April 21, 2014

NBA Rookie Rankings: Lillard vs. Kidd and Payton, Waiters can’t finish

dion waitersWith 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 mid season rookie of the year had another strong week, averaging just over 21 points and 7 assists in 3 games, including a win against Indiana that snapped the Blazers’ 6 game losing streak. Lillard has received praise from the media, coaches, and even LeBron, but now we can add future hall of famer, Gary Payton to that list.

In an interview with Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk, Payton gave his endorsement of Lillard for Rookie of the Year. “I like Damian Lillard because he’s from Oakland, California, and he’s a phenomenal basketball player,” Payton said. “He should be the rookie of the year, he’s playing very well right now for Portland and I love his game.”

While Lillard has a long way to go to match the career of “The Glove” and another great Oakland point guard, Jason Kidd, Lillard is well on his way.

  PER PPG APG MPG STL
Damian Lillard 16.6 18.3 6.6 38.5 1
Gary Payton 13.2 7.2 6.4 27.4 2
Jason Kidd 15.1 11.7 7.7 33.8 1.9

 

When taking a look at the rookie seasons from the three Oakland natives, Lillard clearly stands out. While Payton and Kidd both got off on the right foot in their NBA careers, playing large minutes, dishing out assists, and swiping away steals, Lillard separates himself from them with his scoring. Kidd and Payton are both locks for the hall of fame, but neither came into the NBA scoring at the rate Lillard has.

2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)

The Brow put together his first back to back double-doubles of his career, and also became the face of the New Orleans Pelicans this past week. The Hornets will have a new name and colors when they tip off next year, but the focus will still be on the patch of hair between the eyes of last year’s number one pick. Davis has crept back into Lillard’s rear view, but it’s a rear view of someone driving across flat plains of Texas. Lillard is still miles ahead of Davis at this point, but at least Davis is showing signs of what made him the unaminous first selection last June.

Against Golden State, Davis posted 20 points and 12 rebounds to go along with his 4 blocks. That right there is the type of game you hope for, and expect out of the number one overall pick. Davis was on his way to another strong showing in the Hornets next game against the Kings, but once again Davis had to miss time to nurse an ailing ankle. Davis’ lack of minutes due to injury and “lack of conditioning” have really held him back in Rookie of the Year talks. The Brow has given future Pelicans fans reason to be hopeful with bright performances here and there, but that can be said about Beal, Waiters, MKG, and Drummond. All have had their moments, but none having you thinking you’re for sure watching a future superstar.

3. Andre Drummond (Last Week: 4)

Andre Drummond is a force. He’s the guy you want first off the bus to let your opponents know what’s coming for them. He’s the guy who makes you think twice about taking it strong to the hoop. And he’s the guy who can’t seem to buy any more minutes from coach Lawrence Frank. It appears fans in The D will have to wait until next year to see the big man strut his stuff in extended minutes, but in the mean time, Andre continues to make an impact when his number is called.1

With Drummond’s size and athleticism, defenses must pick him up on his rolls to the basket. If they dont,  they’ll end up like Boston and get featured in a dunk fest video on youtube. Without a body being thrown at him, Drummond is free to crash the rim, wait for the lob/rebound, and stuff home an easy two.

4. Bradley Beal (Last Week: 3)

I’m a big proponent of the “Aint no curses”  Friday Night Lights quote that Billy Bob Thornton delivers to his nervous quarterback before a tiebreaking coin toss. That being said, after months of being down on Bradley Beal, and ripping him for not being the elite shooter he was billed as, I finally jumped on the bandwagon. Go figure as soon as I give in and proclaim, “Bradley Beal can’t miss”, he has a career worst shooting night.

I tuned into the Blazers vs. Wizards game2 hoping to see an offensive show between Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal. Instead, I was treated to an average performance from Lillard, and Beal’s worst shooting game of his career. Beal went 1-7  from the floor against Portland, and failed to earn a trip to the free throw line. This is what we call a buzz kill.

