The Southwest is one of the newer divisions but it’s comprised of some interesting teams, a couple of which have quite a few big time rooks….
–Dallas Mavericks: The history of the Dallas franchise has very little middle ground. The Mavs came into existence in 1980 and almost immediately accrued tons of good young players until the late 1980s when the Mavs proceeded to be the worst franchise in the NBA for most of the 1990s. Things have turned again recently and Dallas has been quite good for several years now. Through that whole time, tons of rookies have come and gone but only one Rookie of the Year, Jason Kidd (he was co-Rookie of the Year in 1994-95).
As for putting together a starting lineup of rookies, Kidd clearly takes the point guard slot with Devin Harris as the only viable back up. At shooting guard, the Mavs have several decent candidates: Rolando Blackman, Dale Ellis, Jim Jackson, and even Marquis Daniels. While Daniels’ per minute numbers were the best, you have to factor in playing time which makes Blackman the best of the lot. At small forward, 1981 was a great year. The Mavs took Mark Aguirre first overall and Jay Vincent with the first pick of the second round. While Aguirre ended up being the better player, Vincent was actually better as a rookie (21.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg)so he earns the slot. Josh Howard also gets an honorable mention for his solid rookie year while Jamal Mashburn also scored a bunch as a rookie (19 ppg) on poor shooting (.406 FG%).
For the big men, there are much fewer candidates. Sam Perkins and Sean Rooks are clear the choices at power forward and center respectively. Only Popeye Jones and Roy Tarpley are even possibly in the ballpark at these positions. Yes I know…Tarpley was obviously a better player than Rooks but Tarpley didn’t even break 20 mpg as a rookie while Rooks was a bona fide starter. What is more astounding than the few rookies, however, is the number of crappy power forward/center draft picks the Mavs missed on from Tarpley in 1986 until Dirk Nowitzki in 1998. Check this list of big men:
-1989, Randy White: Power forward from Louisiana Tech was likened to Karl Malone he ended up having an exceedingly mediocre five-year career with Dallas.
–1990, Doug Smith: Smith was considered the best player in the Big Eight and one of those “sure thing” power forwards, putting up 23.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, and .497 FG% as a senior. But it didn’t quite work out. Just like White the year before, Smith made no impact and was also out of the NBA in five years. Getting nothing from two top picks in consecutive years really helped kill the Mavs for most of the 1990s.
–1995, Cherokee Parks and Loren Meyer: With Kidd, Jackson, and Mashburn all young and improving, the Mavs figured that all they needed was to hit on a couple of big men to contend (to replace what White or Smith could’ve been). Instead, they took Parks at 12 and Meyer at 24. Parks lasted nine mediocre years and Meyer only three. In an ideal world, the Mavs could’ve nabbed Theo Ratliff and Greg Ostertag, which would’ve given them some serious defensive presence (but admittedly no offense skill at all).
–1996, Samaki Walker: Another hot shot college power forward who didn’t quite hack it as a pro. Samaki hung around for 10 seasons but never made the impact people thought he could.
–1997, Chris Anstey: After a draft day trade, the Mavs nabbed the Australian center for draftee Kelvin Cato. Anstey wasn’t terrible but took up the sport late and couldn’t adjust defensively to the NBA. It’s possible that he might’ve adjusted more had he remained in the NBA but Anstey bolted back to Australia in 2000 and has been playing there ever since.
–1998, Dirk!: Yes, the Mavs nabbed Dirk ending the terrible run of frontcourt draftees. In case you’re wondering, Dirk wasn’t that bad as a rook (8 ppg, 3.4 rpg in 20 mpg). That’s pretty good for a 20-year old–certainly better than anything any of those other forward/centers ever were able to do in their careers.
In the end, here is the Mavs final squad of rookies:
Dallas’ Forgotten Rookie: I’ve always been partial to Mike Iuzzolino as forgotten rookie. Iuzzolino was a shooting specialist who the Mavs took with a second-round pick in 1991. Iuzzolino started off his career at Penn State and sat the pine for two years before transferring for small St. Francis (PA), where he thrived. In two seasons, he scored 23 ppg and shot an astounding 52% from three and got the college its only NCAA appearance. For the Mavs, Iuzzolino scored 9 ppg and 40% from three (113-280 from three). Iuzzolino then left the NBA for Europe for several years.
It’s not clear why he couldn’t stick in the NBA. Perhaps his timing was off. The need for three-point specialists rose by the mid-1990s and Iuzzolino surely could’ve fit in. Indeed, in 1992 Steve Kerr was also barely hanging on in the NBA. A year later, he was a fixture for the Bulls. I’m not saying Iuzzolino was better or as good as Kerr but he certainly could’ve been a 10-year pro if things had broken slightly differently. Still, Iuzzolino had a nice European career and he’s now an assistant coach for George Mason’s women’s team. Not a bad career either way.
