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NBA Rookie Watch: December 4th
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On December 4, 2012 @ 5:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
If you have been getting frustrated waiting for the New Orleans Hornets’ Anthony Davis to return from injury, don’t hold your breath. Davis was in a walking boot on the weekend and head coach Monty Williams believes Davis is still at least a week away from ramping up his conditioning. The preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year will be on the shelf for a while yet.
Dion Waiters has been putting up some impressive numbers in Cleveland while his team’s starting point guard remains on the shelf with a broken index finger. A line of 15.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists would normally be good enough for top five consideration. That production, however, is coming at the expense of 36.3 percent shooting. It is difficult to evaluate Waiters’ game without Kyrie Irving on the floor to reduce the need to take tough shots and to create some easier looks for the rookie, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise if his efficiency suddenly improves sometime in December.
There is still plenty of time for rookies to get our attention.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 18.8 points, 6.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals
It was beginning to look like the shine had come off the stellar season Damian Lillard was putting together in Portland. During the Trail Blazers four game losing streak prior to Sunday’s contest in Cleveland, Lillard was averaging 13.2 points on a disconcerting 27.1 percent shooting. This was precisely the type of opportunity Davis needed to vault past Lillard in the R.O.Y. race, but unfortunately for Davis, he was wearing a walking boot the whole time.
The slump may not last long enough to matter, however. Lillard put up his first double-double of the season in Cleveland with 24 points on 9-17 shooting to go with 11 assists and six rebounds as Portland stole the one-point double-overtime victory. Then Lillard went 11-14 from the free throw line to offset 6-16 shooting in Monday night’s overtime win over the Bobcats. After two games averaging 24 points and 10 assists, the slump is over.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 10.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.3 blocks
Since fouling out against Washington 10 days ago, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been a different player with only one foul in his past four games. However, his scoring and rebounding are also down to just eight points and 4.3 rebounds over the same period and the Bobcats have lost each of those games to fall two games below .500.
As 60 percent of his shots come at the rim, a less aggressive Kidd-Gilchrist might not be the most effective way for him to play. A wing that rebounds, blocks shots, steals and lives in the paint has to pick up a few fouls each game to have an impact and Kidd-Gilchrist was more effective when he was picking up three to five fouls virtually every game. Foul, don’t foul, be aggressive, but play under control, no one said being a rookie was easy.
3. Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons: 10.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.6 blocks
The once seemingly hapless 6-13 Detroit Pistons are 6-5 since inserting rookie Kyle Singler into the starting lineup. Singler has moved from 16 minutes off the bench to 32 minutes as a starter while maintaining his excellent 51 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from three-point range. More minutes for Singler has directly translated into more points, rebounds and assists, but more importantly more wins for the Pistons.
Singler got his opportunity because Rodney Stuckey had the flu and then a sore ankle and the team’s success has the inconsistent Stuckey willingly accepting a sixth man role for now. As a starter, Singler has been both more effective and more efficient than the veteran Stuckey.
After four years at Duke and a season playing overseas, the 24-year-old rookie is playing with confidence and an understanding of his role that is well ahead of most second round draft picks and even some lottery picks. It was obvious the Pistons needed someone to fill this role and Singler has stepped in and taken it.
4. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals
The five days between games last week apparently didn’t suit Harrison Barnes very well as he came out flat against Denver with two points on 1-7 shooting and his worst offensive performance to-date. Head coach Mark Jackson went with a small lineup for much of the game that limited Barnes’ playing time and he never did get on track. Two days later against Indiana only went slightly better, but he got back on track Monday with nine points in the first half against Orlando. Barnes finished the night with nine points, four rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.
Barnes is playing an important role on an overachieving Warriors team that at 10-7 is a playoff contender. As long as the recent slip doesn’t become a slide, being a rookie starter on a team that wasn’t expected to do this well could become hard to ignore later in the season.
5. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: 9.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 blocks
After averaging 32.5 minutes a game the prior week and finally getting some fourth quarter burn, Jonas Valanciunas looked like he was on the move in the R.O.Y. race, but a rough two point, two rebound, three block outing in Memphis saw his minutes cut back again. On the week, Valanciunas averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes over four games.
Valanciunas continues to have an impact, but Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is obviously more comfortable finishing games with one of his veteran big men. Toronto has struggled to close out games, with or without Valanciunas on the court and Monday night’s three-point loss to Denver was just the most recent example. If the Raptors continue to struggle and Valanciunas is limited to under 25 minutes per game, it is unlikely the big Lithuanian center will be able to make any noise in this year’s R.O.Y. race.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: 5.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals 1.2 blocks
Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.6 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.
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