It’s about playoff time which means we’ve got the chance to watch 82 games of NBA basketball (or whatever the Charlotte Bobcats call it when they take the floor). And one of the most fun parts about the NBA season is taking a look at how the rookies have adapted to their new lifestyle. Some regress after quick starts, some hit the rookie wall and fall off the face of the earth in something called the D-League. And sometimes rookies progress throughout the season, showing signs that they are capable of playing in the world’s greatest basketball league for years to come.
Here are my completely biased, completely irrelevant thoughts on the top 5 rookies plus some nice surprises . *For fun let’s also see who has played like complete shit this year, too.
1. Anthony Davis
Okay, okay. I get it, I’m an asshole for putting Anthony Davis first overall because I’m a UK fan who praises the ground coach Calipari walks on. But that’s not the only reason I have the brow ranked No. 1 overall. Read ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss’ reason for choosing Davis as the Rookie of the Year over Damian Lillard. Davis doesn’t have the scoring numbers that Lillard has but his diverse impact defensively and his defense sucking alley-oop threat are
good great enough to earn him the Rookie of the Year. His top-20 PER number (21.40) is outstanding. Oh yeah and he’s 20-years-old which is terrifying.
Trillard Drillard Lillard
Damian Lillard’s been a lot of fun this year. I don’t want to knock Lillard by ranking him No. 2 here because he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite guys to watch in the NBA. And (RANDOM WHAT-IF PREDICTION TIME) if next year were his rookie year then he’d easily be the No. 1 guy. I’m interested to see, moving forward, how Lillard’s defense improves. Also, I’d like to see his eFG% and TS% numbers go up. And they will with added help — when he’s not stuck creating half of Portland’s offense.
3. Andre Drummond
DWIGHT HOWARD’S PER-36 NUMBERS IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON: 13.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 52 percent from the field
ANDRE DRUMMOND’S PER-36 NUMBERS IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON: 14.0 points, 13.6 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 60.7 percent from the field
… per Basketball-Reference.
Umm, remember when we all questioned Drummond’s motor? Well, umm, we were wrong. Really, really wrong. Drummond is fantastic to watch on both ends of the floor. His post game leaves a little to be desired but that’s all forgotten about when he’s snagging offensive rebounds at a 15.8 percent clip. It’s not far-fetched to think Drummond could end of being the best player in this draft.
4. Bradley Beal
Zach Lowe conducted a great Q&A session with Beal over at Grantland. And Jared Dubin wrote a nice piece on the John Wall/Bradley Beal combo at Hardwood Paroxysm. With Wall out for all of November and December, Beal was put in a situation that wasn’t comfortable for him. He was initiating the offense for the most part and struggled in pick-and-roll sets and shot miserably from spots on the floor he wasn’t used to shooting from. But since John Wall returned Beal’s numbers have flowered to that of a future All-Star. He’s shooting 45.5 percent from three-point range and 47.1 percent from the field, scoring 16.5 points a game since the All-Star break, per NBA.com.
5. Maurice Harkless
Oh, look at me. I’m the asshole over here picking players from his own team. Well, whatever — Harkless is fantastic. Like Beal, Harkless started his rookie campaign off slow then picked up the pace when more minutes and opportunities became available. He’s been the best on ball defender from this rookie class from the beginning but since the All-Star break and since JJ Redick was shipped to Milwaukee, Harkless has picked up offensively. He’s proven to be a two-way player who’s fantastic in transition and can score efficiently when slashing to the rim.
Honorable mentions: John Henson, Harrison Barnes, Dion Waiters, Jonas Valanciunas
Surprises! YES! SURPRISES!
Another UK player? I should just give up. I would have called John Henson a surprise but I really don’t think he is. Everyone knew he’d be a rebounding machine with the length to alter shots at a high rate. Terrence Jones was a bit of a question mark. Some wondered before the draft if his motor would ever be high enough to make up for not having elite size at the power forward spot. And Jones has responded by creating a recent niche with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are fast paced and get up a lot of shots which allows Jones to thrive in transition and let loose on the boards. Jones has even managed to snag minutes from fellow rookie power forward Thomas Robinson, whom the Rockets traded for at the deadline. I wasn’t sure Jones would have ever made it out of the D-League this year; now he’s going to be getting minutes in the playoffs.
It’s very, very recent but Fournier’s been a lot fun in the month of April. He’s shooting 50 percent from the floor during the course of the season and his recent spike in minutes and production has been extremely encouraging. He’s scored 19, 18, 17 and 24 in various games since March 29 and looks like the knock down shooter he was drafted to be. But his 16 percent assist rate is something I didn’t see coming. He looks like a solid rotation player and I can’t believe I’m saying that.
Other surprises: Chris Copeland, Pablo Prigioni, Nando De Colo, Andrew Nicholson
WHO’S PLAYED LIKE SHIT IN THEIR ROOKIE CAMPAIGN?!?
Okay, it’s kind of funny that Rivers has had such a remarkably bad season. It’s also kind of tough to watch. He’s shooting well under 40 percent from the floor and from three, and he’s under 55 percent from the free throw line — which means Reggie Evans is just slightly worse at the charity stripe. He’s getting to the rim but finishing just 48.9 percent of the time, per Hoopdata. Okay, it’s tough to watch. I’ve said for a while that he would have served better not going to Duke and I stick with that. As a player, he didn’t fit (I mean, what Dukie wears a sleeve)? And it certainly hurt his development. I hope Rivers improves but it’s tough to see how he does that.
I, uhh, don’t really want to touch this subject. But yeah, he’s been fascinatingly disappointing on almost every front this year.