Rookie Watch: January 18th
This week the Rookie Report moves to its normal day on Wednesday. Now every Wednesday you know you will be getting HOOPSWORLD’s official rookie report. The idea is give a ranking of how the league’s top rookies are playing, and in a season like this one there could be a lot of movement in any given week.
In the list below there really should be a huge gap between spots two and three. Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving are head and shoulders above the rest of the 2011-12 rookie class playing point guard, the position traditionally the most difficult to adapt to on the fly. It should also be noted there is almost no gap between Rubio and Irving at this point; next week they could flip-flop in the rankings, something we could see continuing until the end of the regular season. (Last Rookie Report)
On to the list! (Stats are through games from January 16th.)
1 – Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves: 10.8 points, 8.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 45% FG, 44% 3FG
The Timberwolves are now 2-1 since Coach Rick Adelman inserted Rubio into the starting lineup, paired with (not replacing) Luke Ridnour in the backcourt. While it’s worth noting Rubio leads all rookies in assists and efficiency, plus is second in steals, it’s also worth noting only six other players in the entire league put up more assists per game. Only seven post more steals (he’s tied for eighth with LeBron James). Only two players – Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry – average both more assists and more steals than Rubio. Oh, and then there is this courtesy of the Wolves: “Ricky Rubio has 108 assists in his first 13 games in the NBA. Since the shot clock era began in the mid-50′s, only five players had more…they were Phil Ford (’78 – 120), John Wall (2010 – 113), Oscar Robertson (’60 – 112), Damon Stoudamire (’95 – 111) & Mark Jackson (’87 – 110).” So there you go.
2 – Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers: 17.7 points, 5.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 48% FG, 42% 3FG
Irving is steadily raising his averages practically across the board, improving his shooting percentages in the past few days by multiple percentage points. In fact, Irving has hit 50% or more of his shots in five straight games and has posted only two games of under 42% – amazing numbers for a rookie point guard. Oh, and yes, the Cavs are 6-7 and currently tied for the seventh playoff spot in the East. This time last year they were 5-8, but were getting close to a stretch where they won just once in 37 games. With Irving running the show that’s not going to happen again.
3 – Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons: 11.9 points, 3.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 45% FG, 41% 3FG
Knight has played solid ball starting at the point while Rodney Stuckey was out with injury. However, Stuckey is now back and while he did come off the bench for a few games it’s unlikely that continues much longer. Will Knight keep the majority of his 30.5 minutes per game (second among all rookies behind Rubio) if that happens?
4 – MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets: 14.6 points, 1.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 47% FG, 40% 3FG
Each game Brooks becomes a larger and larger part of the New Jersey Nets’ offense. When starting center Brook Lopez went down with his broken foot the Nets needed someone else to step up and support star Deron Williams. That player has been Brooks, who is on a streak of eight straight games scoring in double figures and has dished three assists in three of the past four contests.
5 – Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: 8.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 51% FG
Thompson has just been steady. He has shot better than 50% from the floor in seven of 12 games, grabbed five or more boards in seven of 12 games, recorded one or more blocks in eight games, and scored eight points or better eight times. As the season rolls on it’s a safe bet Thompson’s 18.0 minutes per game is going to go up.
6 – Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns: 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, 50% FG, 52% 3FG
Morris’ ridiculous three-point shooting numbers have dropped some, thanks to “only” 4-10 in the past four games, but they are still very good and mostly unexpected. Five times he has grabbed eight or more rebounds off the bench for the uptempo Suns and he’s even recorded a four-steal game.
7 –Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs: 8.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 51% FG, 29% 3FG
Leonard has started the past three games for the Spurs with Manu Ginobili sidelined. Leonard has played 32 or more minutes in the past five games, scoring in double figures each time. After topping 50% shooting just once in his first five games, Leonard has failed to reach that mark just once in the past eight.
8 – Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves: 7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 40% FG, 29% 3FG
Right now there is another dropoff between the four and five spots. Williams has plenty of ability, but just as many expected there are too many forwards in Minnesota and just not enough minutes to go around. Even with Michael Beasley being out, Williams has been hurt slightly by the decision to keep Ridnour in the starting lineup when Rubio was added because Wesley Johnson has moved from the two to the more natural small forward spot. Shooting 3-18 in the past four games doesn’t help either.
9 – Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks: 11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 steals, 37% FG, 27% 3FG
Shumpert fills a stat line and does lead the rookie class in steals, which help him get ranked this high, but those shooting percentages are atrocious. There is one good one, though: he’s hitting 94% from the free throw line.
10 – Norris Cole, Miami HEAT: 9.8 points, 3.3 assists, 185 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 43% FG, 35% 3FG
Cole’s 13 points he recorded last Friday was the first time he recorded double digits in five games, but the flip side of that stat it was the first time since opening night he failed to record an assist.
Honorable Mention: Jimmer Fredette (Sacramento Kings), Chandler Parsons (Houston Rocekts), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats), Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Bobcats), Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Jon Leuer (Milwaukee Bucks).