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NBA Rookie Watch: January 22th
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On January 22, 2013 @ 5:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The rookies continue to give us reasons to pay attention to their seasons even if some of their teams might not generate the same interest, except for Damian Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers of course.
Anthony Davis has started to remind us why he was favored to win Rookie of the Year before the season started and Jonas Valanciunas’ broken finger is on the mend and the Toronto Raptors young center should be back in action soon.
It was bad news for the Cleveland Cavaliers when Anderson Varejao was injured, but good news for rookie Tyler Zeller as the young center has been getting all the minutes he can handle. On Saturday he got his second double-double of the month, a 13-point, 14-rebound and three-block effort in the loss to the Utah Jazz. Zeller has become someone to watch.
Most teams have reached the halfway point of their season and the rookies are either starting to figure things out or have crashed head first into a rookie wall. There are a surprising number of young players that have been making real contributions to their teams this season.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 18.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.1 steals
Portland has dropped six games in a row as Lillard’s team failed to take advantage of the Houston Rockets’ seven-game losing streak and create any separation for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. On Monday night, Houston broke their streak with a win over the Charlotte Bobcats and Portland failed to keep pace against the Washington Wizards. Part of Lillard’s mystique has been Portland’s unexpected push for the playoffs. Now in ninth place, if his team falls out of the race, it could open the door to a challenger for Rookie of the Year.
However, Lillard maintained his impressive averages this week and saved his best game for the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. He put up 26 points and 10 assists to go with a block and a steal in the close loss at home. A minor right ankle injury apparently had little impact on his game. Lillard had his typical 18 points in Monday night’s loss.
2. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals 1.6 blocks
In two games this week, Drummond averaged 13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks, but head coach Lawrence Frank is still keeping a lid on Drummond’s playing time at under 23 minutes per game. If Drummond could get just a few more minutes, he might be able to do enough to keep Davis from reclaiming his spot in our Rookie Watch.
The 19-year-old center is behind Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell on the depth chart, but his team has been playing better as of late and the Pistons are 6-4 over their past 10 games including wins over the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks and Miami HEAT.
3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets: 13.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.9 blocks
The good game in New York a week ago Sunday was the signal that Davis had crashed through the rookie wall and was bringing his game back up to speed. In four games this week, Davis had two double-doubles, five steals and 11 blocks. Davis also scored 20 points in a game for the first time in 2013.
Davis’ minutes were up over the past week, at least until he tweaked that suspect left ankle again on Monday night, but hopefully the ankle will not cost him any more games. His January numbers may still be disappointing, but the last five games indicate Davis is back on track and the Hornets have doubled their number of wins on the season to 14. Things are starting to look up again for the preseason Rookie of the Year favorite.
4. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 13.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals
Beal won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December on some suspect shooting, but he found his game in January and has averaged 18.6 points on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 60.4 percent from three-point range over the first 10 games of the month.
In four games this week, Beal averaged 16 points on 51.1 percent shooting as he went 1-7 on Monday night and scored just two points to slow down an otherwise very productive period.
The Wizards are winning more games as well. Five wins over the past seven contests have more than doubled the team’s number on the season. No one is planning a parade route, but the Wizards are playing better lately.
5. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers: 14.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals
Waiters started in his first 24 games for the Cavaliers and while he managed to put up some points, his shooting percentages were truly awful and getting worse. Waiters shot 34.2 percent from the field and 20.7 percent from three-point range in December. A move to the bench in January was apparently just the tonic needed. In the first 10 games in January, Waiters has averaged 16.3 points on 43.2 percent shooting and 33.3 percent from deep while playing 4.7 fewer minutes per game.
Waiters had a 33-point explosion in a road loss to the Sacramento Kings last Monday and scored 23 points against the Utah Jazz on Saturday with his only bad shooting performance of the month sandwiched in-between on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers. It is beginning to look like Waiters will fulfill the promise of a fourth overall draft pick.
The biggest thing holding back Waiters may be the Cavaliers’ 10-32 record. However, there’s an apparent desire to develop their young players and acquire as many lottery balls as possible.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 1.1 blocks
Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves 10.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.9 steals
Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic: 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.3 blocks
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals
Some Rookies To Watch: Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Singler (Detroit Pistons), Jared Sullinger (Boston Celtics), Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors) and John Henson (Milwaukee Bucks)
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 3 p.m. Eastern.
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