With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor.
1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)
The Blazers are playing their best basketball of the season, but the same cannot be said about their rookie point guard. Despite hitting a cold blooded three at the buzzer, the last few weeks have been pretty “ehhhh” for Lillard. Earlier in the year, the three point shot had been Lillard’s weapon of choice, shooting over 6 per game. But as the old adage goes, “live by the three, die by the three.” Early on in the season, boy was Lillard living. His three point shot was opening up the lane for penetration, leading to easy buckets for himself and for teammates. However, in the last couple weeks the Portland point guard has been on life support from behind the arc, shooting just 8 for 28 in his last four games.
As his three point percentage has dropped so have his assists. In those same four games where Lillard shot just 26% from downtown, he is averaging 2.5 assists lower than his season average. True point guards are counted on to hit open threes and set up teammates but it’s becoming more and more clear that Lillard is not a true point guard. Instead, he’s an attacking guard who is never afraid to try and make a play. Although his numbers may be hurting recently, his team is succeeding. Teams are being forced to pay extra attention to Lillard, leaving more room the rest of the Blazers to play ball. With the way Portland is playing, if Lillard can find his stroke from deep once again, the Western Conference will have to start taking notice of the team up in Rip City.
2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)
Anthony Davis is taking much longer than most thought to become a star in this league. It’s far, far too early to say he’s not living up to his predraft hype, but he’s not living up to his predraft hype. With Lillard coasting, the door has been wide open for Davis to ascend to the top of the rookie class. Davis is slowly creaking open that door, but hardly stomping his foot through it like most expected.
Davis is playing like a rookie. One night he looks like he has the potential to be the best big in NBA, and the next he looks like Tristain Thompson. The Brow will always be a force on the defensive end with his length and athleticism but he needs to start scoring consistently if he wants to be a star, let alone the rookie of the year.
Only four times this year has Anthony Davis scored over 20 points. Here is just a short list of other bigs within 1 point of Davis’ scoring avearge.
JJ Hickson, Glen Davis, Chris Kaman, Thaddeus Young, Serge Ibaka, Paul Milsap, and Metta World Peace1
I know Davis isn’t billed as a “scorer” but if you’re the number one pick, and the face of the franchise, you better be able to put the peach in the basket.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Last Week: 3)
Speaking of struggling to score…MKG has failed to score in double figures in over a third of Charlotte’s games. His offense is not his strength, everyone knows that, but like Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist is a high lottery pick, and the face a franchise. Along with those two distinctions come the expectation you’re going to be able get your team points.
Unlike fellow rookies, Lillard, Waiters, and Beal, Kidd-Gilchrist does not have his finger stuck on the trigger. He is yet to take 15 shots in a game, while Lillard, Waiters, and Beal have combined to do so 39 times. We all know MKG is great teammate, leader, and utility man, but it might be time for the Bobcats’ first round pick to start to try and score.
When you’re team has lost 18 straight games2 being a team player might have to go out the window. It’s all about getting work in for the future, so let it fly MKG.
4. Alexey Shved (Last Week: 4)
Now that’s some fresh facial hair
I’ve made little effort to hide my love affair for Alexey Shved. He’s got the european flair, the ability to play the one or two, and the moxy to rock a crisp looking goatee. Although the Shved/Rubio backcourt hasn’t quite reached the level of success I had once predicted, it’s hard to find many more young backcourts in the league as exciting as the two Europeans3.
Shved is avearging just over 14 points and 6 assists over his last five games. Over that same stretch Damian Lillard, is averaging a similar 17 and 5 but with 1.5 more turnovers. Shved may not have the upside Lillard has, but White Russia is has cemented himself in the discussion for the best guards in the 2012 rookie class.
5. Andre Drummond (Last Week: 5)
Andre Drummond and the Pistons have won 5 of their last 6, which has taken some heat off Piston’s coach Lawrence Frank for limiting the minutes of Drummond. Slow and steady continues to be the approach as Detroit tries to develop the raw rookie from UCONN. Drummond is 6th in the NBA in rebounding percentage, ahead of rebounding machines Dwight Howard, Kenneth Faried, Kris Humphries, and Tyson Chandler.
More impressively, Drummond is tied for the league lead in offensive rebounding percentage with Anderson Varejao. Varejao is wildly renowned as a monster on the offensive glass, and sooner or later Drummond will get the same recognition. Fans around The D are even starting to compare Drummond to Big Ben Wallace. Although he may have far to go to gain Big Ben status4, but he may be able to get a Kid Rock song written about him.
After three rough shooting nights in a row, Dion was moved into a role as 6th man for the Cavs. Waiters thrived in that role at Syracuse and flourished once again coming off the bench against Sacramento. Waiters scored 20 points in his reserve role, and did so shooting 42% from the field. This was only the 3rd time in the last 13 games Waiters has been over 40% from the field.
I know Metta isn’t exactly a big, but like I said a few months ago, I’ll take any excuse I can get to type “Metta World Peace” I can get. [↩]
Yes they’re the Bobcats, but 18 straight. C’mon man! [↩]
Lin/Harden are the best followed by Irving/Waiters, Curry/Thompson, and Crawford/Wall/Beal in no particular order [↩]
4 straight ECF appearances, and a title to be exact [↩]