NBA Rookie Watch: March 5th
In the second half of the season, some rookies that couldn’t find much playing time are suddenly getting all they can handle.
Maurice Harkless went from averaging less than 18 minutes in his first three months to 34.5 minutes in February and the 19-year-old forward has taken advantage. While his shooting percentages from the field, three-point range and the free throw line have all taken major hits, Harkless has averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 1.3 steals for the month. This rookie could eventually find his way into our top five if he can keep it up.
However, Damian Lillard is continuing to win awards, Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters keep steadily improving and Anthony Davis is still holding his own, so there isn’t much room in the top four spots for a Johnny-come-lately.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 18.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.0 steals
In February, Lillard became the first rookie since LeBron James to reach 1,000 points and 300 assists in his first 55 games on his way to a fourth consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month award. On 41.5 percent shooting, Lillard averaged 19.8 points and 6.2 assists last month and went 91.5 percent from the free throw line last month.
There isn’t lot more one can say about Lillard’s rookie season. He started strong and hasn’t let up.
2. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 14.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.9 steals
Beal had another strong week, averaging 19.7 points and seven rebounds on 49 percent shooting and saved his best performance for the game against the Knicks. On Friday against New York, Beal scored a career-best 29 points to go with his 11 rebounds for his second double-double in the month of February.
Each month has produced a marked improvement in Beal’s production as he finally brought his season’s shooting percentage above 40 percent last month. A personal best 17.5 points on 48.1 percent shooting in February helped lead the Wizards to a winning 7-5 record.
On Sunday, Beal was carried off the court after spraining his ankle and he left the arena on crutches. X-rays were negative, but Beal could miss Wednesday’s game in Minnesota and he is considered a day-to-day situation.
3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets: 12.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.8 blocks
Injuries have become a regular occurrence for Davis lately. He left the game against Dallas a week ago Friday with a knee injury and while that didn’t cause him to miss any games, the bone bruise in his shoulder from Tuesday’s game against Brooklyn put him on the shelf for two games. The only good news about these injuries is Davis continues to come back strong in his first game back. He had 20 points and eight rebounds in the game after his knee injury and, on Monday, Davis had 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots against the Magic.
Davis only averaged 11.2 points on 44.3 percent shooting and seven rebounds in February as the physical toll of being a rookie big man has impacted his performances in 2013. While those numbers are solid for a rookie, they are down significantly from November and December.
4. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers: 14.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals
Waiters, the league’s second leading rookie scorer, was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in February after averaging 15.8 points on 51.4 percent shooting. This past week, Waiters upped the ante, averaging 21.6 points on 53.5 percent shooting and the only thing that could slow him down was he couldn’t play on Monday due to illness.
Waiters’ improved play hasn’t occurred in a vacuum. The Cavaliers finished February with a seven wins and five losses, the first month the team had a winning record since March 2010.
5. Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic: 8.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.5 blocks
Nicholson averaged just 18.8 minutes over his five games this past week, but he still managed to put up 11.6 points on 68.6 percent shooting to go with 2.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game.
While he still isn’t seeing the big minutes fellow rookie Maurice Harkless has been receiving lately, Nicholson is proving to be highly efficient with the time he gets and his production usually goes up with any increase in minutes.
Nicholson’s minutes were expected to continue ramping up in March, but if they slide back and his teammate Harkless continues to see 30 minutes plus per night, Harkless could jump up to take Nicholson’s spot on our list.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals
Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers: 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.9 blocks
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: 6.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves 10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.8 steals
Some Rookies To Watch: Maurice Harkless (Orlando Magic) and Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors)
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. ET.