Despite making me regret staying up late to watch a game between an abover average basketball team and bad basketball, Beal still has had a good month of January. Beal is shooting 46% from the field, 55% from downtown, and scoring 16.67 points per game through the first month of 2013.

5. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 5)

In typical Dion Waiters fashion, the Cavs’ rookie guard played an impressive game last weekend against Utah, then followed it up with an uninspiring game against Boston. Against Utah, Dion attacked the rim, earning 12 free throws and converting on 10. Against Boston, Waiters attemped zero foul shots. It’s this constant up and down that is so frustrating to watch, but at least it’s a roller coaster ride and not just a free fall.

While taking in the Boston game this week at the Q with my Dad, we sat there as Dion knifed his way through the Celt’s defense, flipped the ball up at the hoop, and watched the ball rattle around the rim and out. We concluded that Dion is great at getting to the basket, but he simply can’t finish. And unfortunately the point of basketball is the put the ball through that orange thing that’s hanging ten feet in the air, not just hit it. The optimist in me is thrilled with Waiters’ ability to create his own shot, but the pessimist in me has Dajuan Wagner flashbacks every time I watch a beautiful move wasted by poor finish.

Fortunately for Dion, one of the league’s  best finishers is on the court with him each and every day. Maybe Uncle Drew can give the youngblood some lessons.

Honorable Mention: Jared Sullinger

Sully recorded his second career double-double in a homecoming of sorts at The Q on Tuesday. Doc Rivers put his trust in the rookie from Ohio State, allowing him to play crunch time minutes until Sullinger fouled out late in the game. Not even Sullinger’s Ohio State connection could save him from Cleveland’s crowd showering him with “Na Na, Hey Hey” as he was disqualified.

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Footnotes:

  1. I love how Drummond wears number one. Who says the number one has to be constrained to the little, fast guy? Drummond wearing number one is like defensive linemen in college wearing numbers in the single digits. It’s awesome. []
  2. After thinking about the  nicknames Trail Blazers and Wizards, Pelicans doesn’t sound so bad []

  • BenRM

    The ups and downs of Beal and Waiters seems to reinforce the commonly held notion that the SG position probably has the steepest learning curve for rookies.

  • mgbode

    No HM love for Zeller? He takes too many jumpers and fouls too often, but he’s been a rebounding and blocking fool lately with much improved defense (outside of that fouling).

  • bealhatr

    I told you Beal sucks. Now get him out of your rankings.

  • Jaker

    Consistency is usually the biggest issue for rookies, so the fact that that seems to be Dion’s biggest issue, I’m not too concerned. The kid is showing some absolute stellar upside, and I’m pumped for him going forward. Plus, he will be surrounded by other young playmakers and once they get the chemistry going, the consistency will be less of an issue. We knew this season wold have its ups and downs, and frankly, it’s going better than a thought it would (aside from the injuries).

    Bottom line. Waiters is showing a TON of talent. TT is getting much better, and Kyrie is a Star. Very nice foundation

  • mgbode

    what more does Zeller need to do to start getting mentioned :)

    last 7 games:
    8.9pts
    9.1rbs
    2.1blk
    89% FT (4FTs/game)
    1:1 assist:turnover

    (just have to ignore the ugly 34% FG)

  • Jaker

    I’m not dissing Zeller, I’m just trying to defend the guys that get scrutinized the most ( Thompson and Waiters). Trust me, I’m a Zeller fan, and I’ve been impressed

  • mgbode

    I know, sort of joking based on him not getting into the honorable mention category above and my previous comment. love what Zeller has been showing lately as well.

  • Steve

    So we’re comparing a chucker to a couple guys who were known for getting their teammates involved and playing defense? Huh? And of course, Kidd came into the NBA a year younger than Lilliard.

    I see Damon Stoudemire, good player, but zero time all star, when I watch Lilliard.