This year I’m going to start an occasional look at the top candidates for Rookie-of-the-year. While it’s kind of silly to start projecting the outcome of such awards in November, it might help me with the draft previews to keep a closer look at the rookies. Also everyone else is doing such lists so Hoopsanalyst may as well join the fray.
The 2013 class so far is playing out as expected, though some individuals have surprised me. Davis is showing great promise. Behind him there are a mix of surprises and disappointments, but no other player who looks like a surefire star just yet. They remain an intriguing group that should be fun to watch develop. To be sure it’s very early. One thing I’m fairly certain of is there’s a rookie languishing on a bench somewhere who will step in and become a big contributor fairly soon.
- Anthony Davis. New Orleans: Anthony Davis is the rookie with the best long term future and remains the top bet for ROTY. He missed some time with a concussion, but the early numbers suggest Davis is everything we thought he was. He’s 5th in the league in blocks, a place he should hold onto or improve. He’s one of the top per minute scorer among rookies. He’s the top rebounding rookie. The concussion may have him behind Lillard in the “if the ROTY were awarded today based on stats so far” lists, but Davis remains by far the best long term prospect and the top bet for the award.
- Damian Lillard, Portland: Lillard leads all rookies in PPG and minutes per game. Those are the most important stats for a ROTY candidate. Because there isn’t another legit PG on the Blazers roster, it seems likely he’ll continue to get 38 minutes per game and continue to pour in points. This makes him a legit threat to Davis for ROTY. I believed it was a mistake to hand an NBA PG job to guy player who just a year ago had been a high-scoring small college combo guard whose passing skills were moderate at best. Early returns suggest I’ll be eating crow, or crowfu as I’m a vegan, on this opinion. His passing still has a ways to go, but Lillard is clearly an NBA scorer who has helped make the Blazers a borderline playoff contender. That Lillard has settled in so quickly and effectively is a testament to his smarts and ability.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte: He’s one of the best players on a team that’s looking like one of the league’s best stories for 2013 and that will mean something when the awards are handed out. Charlotte has a winning record after 7 games, following a year they set the record for lowest winning percentage. It’s early for both the team and the player. The Bobcat’s roster still has a talent deficit problem. Kidd-Gilchrist seems unlikely to rack up the scoring totals necessary to win the award. But should the Bobcats keep this up and sneak into the playoffs, some voters may be willing to appreciate the all-around contributions Kidd-Gilchrist brought to such an effort
- Dion Waiters, Cleveland: His start has featured flashes of greatness, but also some games where he shot 3-16 or 5-15. His game against the Clippers was one of the best performances by a rookie so far this year. He’s a scorer on a team that needs points, so it’s no stretch at all to see him as a 20+ PPG guy based on his college stats and early returns. But if the games with inefficient shooting pile up, he could find himself on the bench more often. Right now he could go either way.
- Harrison Barnes, Golden State: He had been invisible until the last couple of games when he led the team scoring in a couple of badly needed Warrior wins. If such performances become commonplace, he’ll get into the discussion. I’m still leery of Barnes as a long term force in the league. He will score points on occasion, but the rest of his game remains weak. He’s still posting the weak defense and passing numbers that marked his time at North Carolina.
- Andre Drummond, Detroit: So far he’s been impressive. In only 15 minutes per game he’s hitting 70% of his shots and is rebounding at a much higher rate than he did at UConn last year. It looks like they’re taking things slowly with Drummond. While that will cost him a shot at the ROTY, it’s probably a good thing for his long term development. Long term his future looks much better than it did on draft day. This is a case where getting out of college and into the pros was clearly the best thing for the player.
- Bradley Beal, Washington: A very slow start. Beal has hit 31% of his 2-pointers and the Wizards are winless. He should get this right, or at least improve on it. He’ll find himself on the bench if he doesn’t. As the 3rd overall pick, he’ll get more of a chance to get it right than most.
- Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson, Orlando: The Magic are eventually going to look to the future and will want to get a feel for whether or not their 2013 rookies are going to be part of their future. Both have shown some promise in limited minutes and should get more time.
- Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto: He’s in a similar situation to Drummond. That’s a young center destined to spend the year getting low minutes with an eye on the future. He doesn’t have the eye-popping numbers that Drummond has posted, but he’s been OK.
- Jae Crowder, Dallas: Crowder has put in some nice minutes as a Maverick reserve. His time could be trimmed once Nowitzki returns. Whether the minutes continue or not, Crowder looks like he can be an effective rotation player.