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 nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.
1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)
Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard failed to stand out on the national stage in Houston last weekend. Lillard, the lock for this year’s ROY honors, was completely overshadowed by his Team Shaq teammate, Mr. Kyrie Irving. While Irving was busy leading his team in scoring, tearing up ankles, and getting buckets, Lillard was chucking up 3′s and drawing mostly iron instead of net. In the Rising Stars Challenge DL struggled from deep, shooting 2-10 from behind the arc. He was able to manage 18 points but on 7-17 shooting. The only player who had a worse night from the field was Detroit’s Brandon Knight, who probably wants to forget his trip to Houston all together.
Lillard missed out on his first real opportunity to dazzle on the national stage, but there will many more chances for the rookie that Nate McMillain is comparing to Brandon Roy. Like Roy did in his rookie year, Lillard has overachieved dramatically, leading the Blazers to the brink of a playoff birth. In Lillard’s return to action after the all-star break he chipped in a typical Lillard performance with 24 points and 7 rebounds in a loss to Phoenix. From the get go the Blazers fell behind the 18 win Suns, and despite good nights from Lillard, Aldridge, and a monster night from JJ Hickson (25 pts 16 rebounds) Portland could never catch up. DL’s seven turnovers didn’t help the cause either, something he’ll have to clean up if Portland is in fact going to make the playoffs. Currently the Blazers sit four games behind Houston for the 8 seed.
2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)
If Damian Lillard was quiet during the Rising Stars Challenge, Anthony Davis was a damn mute. All-Star games are hardly a fair evaluation of a players’ abilities, but all-star games are a show — and in a show of the game’s brightest and best, one would expect last year’s number one pick to be somewhat of a main attraction instead of an afterthought. In a game where Kenneth Faried and Tristan Thompson scored 40 and 20 respectively you would expect the number one pick to tally more than just 11 points.
Leading up to Wednesday’s Cavs/Hornets game, the showdown of consecutive top picks, instead of hyping up the showdown of top picks the Mothership’s NBA Countdown crew only had one top pick on their mind, his name rhymed with Shmyrie Shirving. Going into commercial, Jalen Rose commented that they had barely touched on Davis in the pre-game, which promped Bill Simmons to respond, “You need to do something first, Anthony”. The Sports Guy couldn’t be more right. I love advanced stats and PER as much as the next guy — and I know Davis has a good PER and great offensive and defensive efficency, but when watching the Hornets play it’s very easy to forget The Brow is even on the floor. I had always attributed this to the small sample size of minutes I was watching, but after taking in my first full 48 minutes of the Hornets on Tuesday, I’m starting to wonder if Davis is in fact the franchise player he was drafted to be. Davis is a fine defender, that is undoubtedly true, but a franchise player cannot disapper on the offensive end for games at a time. After clanking jumpers off the rim, and jump hooks off the side of the backboard, this year’s number one pick leaked out on a fast break to finally score his first basket with two minutes left on the clock and the game about over. This prompted my buddy to murmur ,”What a little b****”. Those words may have been harsh, but at this point Davis is looking more female dog than alpha dog.
3. Bradley Beal (Last Week: 4)
Beal took more of a supporting role in last weekend’s rising stars challenge, only taking 10 shots to score his modest total of 12 points. While he failed to light it up from deep in the Rising Stars challenge like I had expected, Beal put up another big night for the Wizards in their first game after the break. The rookie sharpshooter returned to the starting lineup to score 25 points for the second time in three games.
Beal is becoming more and more dependable these days — so much so that the Wizards gave up on talented, but problematic shooting guard, Jordan Crawford, shipping him up to Boston before Thursday’s deadline. With a healthy Wall and a high performing Beal, the nation’s capitol has one of most promising young backcourts in the league.
4. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 3)
In the last week Dion has jammed between his legs, off the backboard, and scored 16 points off 60 percent shooting. If you’ve been hating on the Cavs’ rookie shooting guard, it might be time for a change of heart. Waiters has become a favorite among friends of mind due to the reason that he’s “just ridiculous”. You’d be hard pressed to watch Dion Waiters play for more than a minute or two without thinking “Why did he do that?” or “Wow that’s impressive.” One moment he’ll beautifully split a double team and the next he’ll throw up an ugly attempt at the hoop, flailing and convulsing as if he’s been shot. It can be extremely frustrating to watch, but after being frustrated for so many times it starts to turn comical. Then the next time he splits that double team and we all start to think here we go again… he’ll spin past a third guy, make the basket, draw a foul, and convert at the line.
And those rainbow step back jumpers he takes? Nothing is more frustrating when he jacks one up with plenty of time on the shot clock, but is anything more fun to watch when he drains it? Despite Dion’s improvement over the last months, many Cavs’ fans still have very little confidence when number 3 has the ball. But even if 20,562 fans don’t have confidence when Dion has the ball, Dion still has confidence. Irrational confidence is a blessing and a curse, but as long as Dion continues to put the ball in the hole on 60% shooting there shouldn’t be many complaints from Cavalierland.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Last Week: NR)
It’s easy to look at MKG night in and night out and not be impressed. While Waiters and Beal are scoring, Kidd-Gilchrist is playing hard defense, rebounding, and getting beat by a 50 year old MJ in one on one. But with many rookies hitting the wall these days, MKG’s performance Wednesday was enough to bring him back into the top five. 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks against Detroit is solid, but not going to set off any alarms. However, this dunk on Greg Monroe most definitely will.
Follow Ryan Jones on Twitter @Czarjonesey7