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...]