NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Who's the Early-Season Favorite for ROY?

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2012

NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Who's the Early-Season Favorite for ROY?

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    Although we're just a couple of weeks into the 2012-13 NBA season, there is a select group of rookies emerging as Rookie of the Year candidates.

    Coaches are still tinkering with player roles and optimal rotations, but the most impressive players are seeing consistent playing time.

    An undrafted Russian guard is climbing the rookie charts, but are his efforts enough to crack the top five? Where did Michael Kidd-Gilchrist land after his breakout game, and which major rookies' stocks plummeted?

    Most importantly, who is currently the favorite to win Rookie of the Year based on his early-season play?

Best of the Rest

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    Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons forward: Stock is steady (7.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG in last five games)

    Jae Crowder, Dallas Mavericks forward: Stock is down (4-of-13 from 3-PT in last four games)

    Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers F/C: Stock is up (Eight points, six rebounds vs. LAC)

    Brian Roberts, New Orleans Hornets forward: Stock is up (16 points, eight assists vs. CHA)

    Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic forward: Stock is steady (11 points, five rebounds vs. MIN)

10. Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics F

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 6

    An underwhelming first week in the NBA for Jared Sullinger was followed by an equally underwhelming second week.

    The Boston Celtics power forward hasn't grabbed more than four rebounds in any of his last four games, and he has bounced in and out of the starting lineup. Doc Rivers is still feeling out how he wants to use Sullinger in his rotation.

    Sullinger will always face the challenge of being an undersized post player and a below-average athlete. It's something he will deal with more effectively with experience.

    For now, Celtics fans would like to see him pull down more boards, so as to boost Boston's league-worst effort in that area. His next two games are against Utah and Brooklyn, two teams featuring strong-rebounding power forwards.

9. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors F

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    Stock Report: Steady 

    Last Week's Rank: 9

    When Toronto Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas dropped 18 points and six rebounds in a blowout loss to the Thunder, we saw why he's the most promising rookie in the Atlantic Division.

    But then he came back down to earth in his next pair of games.

    Valanciunas demonstrates first-rate rebounding instincts and skills, and he has a running hook to go along with his pick-and-roll game, but he's still unpolished.

    His likelihood of becoming a finalist for Rookie of the Year is closely linked with the amount of time Dwane Casey's willing to give him. Valanciunas will need around 30 minutes per game just to compile the sheer numbers required to contend.

8. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons F/C

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: Unranked

    His Monday showing was foul-laden, but Andre Drummond earned some rookie recognition after a couple of impressive games over the weekend.

    Friday night was particularly impressive for the Detroit Pistons center. He netted 22 points in just 21 minutes of play to go along with eight rebounds. Drummond exhibited his prowess on the glass, his left-handed dribble and his ability to adjust his shot in midair.

    When he puts his strong, athletic frame in good position on the block, it's difficult for opponents to keep him away from the rim and off the boards.

    Offensively, he may be too streaky to stand out in this rookie class, but his defense and rebounding will keep him relevant.

7. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors F

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 5

    He's not blowing anyone away with his overall production, but Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes is still converting at a high percentage and remaining a factor.

    His 5-of-9 shooting night was critical to Golden State's recent win over the Cavaliers.

    He followed that up with a pair of mediocre performances that resulted in Warriors losses.

    The sooner Barnes can increase his nightly contributions on the boards and from the three-point line, the sooner Golden State can challenge the Lakers and Clippers in the Pacific Division.

    The next couple of weeks will be a trial of Barnes' competitiveness, as the Warriors don't face a (currently) sub-.500 team until December.

6. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards G

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: Unranked

    After two straight weeks of down-trending stock, Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal broke out in a trio of outstanding offensive games.

    He's finding and creating more opportunities for himself by running the floor, using his pump fakes and trusting his mid-range jumper. As a result, he's scored 16, 22 and 17 points in his last three games.

    We're starting to see the kind of production Wizards fans hoped to get from the Florida star and third overall pick in the 2012 draft.

    Beal was praised for his three-point shooting skills as he entered the NBA, but his 22-point outburst against the Bucks showed that he can pile up points without making a single trey.

5. Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves G

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 10

    After playing in Russia his whole life, Alexey Shved has adjusted extremely well to basketball in America.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves rookie capped off an already-solid week with a superb 16-point, five-assist effort in a win against Dallas. His jump shot wasn't clicking, but he was nevertheless a factor on offense as he attacked and consistently got to the charity stripe.

    A true testament to Shved's emergence is Rick Adelman's increasing trust in him and the amount of responsibility Shved's shouldering off the bench. His minutes have increased in each of his last four contests.

    If he keeps coming off the bench, he's a long shot for Rookie of the Year honors. However, if he keeps playing at a high level, he'll be on our radar throughout the 2012-13 campaign.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats F

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 7

    The Charlotte Bobcats' 101-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks was a prime example of how Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can help make the franchise respectable again.

    Kidd-Gilchrist never took his foot off the gas. He relentlessly pursued offensive rebounds, attacked in transition, moved without the ball and drove the ball when he did have it.

    When the dust settled, he had 25 points and 12 rebounds (including five offensive boards), and the Bobcats had a quality win over a Western Conference opponent.

    Mike Dunlap shouldn't expect 25 points too frequently from Kidd-Gilchrist, but he knows he can count on maximum effort and intensity.

    Much like his Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist is a special type of rookie because he can influence the game greatly on both ends.

3. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers G

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Ranking: 2

    A couple of times over the last week or so, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters has caught our attention with his athleticism and playmaking abilities.

    The Syracuse product has the talent to compete for Rookie of the Year honors, but will he display enough consistency?

    One night, he's looking like Cleveland's version of Dwyane Wade, and the next he's looking more like Norris Cole.

    Even though Waiters and Kyrie Irving combine to form one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league, Byron Scott can't trust Waiters nearly as much as he can trust Irving.

2. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers G

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week: 1

    An inefficient and turnover-happy week has not only hurt Damian Lillard's stock as an NBA newcomer, but it also hurt the Portland Trail Blazers' chances of winning.

    He's still putting the ball in the bucket, averaging 16 points per game over his last three games. But it's taking a toll on the team, especially on nights like he had against the Hawks, when he shot 5-of-18 from the field and turned the ball over four times.

    Lillard's exceptional handle and quickness help him get past the first level of defense, but sometimes he has difficulty finishing once he gets in the paint. That's not shocking, because after all, this isn't the Big Sky Conference anymore.

    Teams are starting to adjust to him. His poise, ingenuity and competitiveness will determine whether he thrives for the duration of the season. 

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets F/C

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 3

    In his first game back from a concussion, New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis got right back on track and reasserted himself as a prime Rookie of the Year candidate.

    He stuffed the stat sheet with goodies against the Charlotte Bobcats: 23 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, two steals and two assists in 37 minutes.

    After a confrontation with Byron Mullens, Davis took over for the Hornets, showcasing his smooth right hook, mid-range jump shot and hustle plays.

    His ability to change so many possessions defensively and also score 20-plus gives him an inside track in the Rookie of the Year race. If the Hornets outplay the Trail Blazers throughout the season, it will also give Davis an edge over his closest competitor thus far.

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