little shaky lately and could be bumped out of our top five if things don’t improve.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 18.9 points, 6.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals
Damian Lillard continues to outplay his draft position by a wide margin and even he seems surprised by how well things have gone. Setbacks have been short-lived and even his playmaking has taken a step forward over the past couple of weeks.
Before Monday night, Lillard had scored 83 points over his past four games and had handed out a surprising 35 assists. It isn’t supposed to be this easy for a rookie and in Monday’s win over Toronto, Lillard had the worst shooting night of his brief NBA career. Failing to hit a three-point shot for the first time after 20 games in a row, he finished the night going 2-14 from the field and 0-5 from deep. Based on how Lillard has bounced back before, Monday’s shooting performance shouldn’t have much of an impact going forward.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 10.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks
After a week and a half of tentative play that saw the young wing only foul one-time in four contests, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist found his mojo again last week and nearly fouled out in Milwaukee. The more aggressive play paid off as he posted a double-double in 32 minutes and got to the free throw line six times against the Bucks. Then he picked up three blocks on the Spurs the next night. Kidd-Gilchrist impressed again in Monday’s loss to the Warriors with 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists, a block, a steal and four personal fouls to finish off another stat stuffing week.
Kidd-Gilchrist is having a good rookie season on a personal level, but the Bobcats have dropped eight games in a row after a nice start to their campaign. A young team starting two rookies and sophomore point guard Kemba Walker, the Bobcats are not expected to win a lot of games, but talent level of their young core certainly has been impressive.
3. Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons: 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
The shine came off Kyle Singler just a little last week as the rookie put up a couple of 1-6 shooting performances in losses to Golden State and Chicago at home. He failed to score in double digits at least once during the past week for the first time since he got the starting job.
Singler played like a rookie, but the Pistons still added another victory and are 7-8 after Monday’s loss with him in the starting lineup. After going 0-8 to start the season, he’s earned a little slack as he is still playing over 30 minutes per game as a starter.
4. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: 9.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals
The trend towards poor shooting become exacerbated last week as Barnes connected on just 26.9 percent of his shots to average 6.3 points over the past four games. It appears that Barnes is pressing as his shot has gone missing and his minutes have been cut back. However, the Warriors may not have noticed as the team has won four straight and seven of their past eight games.
Barnes is still holding onto his starting role and remains an important player on this surprising team. However, this trend must be reversed soon if he is to remain in our top five.
5. Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves 10.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.7 steals
Alexey Shved continues to show signs that he will become a solid guard in the NBA. After three games of over 16 points, in his two games last week, he only managed to average nine points. His team, however, split the pair to remain at a very respectable .500 record on the season without starting point guard Ricky Rubio.
Shved re-joins the top five more because of the rough five game road trip Jonas Valanciunas had with the Raptors, the disappearance of Drummond on Monday night and the injury to Dion Waiters. Longer term, Shved faces a real risk from reduced minutes once Rubio is back in Minnesota’s lineup.
Head coach Rick Adelman likes Shved’s contribution off the bench, so hopefully he can continue to compete for minutes backing up both guard positions.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: 8.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 blocks
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: 6.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals 1.2 blocks
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets; 16 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.0 steals
Some Rookies To Watch: Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers), Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Jared Sullinger (Boston Celtics) and Meyers Leonard (Portland Trailblazers)
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 so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! Follow Stephen Brotherston on Twitter @stevesraptors and hit up his weekly chat Monday at 3pm Eastern.