–Houston Rockets: Some teams just have all the luck. The Rockets have had the fortune of having the top pick four times and getting some serious players each time. Houston has only two Rookie of the Year (Ralph Sampson and Steve Francis) but they’ve got plenty of players to choose from. The backcourt is an interesting quandary. We’ve got tons of really good point guards (Francis, Calvin Murphy, John Lucas, Allen Leavell, and Sam Cassell) and we’ve got several thoroughly average two guards (Michael Dickerson, Cuttino Mobley, and Luther Head). The obvious solution is to slot one of the point guards over to two guard. In this case, we’ll go with Francis, whose the best rookie guard in team history and really more of a two guard anyway. That leaves a choice between Lucas and Murphy. Murphy was the better rookie but not the better passer. In theory, Lucas would work better with a scorer like Francis. Still, Murphy was just so effective that we’ll go with the double scorer backcourt. Nor are there any overwhelming candidates at small forward. There isn’t much separating Rodney McCray, Robert Horry, Kenny Thomas, and Eddie Griffin. McCray had the best superficial stats but we’ll got with Horry, who just fits so well into any team.
The frontcourt is really tough. Try and sort these names: Elvin Hayes, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Yao Ming. That’s four All-Stars. My sense is that Hakeem is the lock but let’s look at all the stats side-by-side to see what we have here:
Amazingly, each player brings something to the table the others don’t, which only makes the choosing more difficult. This confirms that Hakeem does come across as the best of the group. Now, we just have to sort out the other three. Ming’s probably the easiest to eliminate because though his per minute numbers are nice, he just didn’t score or play enough. Hayes versus Sampson is colored by the fact that there were a ton more rebounds available–the average NBA team had more than 1,000 more rebounds than the average 1983-84 team. We also have to consider Sampson’s superior defense and shooting percentage. Between all those factors, Sampson gets the power forward nod, leaving the Rockets team looking like this:
Houston’s Forgotten Rocket: He’s not really forgotten by older hoops fans but Mike Newlin was always fascinating character. Newlin came up with the Rockets in 1971-72 as a hustling shooting guard. After a decent rookie year (7.6 ppg in 18.2 mpg), Newlin spent the next seven years as a supplementary scorer, topping out at 18.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 5.6 apg in 1975-76. Newlin is so memorable because his floppy hair and beard, together with his spastic style, was something to see. Newlin was traded to the Nets in 1979 at age 31. Newlin actually peaked as a scorer in his 30s on this poor Nets team, where he had 20.9 ppg and 21.4 in his two seasons, including a 52-point game against the Larry Bird Celtics. Before the 1981-82 season, Newlin was traded to the Knicks for 22-year old Mike Woodson. Newlin immediately became a millstone and the Knicks ended up cutting him before the 1982-83 season and eating the $600,000 left on his contract, which abruptly ended Newlin’s career at age 33.
Scruffy Mike Newlin
–Memphis Grizzlies: There is not a ton of choice on the Grizzlies. They were bad for a long time but they still didn’t accrue too many stars and they only had a few actual Rookie of the Year candidates. In fact, their sole ROY is good old Pau Gasol. In nearly every other position, your likely to find one rookie, let alone two choices. At point guard, Mike Bibby is the clear candidate, Gasol and Shareef Abdur-Rahim take the forward slots with ease, and Bryant Reeves is the only center candidate at all. This leaves two guard, where we have Rudy Gay and Shane Battier (who are really more forward) and Felipe Lopez. We’ll go with Battier because Gay can’t really handle the shooting slot at all and Lopez just wasn’t that good. The final tally:
Memphis’ Forgotten Rookie: It’s only been a decade for Memphis so there really aren’t any forgotten fun stories. The most forgotten rookie has to be Ashraf Amaya, who started almost half the season at power forward for the original Grizz of 1995-96. Because the first Grizzlies team was so weak up front (among other places), the undrafted and undersized Amaya got a shot to play. In fact, Amaya was only 6’8 and 230 pounds but he was a respectable 6.3 ppg and 5.6 rpg in 20 mpg. Amaya had played for Southern Illinois before graduating in 1993. He spent the next two seasons in the CBA and Europe before the Grizz gave him that shot in 1995-96. He had a cameo with the Wizards in 1997-98 before returning to the CBA and Europe and playing until 2004.
–New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets are also a relatively young franchise but they are chock full of good rookies. The Hornets started out very poorly as a franchise but lucked out enough to get Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning in consecutive drafts. Now you might not remember but LJ was ostensibly Charles Barkley for about two years, including his Rookie of the Years season of 1991-92. Zo also runs away with the center slot (only Jamaal Magloire is even worth mentioning). At the point, Baron Davis was drafted high but he did not play much as a rookie and really wasn’t great when he did play. So, Chris Paul runs away with this position (he was the Hornets’ other Rookie of the Year).
