NBA Rookie Ladder: Kyrie Irving Still King of First-Year Class

Ethan Norof@ethan_norofCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2016

NBA Rookie Ladder: Kyrie Irving Still King of First-Year Class

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    Kyrie Irving is running away with the Rookie of the Year Award, but he's not the only first-year player who is making serious noise this season.

    Kenneth Faried has emerged in Denver, Derrick Williams has fans changing their opinions about him in Minnesota and Kawhi Leonard continues to do all of the little things for San Antonio.

    Is there anyone capable of pushing Irving for his top spot? 

10. Tristan Thompson, F/C, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Make no mistake about it—Tristan Thompson needs to polish his offensive game.

    However, this kid is a force around the rim and his ability to block shots is not something that should go unnoticed.

    Thompson's 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes is a strong number for a 20-year-old rookie, and he's also beginning to assert himself as a force on the glass as well.

    He needs to improve his shooting (41.8 percent) and his efficiency from the foul line (46 percent) in order to make a bid for more playing time.

9. Brandon Knight, PG, Detroit Pistons

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    Detroit has to be happy with its eighth pick in the 2011 draft, as Brandon Knight has exceeded expectations up to this point in his career.

    His inconsistent shooting is something that will need to be corrected, but Knight has done a great job of limiting his turnovers after struggling mightily in that department earlier in the season.

    After having just one game with no turnovers through January, Knight has posted five games with zero turnovers since February began.

8. MarShon Brooks, G/F, New Jersey Nets

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    MarShon Brooks has struggled to find a consistent rhythm since getting back into the lineup, and it's certainly a possibility that he's hitting the rookie wall.

    He's shot less than 40 percent in six of his last 11 games from the floor, and he is turning the ball over far too often.

    There is a lot to like about the Providence product and what he will mean to the future of the Nets, but his evolution won't come without a few bumps in the road. 

7. Derrick Williams, F, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Derrick Williams couldn't find consistent playing time under Rick Adelman before the end of February, but now he's really looking like an integral cog in the rotation.

    Williams has the ability to find his shots from a variety of spots, an uncommon trait for a rookie who hasn't had the benefit of extended practice, training camp or summer league.

    A capable three-point shooter who isn't afraid to crash the boards, Williams is putting his slow start behind as he begins to define himself at the professional level. 

6. Iman Shumpert, G/F, New York Knicks

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    Iman Shumpert is displaying exactly what every team wants from a rookie making the transition to his first NBA season: progress.

    Shumpert is beginning to understand his role on the Knicks. His athleticism has allowed him to be an asset on defense, where he's shown the ability to defend multiple positions with success.

    Capable of racking up steals and using his speed to a competitive advantage, Shumpert is illustrating exactly why he was one of the fastest risers up boards leading up to the 2011 draft.

5. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Sacramento Kings

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    The Isaiah Thomas coming-out party has slowed down as the opposition has adjusted to his game, but what the No. 60 overall pick is doing continues to impress. 

    He's having trouble with turnovers, but that should be expected from a young player who is being asked to serve as a facilitator.

    It'll be very interesting to see if Thomas can acclimate his game on the fly, because that is what he's going to have to do in order to sustain his surprising success.

4. Kawhi Leonard, G/F, San Antonio Spurs

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    Kawhi Leonard has looked outstanding this season and San Antonio has to be thrilled with what his future holds. To put it simply, he's a rookie who just "gets it."

    He hasn't complained about playing time, is always ready when his number is called and has shown a strong knowledge of the game at both ends of the court.

    Although he's a bit undersized, Leonard's aggressiveness gives should allow him to be a major contributor for the Spurs.

3. Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets

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    The "Manimal" is quickly turning heads around the league, and he deserves to get far more attention than he's received.

    After being buried in the rotation, Faried has been thrown into the fire with Nene nursing injuries, and the rookie out of Morehead State has responded emphatically.

    He's averaging 10.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 60 percent shooting in 12 games as a starter. Those are numbers that will earn him more playing time going forward.

2. Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Although Ricky Rubio's shooting continues to be a source of concern, there is no questioning the obvious impact he's had on this offense.

    After ending February with a meager 33.6 percent mark from the floor, Rubio has opened March with a pathetic 22.7 percent clip. That will have to be something he addresses sooner rather than later.

    A strong foul shooter and a player who is capable of hitting the three-ball, Rubio is averaging 7.6 assists over his last five games, a bit shy of his 8.3 season average.

1. Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Another rookie ladder, another week of Kyrie Irving sitting atop the standings.

    Irving is having an historic rookie season at just 19 years old, and what he's been able to do on a Cavaliers team that would otherwise be lifeless is nothing short of amazing.

    In four games since the break, Irving is shooting 52.3 percent from the floor, 47.1 percent from beyond the arc and 85.7 percent from the line, while averaging 22 points and five assists.

    This kid has an extraordinarily bright future ahead of him.