NBA Rookie Watch: November 13th
With a few exceptions, the Rookie of the Year (“R.O.Y.”) race is starting to evolve as expected. The most significant of those exceptions are as follows.
Sacramento’s Thomas Robinson got off to a slow start in week one and only played 12 minutes in week two after receiving a two-game suspension for hitting Detroit’s Jonas Jerebko with a high elbow. Robinson, the fifth overall pick, is a good prospect and should eventually get into the R.O.Y. conversation.
While more was expected from Toronto’s fifth overall pick in 2011, center Jonas Valanciunas has performed reasonably well in inconsistent minutes for a Raptors team that is still struggling to find its identity.
Anthony Davis’ setback from a concussion in game two has not been enough to impact anyone’s perception of his future in the NBA.
It is early and there are some rookies that are already showing signs of being a lot better than their draft positions, but perhaps it isn’t surprising that the current leaders are all top draft picks.
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 18.8 points, 7.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals
In his first three games Damian Lillard averaged 21.3 points and 9.0 assists and Portland was 2-1, but over the next three, this dropped to 16.3 points and 5.0 assists with a 0-3 record.
The Trail Blazers had a very tough schedule to start the season and Lillard continues to impress with play well beyond that of the typical rookie. However, he may need numbers closer to his first three games for Portland to win games against the better teams in the West and to hold off Anthony Davis in the R.O.Y. race.
2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets; 17.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 1.3 steals
Anthony Davis returned for one game this week after recovering from concussion symptoms, but the 19-year-old’s 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks would represent more than a week’s production for many other rookies.
In his two complete games this season, Davis is averaging 22 points on 50 percent shooting, along with nine rebounds and three blocks. If he can stay healthy, the preseason favorite for R.O.Y. should be on top of the leader board before long.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 12.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.6 steals
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continued his stat stuffing ways in week two including a 25-point, 12-rebound performance and 9-10 from the free throw line in a Bobcats win over Dallas. He also recovered from that 1-7 shooting performance in his first NBA game to boost his average to 47.8 percent.
The number two pick in the draft is not an also-ran for this year’s R.O.Y., Kidd-Gilchrist can challenge his former Kentucky teammate for this award.
4. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers: 15.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals
At this point, the Cavaliers have to be pleased with their fourth overall draft pick. Dion Waiters is the scoring shooting guard they were hoping he would be.
Waiters is shooting 48.8 percent from the field and connected on 6-12 three-point bombs this past week. He also recorded his second 20-point plus game on the road this season. The Cavaliers are featuring a starting lineup that may be just too young to defend as well as head coach Bryon Scott would like, but with the addition of Waiters, they can put up points.
5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: 13.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals
Bradley Beal recovered from an abysmal 2-13 shooting over his first two games as a rookie to go 20-40 this week and average 18.3 points in the Wizards’ three losses. Beal had a big game in a close loss to the Pacers, hitting on 3-3 from three-point range and collecting six rebounds, a block and a steal.
The third overall pick is starting to perform as expected and looking like a top draft pick, but the Wizards may not find out what he can really do until after point guard John Wall returns from injury.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: 6.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.6 steals 1.0 blocks
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: 8.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks
Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves: 7.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Some Rookies To Watch: Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Singler (Detroit Pistons), Thomas Robinson (Sacramento Kings), Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors), Austin Rivers (New Orleans Hornets) 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.