NBA Rookies Ahead of the Curve

Author: admin


Advertisement

Every NBA season sees a fresh new crop of rookies entering the league, with their progress monitored closely by both fans and observers. It's the rare first-year player who comes in and makes an immediate impact, and those are almost always big men. Chamberlain, Jabbar, Walton, Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson, O'Neal and Duncan are a few that come to mind. Super-intelligent players also sometimes make the proverbial splash, and the list includes such standouts such as Cowens, Bird, Johnson and Barry. And then there is the occasional athletic freak that makes their presence felt immediately, demonstrated by the achievements of superstars such as Erving, Wilkins, James and Griffin. It's the rare point guard/floor leader who comes in and turns heads, primarily because they've got much more than the average player to learn and implement out on the floor. The 2012-13 NBA Rookie class is proving to be an exception however, led by Portland PG Damian Lillard. The 6'3 195-lb. Lillard has already proven that his selection as the sixth overall pick in the 2012 Draft was spot on. After finishing a standout college career at Weber State, Lillard dazzled scouts at pre-draft workouts, demonstrating superior PG skills along with maturity and rare leadership abilities. Lillard assumed the role of Blazers floor general from Day One, helping to solidify the teams' rebuilding process under head coach Terry Stotts. Despite competing in the Northwest Division with Oklahoma City, Portland has more than held its own through the first half of the season, currently sitting in fourth place with a 21-21 W-L record and clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot. Lillard, the only Blazer to have started every game, ranks second in scoring (18.3), leads in assists (6.6) and plays a key role in Portland's pressure defense. Evidence of Lillard's impact is perhaps best demonstrated by how drastically Portland's performance suffers when he's not on the floor. Unless some other rookie suddenly catches fire, it's difficult to imagine the Rookie of the Year award going to anyone else. The No. 1 selection, Anthony Davis with New Orleans, has been plagued by several injuries, but when he's been able to play, he's definitely shown that, barring further physical issues, he's going to be a force in coming seasons. The 6'10 220-lb. Kentucky product has appeared in only 29 games for the Hornets, but his production (13.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg and nearly 2 blocks per game) has been at least as expected. The "Brow" has the potential to become one of the most feared shot-blockers in the league, and his offense, though still a work-in-progress, is only going to improve. Washington's Bradley Beal, the third overall selection, hasn't had the luxury of sitting and learning during his inaugural season due to the woeful performance by the league-worst Wizards. Instead, Beal has started nearly every game at SG, and when PG John Wall was sidelined with an injury, the Florida product was forced to handle more backcourt responsibilities than expected. Probably the best shooter in the class of 2012, Beal has put up impressive (13.6 ppg, 2.6 apg) numbers, but too often has had to carry the offensive load, which is reflected in his so-so shooting percentage (39.0 fg%, 36.0 3-pt%). Probably the most surprising performance by a 2012 rookie has come from Minnesota's Alexey Shved, undrafted free-agent from Russia. The heady 6'6 188-lb. combo guard has displayed a well-rounded basketball game, best exhibited with his recent stat-stuffer performance (15 pts. 7 assists and 2 steals) in a win over Atlanta. There's nothing Shved doesn't do well, and it appears the Timberwolves have a keeper on their hands. Davis' teammate on Kentucky's 2012 National Championship team and No. 2 overall draft selection, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is in a similar situation as Bradley Beal. The Charlotte Bobcats, the league's youngest team, is still struggling to find cohesiveness among their roster. They've already won more games than last season, but they have a long ways to go before being considered a viable threat to anyone. Kidd-Gilchrist's numbers (10.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg) aren't indicative of his potential, but it's been the other, less-glamorous parts of his repertoire that have opened eyes. Few SFs apply smothering defense the way MKG does, and he's among the league leaders in floor burns and extra effort. He'll never be a scoring machine, but the Bobcats can live with that as long as he continues to give 110% effort. The ninth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Andre Drummond of Connecticut, is perhaps the most impressive physical specimen among the year's rookie crop. Drafted by the Detroit Pistons, the hulking (6-11 279-lb.) Drummond has made his presence felt in the rough-and-tumble NBA paint, showing a knack for grabbing loose balls and making opponents think twice about attacking the basket. His numbers (7.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg) are better than expected, but it's been his willingness to mix it up underneath that gives his potential a relatively high ceiling. Drummond won't turn 20 until August, making him one of the youngest current NBA'ers. By Don Phan: A part-time sports writer and lifelong Chicago sports fan.


Advertisement

A Closer Look At The 10 Most Iconic Moments in NBA History
Atlanta Hawks vs. Golden State Warriors - What To Expect
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers - Season Heats Up
Phoenix vs. Dallas Prediction and Statistics - Key Details
Here's The Entire NBA Schedule 19 Dec to 25 Dec
Toronto vs. Brooklyn Match Predictions and Other Details
Indiana Pacers vs. Dallas Mavericks - All You Need To Know