5 NBA Rookies Who Will Shine Late in the Season
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It’s still early in the NBA season, but so far, this year’s rookie class has shown glimpses of greatness. One of the biggest prevailing notions that exist is the concept of the “Rookie Wall.”
In essence, it is the point in the season where a player proverbially “hits the wall” and his output seriously declines.
So considering this principle, which of this year’s rookies will break through and sustain their success late into the season?
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The New Orleans Hornets’ highly touted No. 1 pick has been banged up by injuries lately, but if he comes back performing at a high level, his resiliency could extend deep into the season.
Many observers of Davis’s game have compared him to a young Tim Duncan—a comparison that fits him well.
Davis is a long-limbed, defensively minded big man who can be equally as effective on the offensive end. He already has a solid grasp of offensive fundamentals, and he could definitely develop into a solid post-player assuming he improves his maneuvers and packs on more muscle.
Currently, Davis is third among rookies in scoring with a dependable 14.5 points per game. He is also in a virtual tie with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the lead in rebounding among rookies with about seven per game.
Davis and MKG are also tied for the rookie lead in blocks per game; both are swatting about two shots per game on average. If Davis can shake these injuries, there’s no telling what he’ll be able to do for a young Hornets’ squad with hopes of a bright future.
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After a phenomenal showing in the NBA Summer League, Portland Trail Blazers’ rookie point guard Damian Lillard has carried that momentum into the regular season. Lillard went sixth in the draft, but as of now, he is arguably the most impressive rookie in the class.
He also had a huge game on NBA TV against the Los Angeles Lakers that solidified his legitimacy as a potential star in the league.
In a game that broke the all-time viewership record for NBA TV, fans watched Lillard carve up the Lakers for an impressive double-double that included 23 points and 11 assists—although his 40-percent shooting night and six turnovers were two blemishes on an otherwise impressive night.
Lillard possesses a powerful motor when he attacks the rim, and he is a reliable outside shooter. So far, Lillard is leading all rookies in the scoring and assists categories—with about 20 points and 8 assists per game respectively.
For him to already show as much consistency and promise as he has, he is only going to get much better as this season progresses. Fans should definitely keep an eye on Lillard throughout the season. There is no question he’ll have more big-time performances.
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Following a rather quiet first three games, Cleveland Cavaliers’ rookie Dion Waiters exploded onto the scene with a 28-point showing against the Los Angeles Clippers that featured a barrage of seven three-pointers.
He also shot nearly 60 percent that game—an incredibly efficient night considering his output.
Waiters is one half of the incredibly young and talented backcourt that features last year’s Rookie of the Year, Kyrie Irving. We’re already seeing great chemistry between the two, and as the season progresses, Waiters could continue to work on sustaining consistent scoring throughout the year.
Waiters is right behind Blazers rookie Damian Lillard (who leads rookies in scoring) with a solid 15 points per game.
His NBA-ready 6’4 and 215-pound frame, in conjunction with his solid shooting stroke, could certainly help him become one of the league's next young scoring threats, but let’s see if he can keep it going late into the season.
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One of the bigger names in the draft, the former Kentucky Wildcat is arguably the best defender in the rookie class. He has a lot of length combined with tremendous intensity on the defensive end, both of which are leading to impressive output.
MKG leads all rookies in steals (almost three per game), is tied for the lead in blocks and averages a solid eight points and six boards per game.
Although he isn’t particularly adept at scoring at the NBA level yet, he has proven to be a well-rounded defender with the potential to be a stopper on the defensive side of the ball.
MKG has the type of skill-set that will allow for consistent output depending on whom he’s matched up with, and as he refines his offensive abilities over time, he should develop into a great contributor for a Charlotte Bobcats’ team in need of an additional piece to aid sophomore guard Kemba Walker.
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Definitely one of the smaller names in the draft, rookie forward Jae Crowder is quietly proving to be a dependable asset for the Dallas Mavericks. Crowder is getting about 20 minutes of play per game, and he’s been fairly efficient.
His role is mainly to space the floor with his behind-the-arc shooting, and so far he’s accomplishing his goal. He is third among rookies in three-pointers attempted with 18, and as of now, he’s a solid 50 percent shooter from behind the three-point line.
He also averaging about eight points per game off the bench, and now with an injury to starting small forward Shawn Marion, it will be time for Crowder to step up and contribute.
In his first game as a starter against the Toronto Raptors, Crowder shot an extremely efficient 75 percent from the field scoring eight points and knocking down two three-pointers.
He isn’t exactly going to light people up on a night-to-night basis, but Crowder is exactly the type of guy you want to help stretch the floor and give you solid minutes.
As long as he knocks down shots when he’s open and makes smart decisions with the ball, it will be hard for Crowder to really struggle long-term this season.
He’ll definitely keep making a positive contributions as the season progresses for the injury-hindered Mavs, who are now without two of their primary players—Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki.