April 19, 2014

Hollinger: Kyrie Irving Currently Top Candidate for Rookie of the Year

The Ricky Rubio love is tough to avoid. Just turn on ESPN or flick through a Twitter feed littered with NBA analyst types and you’ll start speaking Spanish in no time. 

Thankfully, ESPN’s John Hollinger manages to use statistics and facts rather than glitz and glam. In Thursday afternoon’s PER Diem, Hollinger delves into the current NBA rookies to provide the first of what will likely be many updates on the race for Rookie of the Year honors. 

At numero uno…

1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland

Irving wasn’t exactly a risk-free No. 1 pick given that he’d played only 11 games as a collegian, but among rookies with more than 100 minutes he’s first in PER and has the Cavs (4-5) unexpectedly pondering playoff contention in a soft Eastern Conference.

It probably helps that Irving’s coach, Byron Scott, coached another pretty good rookie point guard, Chris Paul, when Scott ran the Hornets. As with that team, Irving has a lot of freedom to operate and it shows in his usage rate, which is the highest of any rookie.

But he is making good decisions for the most part — aside from his bizarre befuddlement by the defensive might of the Toronto Raptors — and is coming off back-to-back 20-point games in which he made more than half his shots. Irving has played more as a scorer than as a distributor thus far and, like virtually every rookie point guard, has suffered at times from the plague of turnovers. Nonetheless, he’s been the best player in this class so far, and the amazing part is that he doesn’t turn 20 ’til March. With no Griffin around to make a mockery of the rookie race from Day 1, Irving is the favorite to be the best of several pretty good players.

And to think, this was published before his career night.

[Related: Kyrie Irving is the Next...]

  • Anonymous

    the media cheers for stories though.  so, while I could see Irving being the most deserving, if he isn’t the obvious choice over Rubio, then Rubio will win it.

    then, we’ll get to hear stories about how the 2009 draft ended up with 3 ROY players (due to Griffin’s injury and Rubio’s foreign deployment).

  • JM

    Maybe it’s just me but this Rubio hype is a little ridiculous. His team is below .500 and he’s scoring 10 points a game with around 5 assists. Not exactly earth shattering stats.

  • Jimbo

    Rubio is making 7.9 APG.This goes beyond what Steve Nash made in his first 7 years in the NBA…I think that now the number 1 is Irving but Rubio is just behind his back…

  • Bdog

    i think it’s a little ridiculous all the love for ricky rubio. He is playing with a good team (Kevin Love, etc) and quite obviously a better team is going to make more of their shots. Kyrie would probably have the same or more assists if his teammates could cash in. Plus, all of Rubio’s assists come from lobs to Derrick Williams and others…that’s not that hard to do. I could average 7 assists by throwing the ball to the backboard….the hard thing is making it go in the hoop which obviously he’s not so great at. Kyrie Irving on the other hand, is a great scorer, passer, defender, and surprisingly rebounder and blocker. He plays all aspects of his game like it’s the most important game of his life and he has his team (who are not very good) with an almost winning record. If he’s not Rookie of the Year then something is wrong with basketball.

  • JM

    I agree with that. Don’t get me wrong, Rubio has looked good but so far Irving is better. But of course no one outside of Cleveland and Hollinger notice.