August 26, 2014

NBA Rookie Rankings: Anthony Davis not an alpha dog, Beal heating up

NBA: Preseason-Washington Wizards at San Antonio Spurs

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

  • ThatAlex

    If Anthony Davis has been so unimpressive, why is he still ranked #2?

  • mgbode

    “a franchise player cannot disapper on the offensive end for games at a time”

    and there is another reason to not draft Nerlens Noel. Remember, Anthony Davis looked better in college on offense than Noel did.

  • mgbode

    You know how when your boss takes you out golfing or bowling or whatever and they tell you to give it your all and try to win. Everyone knows they just want you to pretend to give it your all and make sure that you do NOT win. MKG is no dummy and knows where his next paycheck is coming from (and how long MJ holds grudges).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Because the rest haven’t done much more themselves.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Preach it brotha preach it!

  • BisonDeleSightings

    Nerlens Noel has a lot of Keon Clark in him.

  • BenRM

    I get sad that Beal is playing so well. Then I remember it isn’t the Cavs fault that they didn’t draft him. But then I am still sad.

    At least Dion is playing, IMO, the 3rd best of all the rookies. Davis, to his credit, isn’t playing poorly. I just had high expectations for him and essentially no expectations for Dion. So my judgment is skewed.

  • EyesAbove

    You could very well be right about that. Had he won, MJ would have challenged him to rematch after rematch until he finally won.

  • mgbode

    it’s a good thing thinking back at the last 2 drafts. even with perfect hindsight, how many guys would you have taken over who we actually took?

    2011: Irving (noone), Tristan Thompson (possibly noone, maybe Kawhi, Klay, Faried or Vucevic)

    2012: Waiters (maybe Drummond, Barnes — Lillard+Kyrie doesn’t make much sense)
    Zeller (maybe Sullinger or Nicholson)

    Outside of maybe Drummond (depending on what happens when he gets healthy + given more minutes), there are no gross miscalculations in there.

  • Steve

    Davis has missed a lot of time with a concussion injury. We can’t suggest that Noel will take a similar developmental path.

  • Steve

    And, you know what, Davis’ USG% isn’t bad for a big man.

    And he didn’t put together “games” of disappearing at the offensive end until a week or so ago. Getting to the line and making 8 straight is not disappearing offensively either.

    Its a shame that Simmons can only watch a guy play half a game, making an uninformed comment, and others just run with it.

  • mgbode

    i generally don’t read Simmons and go with my own thoughts :)

    *my point was that Davis was better than Noel at offense in college and I don’t like making a guy a “franchise” guy if their main asset is defense.

    *Noel will miss part or most of his rookie year with a knee injury (so, we can say he will follow a similar path there).

    *games 17-23 and then games 36-39 Anthony Davis completely disappeared on offense. game42(Cavs game), he was a near non-factor on offense. you bring up a good point that getting to the FT line and knocking those down is important.

    *I think that long-term, Anthony Davis will be a very good player. He has enough offense to develop on that end. I don’t think Noel will be anything more than Ibaka (and that is likely a stretch) because I didn’t see the same basic toolset to develop from him.

  • Yup

    Dion should be number 3, as he is, right now, slightly statistically ahead of Beal in basically every category.

  • mlawson482

    there aren’t any franchise players in this draft. mclemore is old for a draftee and hadn’t put up that great of stats. shabazz is vastly overrated. he can score with moderate efficiency, but his pasing, steals, blocks, and other secondary #s are severely lacking. Noel, a potential defensive ace, is the safest bet.

  • mgbode

    You don’t win championships going safe. Shabazz

  • BenRM

    I agree mostly. I think the Cavs have made better picks than they are given credit for in most outlets. That said, I think Drummond may be a multiple all-star at some point. I hope I’m wrong…but if there is a miss (and I didn’t like him at the draft) he may have been it.

  • Jaker

    Kawhi is just making me believe that Popovich is the best coach in the NBA. Had he been picked by the Cavs, I’m not so sure he would be as successful

  • mlawson482

    you also don’t win them by drafting busts. shabazz is a Harrison barnes or Derrick Williams type prospect (compare their #s). high volume scorer, middling efficiency. his rebounding is ordinary while the other stats are downright pathetic – assists, steals, blocks, ft %, etc. if you want a wing, Otto porter is a far superior prospect. a young soph, only 4 months older than shabazz, he projects as a Paul George type player.

  • maxfnmloans

    no. you are wrong. ESPN says we haven’t put any talent around Kyrie. They wouldn’t lie to us. After all, without them selflessly donating their precious air time how else would we have heard about LeBron leaving? Without ESPN we could still be in the dark to this day. ESPN is only looking out for our best interests, which is why they want to make sure everyone knows how little talent they have assembled around Kyrie. For our own good

  • Steve

    *Noel is already well ahead of where Ibaka was at that age – offensively that is

  • Steve

    Not you, Ryan.

    I just don’t think you can oversimplify it like that. Big men don’t need to sit on the post with their back to the basket to be important contributors on offense. Athletic guys like Davis and Noel (obviously depending on how he comes back from the injury) can work so well off a quick PG, and really make the defense pay. It may not look like they are a main option when they just end up next to an open hoop with the ball, but that happens because of their athleticism and that’s what the play intended to happen.

    In games 17, 19, and 21 he got 11+ shots, and got 9 in game 18. That’s not disappearing. Neither are games 36 and 37. I said already said that 38 and 39 were some stinkers.

    Noel is already well ahead of where Ibaka was at that age, and the latter has turned into a 13 point a night scorer on a highly impressive .596 TS%. If Noel adds another 2-3 points a night to what Ibaka is doing, you absolutely have an elite player. And to be Cavs-specific, we have that quick PG who can get Noel the ball and can run the isos down the stretch. We need an elite defender.

  • mlawson482

    Noel also appears to have an inch or two in height on ibaka, Brannon, with added muscle, he can play C. I think a Varejao/Noah type defensive presence is feasible along with slightly better offensive #s. A player who can do that is a top 5 center in the NBA.

  • mgbode

    he certainly has risk, but he is a much better creator for his shot than the two you mentioned (though Barnes hasn’t been terrible). he is really fluid on that end and has been efficient (18pts on 14shots per game). 73% isn’t terrible FT%, but that 43% 3pt is nice. his risk is certainly that he is terrible on the defensive end and he needs to figure that one out.
    just watching him though, he’s a gifted scorer.

  • mgbode

    oh, on Porter, I do like him. But, his freshman numbers are not up to Shabazz and he isn’t as much of a creator. I do like that he is more of a defensive presence and has some attitude about his play. He’s a top5 pick for this year’s draft, but behind Shabazz for me.

  • mlawson482

    true, porter is not quite the creator but his other numbers are far superior. btw, porter is extremely young for his class while shabazz is relatively old. it’s more Apt to compare porters soph numbers to shabazz’s freshman #s. btw, porter put up 33, 5 threes, aahs 5 steals against syracuse last night.