This leaves shooting guard and small forward. The Hornets don’t actually have any good small forward rookies. In theory, you could put LJ at small forward but he’s way too good a rebounder AND the Hornets don’t actually have any good power forward alternatives (J.R. Reid? No thanks). The uninspiring small forward options include Scott Burrell and Darrin Hancock. That being the case, we’ll slot Rex Chapman at shooting guard, even though he’s way worse than Kendall Gill, and then throw Gill to small forward. Gill was a pretty good rookie and actually showed later in his career with the Nets that he could play small forward. This makes our line up look as such:
New Orleans’ Forgotten Rookie: He’s not really a forgotten player but people many forgot that Brad Miller started his career with the Charlotte Hornets during the lockout season of 1998-99 as an undrafted rookie. Miller was not great for the Hornets but he showed he could play as a rookie (6.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg in 12.3 mpg). After two seasons, Miller signed with Chicago and developed further but it wasn’t until he was traded to Indiana in mid-2001-02 that his raw numbers got noticed (15 ppg, 8 rpg). Still, the Hornets get the credit for the initial find, even if they didn’t really reap the rewards.
-San Antonio Spurs: Yet another team with positions locked up and no discussion needed. Power forward and center go to the two Spurs Rookies of the Year, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, a rookie duo that is so impressive that it even surpasses the Houston frontcourt. The rest of the team is a bit more mundane. At point guard, Tony Parker played the most as a rookie but he wasn’t particularly good. Johnny Dawkins and Beno Udrih were better in limited minutes. Dawkins gets the nod as he is the best combination of playing time and per-minute numbers.
The Spurs have several good rookie shooting guards. Both Manu Ginobili and Alvin Robertson were firecrackers players in 20 mpg as rookies. They both would end up have nice careers, albeit with very different personal reputations. Still, Willie Anderson is clearly the choice since he’s the only full-time starting rookie shooting guard and produced quite well per-minute. Small forward has a much more limited selection. Sean Elliott is the only real option at this slot and he wasn’t great as a rookie. As such, we’ll slide Anderson over to small forward (a la Kendall Gill) and give Robertson the two guard slot just barely over Manu, leaving us with:
San Antonio’s Forgotten Rookie: He was never very good but Dwayne Schintzius is worth remember. The Spurs took the 7’2 center late in the first-round of the 1990 draft. Schintzius played four somewhat controversial years at Florida. He was eventually kicked off the Florida after several suspensions, including a bizarre incident where the large center attacked to other students with a tennis racket. I suggest you read the link but the best quote about the incident came from one the complainants who said: “[y]ou never realize how big [Schintzius] is until he’s standing in front of you with a tennis racket.”
Schintzius was finally kicked off the team after he refused to get a haircut. The haircut was the mother of all mullets and only added to the legend of Schintizius, a big center who didn’t seem particularly nice, intelligent, or fashionable. Despite all this, Schintizius had 19.1 ppg and 9.5 rpg on 55% shooting as a senior. How good were these numbers in actuality? Here’s a comparison of Schintizius and other centers from the SEC conference in 1989-90:
|Todd Merritt||Miss. St.||28.6||8.0||0.421||6.7||1.3||2.0||0.2||0.5|
|Joe Harvell||Ole Miss.||31.4||13.2||0.473||5.3||1.1||1.7||0.3||0.7|
Schintizius is near the top of the list, though Shaq and Roberts look more intriguing. Schintizius also looked superior to Kessler (who ended being drafted in the mid-first-round) because Kessler could not block shots, which is a strong indicator that he lacked athleticism. Numbers aside, Schintizius stock did take a hit from the tennis racket/hair issues. Even though they already had a second-year pro in David Robinson, the Spurs couldn’t resist the value pick of taking a big man with some potential and drafted Schintizius 24th overall in 1990. The Spurs coach at the time was Larry Brown, who is not someone who would like a petulant player. Nevertheless, there were no reported dust ups between Brown and Schintizius. Rather, Schintizius barely played (3.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg in 9.5 mpg and 42 games) and was let go after that season.
Schintizius and the Mullet of Doom
Schintizius bounced around for years, never really playing much, never scoring more than 4 ppg or 4 rpg. In the end, Schintizius ended up having an eight-year career as third-string center and was relatively quiet in the discipline department. Zander Hollander’s 1994 Pro Basketball Handbook described Schintizius
as “[g]reat quote, bad game.” Indeed, in the 1993, Shaquille O’Neal dunked so hard on Schintizius that he pulled the whole backboard onto Schintizius’ head. Schintizius responded by jokingly telling the press that: “[l]ucky for him, he did it to me because I was going to do it to him.”
Inadvertently, Schintizius was also involved in Derrick Coleman’s infamous tirade about the importance of practice (or the lack thereof). Coleman was hounded by the press about his practice habits in 1994-95 and when they asked him for a response when the team’s point guard Kenny Anderson blew off practice, DC responded by asking: “[w]here were all you guys when Dwayne Schintzius missed practice? Everyone misses practice. Dwayne Schintzius misses practice. Jayson Williams misses practice. I miss practice. Even the coaches miss practice sometimes.” (The obvious implication of the statement was that Schintzius, who was the team’s twelfth man, was not exactly a key player on the team).
In the end, Schintzius had a decent career. He’s obviously did not live up to any hype but he hung around and is reported to have made $5.5 million in his NBA career (according to Basketball-Reference.com). Certainly he is a character not to be forgotten.