Ranking the Top 10 NBA Rookies After Week 1

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 NBA Rookies After Week 1

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    The 2012 NBA draft class was considered one of the deepest groups to enter the league in recent memory, and while there may not be star power across the board, there have been a number of good performers through the first week of the season.

    Dion Waiters has surprised his critics, Bradley Beal has disappointed his most loyal fans and Anthony Davis has done what we expected him to do—when he's not concussed, of course.

    The newest class of players has brought potential to the NBA, and while we may not know who is going to pan out when it's all said and done, we know that the game is far more entertaining when the league's youngsters are performing at a high level.

10. Bradley Beal

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    Bradley Beal has taken a lot of flack this season for his awful shooting percentages, but the game is slowly coming to him, and he’s shown he can contribute when he is hitting his shots.

    The 2-guard may be on a winless Washington Wizards team, but his highest scoring output came in a 22-point night against the Milwaukee Bucks.

    He’s shown that he can be a good ball-handler in both half-court and fast-break situations, and he even looks like he will put forth the effort night in and night out to impact the defensive end of the floor.

    Beal hasn’t been great up to this point, but he’s trending the right direction, and he’s beginning to show that he can adapt to the pace and style of the NBA game.

9. Alexy Shved

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves have been bitten by the injury bug early in the year, but 23-year-old rookie Alexy Shved has stepped in and provided quality minutes at the point guard position.

    Shved went scoreless in his first-ever NBA game, but since then he’s averaging 8.6 points per contest. He’s also averaging 4.8 assists since that first performance.

    The 6’6” guard is a good shooter who can be counted on to make the right plays. Whether it’s an shooting open jumper or attacking the rim, Shved has shown that he is extremely mature despite his lack of NBA experience.

    His court vision is solid, and while he’s not likely to dent the defensive portions of the stat sheet, he’s beginning to make a name for himself early in his playing days.

8. Kyle Singler

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    Kyle Singler played overseas in what would have been his rookie season in 2011, but he’s back in the league and he’s been a solid contributor for the Detroit Pistons.

    The forward is averaging nearly eight points per game while shooting efficiently from the floor.

    At 24 years old, Singler is proving to be a mature rookie. He knows how to get good looks, has a solid jump shot and is one of those players who already knows his role.

    There’s no denying that the Pistons have been one of the worst teams in the league thus far, but Singler has been one of the few bright spots of the young season.

7. Harrison Barnes

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    NBA rookies are often times guilty of trying to make plays too quickly, but Harrison Barnes has done a nice job of fitting in with the roster in Golden State.

    Barnes has started all six games for the Warriors, and he's averaging nine points per contest. He hasn't been the lights-out shooter that he is supposed to be, but that part of his game will come; a shooter doesn't simply lose his touch at this point in the process.

    The problem is that the small forward hasn't done much damage in the box score outside of points. He may know his role with the team, but any contributions in other areas will benefit a unit that is sub-.500 at this juncture.

6. Jonas Valanciunas

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    Jonas Valanciunas may be a 20-year-old rookie, but he has the instincts of a veteran when it comes to his placement on the floor.

    The 6'11" center knows where to run on fast breaks, he gets to the rim in pick-and-roll situations and he's shown that he has a lot of the basics down when it comes to being an NBA big man.

    Inconsistency has plagued him somewhat, but just six games into his young career, we can forgive him if he's not the most reliable go-to option.

    Valanciunas has potential in this league, and when he can produce more performances like the ones he had against the Indiana Pacers (12 PTS, 10 REB) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (18 PTS, 6 REB), he'll be a more consistent option within the Toronto Raptors offense.

5. Jae Crowder

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    The Dallas Mavericks have started the season off in decent fashion, and rookie forward Jae Crowder is a big part of the reason why.

    Dallas is without go-to scorer Dirk Nowitzki, so any and all contributions are welcomed at this point. Crowder has shot 47.5 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from the three-point line, and he is making up for at least a little bit of the shooting and scoring that the team is missing with Nowitzki's absence.

    Crowder was touted as a tough, physical player entering the league—not a deep-range shooter—so it's safe to assume his hot streak will stop at some point. When it does, he will still have an impact with his endless energy, and he will continue to make the hustle plays necessary for a new roster to succeed without their star.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    Through his first five games with the Charlotte Bobcats, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been who we thought he was when he was taken with second overall by the Charlotte Bobcats.

    On the stat sheet, the 19-year-old hasn’t stood out in any one particular area. He is averaging 12.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Despite a brilliant 25-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks, his offense hasn’t been great.

    Luckily for him and the Bobcats, that’s not the area he was expected to excel early in his career.

    On the defensive side of the ball, Kidd-Gilchrist has become a leader. He is averaging 1.6 steals and 2.2 blocks, and his motor has proven to be as strong as people thought it would be coming out of Kentucky.

    The rookie needs to work on his lateral movement, but he’s been solid in his defensive rotations at this point. His intensity alone is helping Charlotte become a more interesting team to watch.

3. Dion Waiters

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    Dion Waiters has surprised many people in the early part of the 2012-13 season, but he’s been just as productive as the Cleveland Cavaliers organization hoped he’d be.

    Waiters is averaging 16.7 points on the year and shooting a blistering 53.3 percent from beyond the arc. His best game came in a 28-point performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, in which the Cavs pulled off an upset.

    The rookie 2-guard has already helped dispel some of the claims about his motor, but what is exposing him as a youngster in this league is his shot selection.

    Fans in Cleveland won’t mind tough shots as long as they continue to go in, but if at any point he hits a rookie wall and his efficiency drops, he must be willing to adjust his game.

2. Anthony Davis

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    If you want to put Anthony Davis further down this list because of his concussion, you may have a point. That being said, the time he has spent on the court has been as productive as any rookie in the entire NBA.

    Davis has only played in about two-and-a-half games because of his injury, but his 17.3 point-per-game average is second only to Damian Lillard among first-year players. His 52 percent shooting percentage is also quite impressive.

    Defensively he’s been as good as advertised, averaging 2.7 blocks and eight rebounds. The big man has a versatile skill set on both ends of the floor, but it’s his intensity and energy that have helped propel him early on.

    Davis’ injury makes it hard to name him the best rookie performer this season, but there’s no question he’d be challenging the No. 1 spot if he’d played in all five of the New Orleans Hornets games.

1. Damian Lillard

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    Damian Lillard skipped productive in his NBA debut and went straight to downright historic.

    Lillard became the first NBA player with at least 21 points and nine assists in his first career game since LeBron James did it back in 2003. In fact, he is only the third player in NBA history to have a 20-point, 10-assists performance in his debut—Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas are the only others.

    He also became just the second rookie ever to record at least 20 points and seven assists in his first three games, as well as the first player since Grant Hill in 1994 to score at least 20 points in each of his first three contests.

    The rookie even showed that he already has the clutch gene, as he either scored or assisted on every bucket in an overtime win against the Houston Rockets.

    Lillard hasn’t been perfect, as he’s turned the ball over more than three times per game. His shot selection has also been a bit inconsistent, but his averages of 18.8 points, 7.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds are making him one of the young leaders on a rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers roster.