Rookie Watch: January 25th
It’s time for another edition of HOOPSWORLD’s rookie rankings. The top two on the list have not changed and there is little indication a change will happen there at all this season, but the rest of the list featured quite a bit of movement.
This week there are a couple new additions to the top ten (last week’s rankings). In general the class as a whole seems to have slowed down just a tad.
On to the list! (Stats are through games from January 22nd.)
1 – Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves: 10.7 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 39% FG, 37% 3FG
Rubio continues to lead the rookie class in efficiency and assists, but the shooting percentages are taking a big hit after going 12-51 in his last five games. That unexpectedly efficient start to the season with his shooting is now a distant memory. On the flip side, the Wolves won three of those games and his other numbers continue to improve. His steals per game is second in the rookie class now, only 0.1 per game behind Iman Shumpert, and he has nine games of three or more.
2 – Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers: 17.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 50% FG, 43% 3FG
How impressive is Irving’s field-goal shooting number of 50%? He leads the entire rookie class in field-goal attempts per game with 13.3, almost a full shot a game more than MarShon Brooks, and among qualified players that’s the best percentage. He hit 20-34 in three games the past week, but the Cavaliers lost all three of those games. His 15 turnovers against only 10 assists in the same span didn’t help.
3 – MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets: 15.4 points, 1.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 47% FG, 37% 3FG
Second in the rookie class in scoring, Brooks continues to improve his game each week. The shooting numbers are coming down a bit, but his assists and rebounds have improved along with his scoring. He now has five 20-point games, two of which helped the Nets win two out of three in the past week.
4 – Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons: 12.6 points, 3.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 43% FG, 38% 3FG
It sounds almost like a broken record, but Knight’s percentages took a dip this week, too. Could the rookie wall be hitting the class of 2011 harder and faster with the shortened season? Very likely. Lowered shooting percentages are a product of bad shot selection and tired legs, the former of which can also be a direct result of fatigue. The Pistons played five games this past week – with just one win – and Knight shot 25-64, turning the ball over 17 times against 19 assists.
5 – Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks: 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.6 steals, 38% FG, 31% 3FG
Shumpert’s shooting actually improved this past week, and his numbers went up across the board (despite an 0-5 game against Milwaukee). The Knicks are getting a lot of criticism for their failures this year with much of it being placed on the backcourt. That’s not exactly fair to Shumpert, who is starting at point guard out of necessity. Once Baron Davis takes over the starting spot Shump will be allowed to become the first guard off the bench, which should take a lot of the weight off his shoulders.
6 – Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers: 8.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 48% FG
Only three rookies average more rebounds per game than Thompson’s 5.1 (he’s tied with Utah’s Enes Kanter) and all of them play more minutes per game. Plus, they aren’t too far off; the leader Chandler Parsons of Houston only grabs 5.5 a night almost five more minutes per game. Projected out over 48 minutes, only Kanter has a higher average. When the Cavaliers do get around to trading Antawn Jamison, if that is indeed this season, or even if they don’t and Thompson doesn’t get a chance to start until next fall, the power forward position will be in good hands.
7 – Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats: 11.4 points, 3.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 38% FG, 33%3FG
Walker has started the last five games for the foundering Bobcats and will be the starting point guard for the immediate future with D.J. Augustin out with an injury. He’s averaging 14.4 points a game in those five starts, but just one of those games ended with a Bobcats’ win. Then again, they’ve only won three games out of 17 this season, so it’s not Walker’s fault. Like most rookies, he needs to cut down on the turnovers.
8 – Nikola Vucevic, Philadelphia 76ers: 5.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 53% FG, 50% 3FG
Some credit for the 76ers hot start went to center Spencer Hawes, playing on a one-year deal after signing his Qualifying Offer. But after going down with an injury the Sixers have turned to Vucevic as their starting center and in starting the past three games he has delivered, averaging 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. Coupled with the shooting percentage and the fact Philly has him under contract for up to three more seasons, it may be difficult for Hawes to get his job back even with his strong start. Then again, the Sixers did only win one of those three games.
9 – Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves: 8.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 41% FG, 27% 3FG
With Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson out with injury, Williams earned his first start of the season Monday night against the Rockets. He only hit 3-9 shots in the loss, but has shown an ability to get to the free throw line the Wolves desperately need. He may not always play 36 minutes like on Monday with the Wolves’ depth when healthy, but his role is gradually expanding. Beasley is a good player, but Williams may eventually make him unnecessary.
10 – Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns: 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 44% FG, 49% 3FG
There’s no delicate way to put this: Morris had a bad week. He started the first three games of his NBA career this past week, but shot only 3-14 from the field. He continues to lead the rookie class in three-point shooting percentage – by 3.9 percentage points over Golden State’s Klay Thompson – and did post a season-high 11 rebounds in his third start.
Honorable Mention: Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento Kings), Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets), Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Bobcats), Norris Cole (Miami HEAT), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs).