It’s been a tough season for rookies in the NBA, not only battling abbreviated training camps but also trying to live up to the impossible standard set by 2011 Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin. Which ones will fight through the adversity to shine as pros?
With the NBA draft becoming more and more about potential rather than performance, landing a lottery-pick rookie isn’t what it used to be. Just ask the Toronto Raptors, who spent a No. 5 overall pick on Jonas Valanciunas and get to watch him spend the rest of the season with his Lithuanian team rather than helping improve their own 4-9 record.
Then, too, some of the most talented rookies just haven’t landed in the right situation to make a major splash in their first pro seasons. No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams has put up unimpressive numbers—he’s averaging 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds a game—thanks in large measure to being stuck on a last-place team while competing for minutes with Kevin Love and Michael Beasley.
Other highly-touted first-year players, though, have stepped in to contribute right away at the NBA level. Take a look at this group of early front runners for 2012’s Rookie of the Year honors.
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