One of the best parts of the first few games of the NBA season is getting to see the measure of the rookies sprinkled around the league. We get to see which guys have a game that looks formidable enough to make some waves early on and which ones are going to have to work on their games in order to affect the score like they did in college.
In the situations that each rookie has been put in it, seems as if Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal are in the best situations to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Guys like Thomas Robinson, Dion Waiters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Damian Lillard definitely have a shot to win the award, but there are fundamental differences either in situation or style of play that keep them from leading the pack early on.
Robinson will have to compete with DeMarcus Cousins directly for looks and rebounds down low, Waiters' ability to produce at a high level as a starter is still in question, Kidd-Gilchrist might struggle when he's got the weight of the entire Bobcats on his shoulders and Lillard has to come in and run the point for a very lackluster squad, something that's extremely hard to do in a player's first season.
On the other hand, Davis comes in as the No. 1 overall pick (obviously), and is in a situation where the Hornets almost have to feed him the rock in order to see what he's made of early and often. Beal is in a similar situation, only because he was touted as the best scoring option in the draft, plus he's got a stellar jumper and a shot at draining threes like crazy in Washington.
So of those two guys, which one is in the best situation to succeed all season long, and basically which one is a better basketball player?
Right off the bat it seems as if Davis is at a disadvantage. His big selling point coming into the league is his defense, something that's a lot harder to notice statistically than Beal's potentially high-scoring game. When a voter settles in to pick his man at the end of the year a 20-point per game season is a lot easier to give merit to than a block-and-a-half and a guy anchoring his team's defense every game.
Previously it seems as if players in the frontcourt have a harder time winning the award compared to backcourt players. Of the past 10 winners, three have been either power forwards or centers, the other seven being guards or small forwards.
It seems as if the backcourt guys end up with more touches during the course of a game and have an easier time dealing with NBA-level speed compared with frontcourt guys having to deal with NBA-level size and strength.
Beal is definitely in a better situation to touch the ball more often. Washington has (based on last season) John Wall shooting the ball about 14 times a game while Trevor Ariza and Nene get 10 and Emeka Okafor adds eight. Tie in about 25 shots for the bench and you've got a grand total of just 67 shots. Based on the 83 shots per game that the team took last season, that leaves 16 shots for Beal to take every game, theoretically.
Davis, meanwhile, has to contend with a combined 44 shots from Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminou, plus two guys on the bench in Jason Smith and Austin Rivers who will command eight to 10 shots apiece. That's going to end up leaving Davis around 12 or 13 shots per game.
Beal also has the potential to put together a nicely distributed stat sheet that voters tend to be impressed with. As the 12th-best rebounder in the SEC last season with 6.7 boards per game, he was the best rebounder of guys his size by about two boards. Plus, with the amount of time he'll handle the ball he should end up with three assists per game through the flow of the game. Throw in a quick-handed steal and Beal's got a solid stat line.
Keep in mind, however, that Davis averaged nearly 11 rebounds per game at Kentucky while sharing the floor with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones, both excellent rebounders. The best he has to deal with now is Anderson grabbing about eight a game and then Jason Smith, who's lucky to get five.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Davis break double digits in his rookie season. Throw in a few blocks and double-figure scoring and the voters will fall in love. It's almost impossible to take down a guy who averages a double-double as a rookie. You've got to go back to 2000 to find a guy who averaged a double-double and didn't win the award outright when Stevie Francis tied Elton Brand for the RoY.
There's going to be a lot of basketball played between today and the eventual voting, but when you weigh the extreme hype for Davis, combined with the fact that he'll almost certainly average a double-double and it seems as if Beal is done for.
Davis is probably going to win the award, but Beal is at least going to end up with a punchers chance of taking it home if his shots fall like the Ray Allen comparisons say they will.