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NBA Rookie Watch: November 27th
Posted By Stephen Brotherston On November 27, 2012 @ 5:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The New Orleans Hornets’ Anthony Davis was the preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year, but one can’t win R.O.Y. watching from the sidelines and Davis has only played in six games this season.
A concussion caused Davis to sit out a week, and then ankle problems began appearing a week after he returned. Davis, who tweaked his ankle several times, has been sidelined since November 17. Concern about a stress reaction in his left ankle forced Davis to miss New Orleans’ last four games and he doesn’t expect to be back for another week or two. The hope is that this isn’t a reoccurring problem and that Davis can get back soon and put this issue behind him.
Davis’ injury only solidifies Damian Lillard’s lead in the race for R.O.Y., but some not unexpected challengers are starting to make noise and this list might grow, especially if certain rookies start to get a little more playing time. When is Andre Drummond finally going to get a start beside Greg Monroe in Detroit?
1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: 19.6 points, 6.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals
Damian Lillard had a huge game at home in the win over Minnesota this past week, scoring 28 points while dishing out eight assists, but in all, nothing has really changed for this very successful young rookie. Averaging over 19 points and six assists on 3.3 turnovers each week has become the norm.
With Davis out of the picture, Lillard holds a comfortable early lead over the rest of this year’s rookie crop. He has been a very effective starting point guard who is helping his team stay unexpectedly competitive in the Western Conference playoff race.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals
Statistics wise, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had another typical week as he helped the surprising Bobcats win a couple of games and improve their record to 7-6. However, there has been a disconcerting trend appearing over the past couple of weeks. Four times in the past eight games, Kidd-Gilchrist has accumulated five or more fouls in a game and it is becoming a concern.
While foul trouble isn’t unusual for a rookie, it does impact the ability of a coach to keep him on the court. It’s not a huge problem yet, but if Kidd-Gilchrist develops a reputation with the referees as a player who fouls a lot, it is something that will affect his productivity and, more importantly, it will hurt his team. It probably doesn’t help matters that Kidd-Gilchrist is now famous for helping the Bobcats beat Toronto by getting a non-call on Andrea Bargnani’s last second shot that the NBA has officially stated should have been a foul.
3. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: 9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks
Maybe Raptors head coach Dwane Casey heard the fans’ pleas to give Jonas Valanciunas more playing time, but more likely it was just the realization that this rookie really was his best center already.
Valanciunas recorded two double-doubles last week and a career high in points scored (22) as he averaged 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over the four games. After recording 11 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Casey finally played his 2011 draft pick in meaningful fourth quarter minutes and Valanciunas has averaged 35 minutes per game since.
Team results were disappointing last week as the Raptors lost two road games by one point and then lost in overtime to the Spurs, but Valanciunas has been a bright spot through a frustrating season. The Lithuanian center made a statement in the game against the Spurs on Sunday when he blocked future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan in the paint with 31.9 seconds left and then ran the floor to get fouled by Manu Ginobili under the basket. Valanciunas sank the two free throws that sent the game into overtime.
4. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: 10.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals
Harrison Barnes broke out against Atlanta 13 days ago after head coach Mark Jackson increased his minutes from 20 to 30 per night to 30 to 40 per night in a move that has been made easier by the continuing injury to Richard Jefferson. During this period, Barnes has averaged 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds and has largely avoided the foul trouble that plagued him early on.
This week, Barnes briefly reverted to his early season form in Denver when he picked up five fouls that limited him to just 15 minutes of playing time and one of his worst statistical games so far, but he immediately bounced back the next night at home against Minnesota. Barnes got his team going with a one-handed dunk over center Nikola Pekovic en route to a 39-minute, 10-point, 11-rebound game for his third double-double of the season.
5. Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons: 9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.6 blocks
Kyle Singler continues to start for Detroit and the once winless Pistons are now 4-3 with the rookie as their starting shooting guard.
Singler collected his first double-double in Monday’s win over Portland as he put up an impressive line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. For the week, his scoring dropped to just 10 points per game compared to 14.7 the week before, but he still managed to sink 56 percent of his shots and the Pistons went 2-2 on the week.
It may be unusual for a rookie second-round pick to bump a five-year veteran from the starting lineup, but somehow this Pistons team just seems to perform better with Rodney Stuckey coming off the bench. In the Pistons’ home victory over Toronto on Friday, it was Singler who manhandled the high scoring DeMar DeRozan and held him to just five points in Detroit’s one-point victory.
It continues to become more likely Singler will remain entrenched at starting shooting guard as at least some of the team’s recent improvement has to be attributed to him.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: 6.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals 1.1 blocks
Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves: 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.1 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), Thomas Robinson (Sacramento Kings), Jared Sullinger (Boston Celtics) and Meyers Leonard (Portland Trail Blazers)
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 comment section below! Follow Stephen Brotherston on Twitter @stevesraptors and hit up his weekly chat Monday at 3 p.m. ET.
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