The 2012 NBA season saw several talented rookies play superb basketball, but only one is truly deserving of winning the highly coveted Rookie of the Year Award.
It's a shame that these rookies didn't get a real season to showcase their talents. Had there been no lockout, some players might have been able to progress and develop their game more.
Still, some rookies shined bright throughout the year, and soon one of them will be honored for all the hard work. There are four nominees up for the award, and not everyone is in agreement on who should win it.
With that said, here's how I rank the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates.
No. 4 - Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio
Drafted by the Pacers but traded to the Spurs, Leonard has all the tools to be an elite star in the league someday.
Leonard is definitely someone to keep an eye on as the years go on, as he is sure to be the player that keeps the Spurs on top in the future. Unless of course Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili play forever. Certainly seems like they have been, right?
The 6'7" small forward started in 39 games this year, averaging 24 minutes and 7.9 points on the year. He also led the team in steals with 1.3 per game.
There is no doubt that Leonard has a bright future, but he didn't do enough in his rookie campaign to win the award.
No. 3 - Iman Shumpert, New York
When Shumpert was selected by the Knicks with the No. 17 pick in the draft, some folks felt it was a reach and he wouldn't be successful at all.
I'll admit, I was one of those critics, but I ate my words when Shumpert asserted himself as a vital member of the Knicks, proving that he will be a valuable asset to the team as long as he's on the roster.
It's unfortunate he suffered an injury and will miss this playoffs. Well, depending on how you look at it; it could be fortunate since he won't be on the court as the Heat destroy New York each game.
Shumpert started in 35 games for the Knicks, averaging nearly 30 minutes and 9.5 points on the year.
No. 2 - Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento
Selected by the Kings with the final pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Thomas fought hard and here he is now with a chance to win the ROY award.
Few people would have guessed that Thomas would amount to much during his NBA career, let alone his rookie season. If you watched him during the madness of March a year ago, you knew he was a special talent though.
Still, after the Kings traded for Jimmer Fredette, it appeared as though Thomas wouldn't see much action in a crowded guard field. Did anyone really think he would outperform Jimmer? OK, don't answer that, it's probably a yes.
Thomas started in 37 games for Sacramento, averaging nearly 26 minutes per game, 11.5 points and 4.1 assists on the year.
No. 1 - Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
The clear favorite to win the award, Irving has been a stud all season long, which is exactly what everyone expected of him. Since he was selected No. 1 overall, there was a great deal of pressure facing Irving throughout the year.
Joining a dismantled franchise like Cleveland probably didn't excite him too much, but he made the best of it and did what he could to help the team win.
With some more talent around him, Irving can help lead the Cavaliers to the playoffs, but it's up to Cleveland to make the right draft picks and sign the right players.
Irving played and started in 51 games this year, averaging nearly 31 minutes and leading the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game.