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Grading the NBA's Top 10 Rookies After 1st Months of Pro Career

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

Grading the NBA's Top 10 Rookies After 1st Months of Pro Career

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    After a month of professional action, the top rookies in the NBA have given us a little bit of information about how well they'll perform during their careers, but not everything has been made perfectly clear. 

    These top 10 first-year players have all had their moments of brilliance, whether it's been a show-stopping defensive performance, a highlight-reel dunk or a scoring explosion. Some players, as you might expect, have had far more of these moments than others. 

    This article is going to present you with two major pieces of information. 

    First, you'll learn who the 10 best rookies have been through the first month of the 2012-13 season. Second, you'll see a grade for each player, which evaluates their performance relative to the overall expectations going into the season.

     

    Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are current through Nov. 26. 

10. Bradley Beal

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    Team: Washington Wizards

    Position: SG

    Age: 19

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 11.22 PER*

     

    Bradley Beal hasn't been able to beat out Jordan Crawford for more minutes at shooting guard in the Washington Wizards' rotation, nor has he been able to help prevent a putrid 0-12 start to the season in John Wall's absence. 

    The one-and-done Florida Gator spent his collegiate career being compared to Ray Allen—not that those comparisons were actually that accurate—but he hasn't exactly looked like a player capable of breaking the sharpshooter's record for makes from behind the arc. 

    He has displayed some potential from the perimeter and a great shooting stroke, but Beal has been plagued by inefficiency and overall ineffectiveness throughout the first month of his season. 

    Expect him to turn it around before too long, especially once Wall returns and takes some of the backcourt pressure off him, but Beal is really only present in this article because of his lofty draft position and rather large number of minutes thus far.

    Grade: C- 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Monday, Nov. 26, the PER is updated through Sunday, Nov. 25. 

9. Dion Waiters

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: SG

    Age: 20

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.3 steals, 12.63 PER*

     

    Dion Waiters got his rookie season started off with a bang when he debuted to the tune of 17 points against the Washington Wizards. Things only got better when he had a 28-point outing and a 23-point performance in the span of three games. 

    However, a shooting slump has severely hurt his Rookie of the Year stock during the first month of his professional career, and the absence of Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers backcourt hasn't helped him out. 

    Even though Waiters continues to put up points in bunches, he's taking far too many shots. In his last seven games, the shooting guard has only broken 40 percent from the field once, shooting 29.4 percent during the duration of that stretch. 

    His passing is getting better, but it and his average defense aren't enough to make up for his disappointing shooting performances. 

    Grade: C+


    *While the per-game stats are updated through Monday, Nov. 26, the PER is updated through Sunday, Nov. 25. 

8. Harrison Barnes

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: SF

    Age: 20

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 12.12 PER

     

    One player in the NBA is probably a little bit more ready to hype Harrison Barnes than all the rest of the guys in the league. That would be Nikola Pekovic, whose pride is still recovering after the first-year small forward put him on a poster and then some. 

    As for his stats, Barnes' numbers are bolstered by a four-game stretch in the middle of November when he averaged 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Without those performances, his scoring figures don't really jump off the page, but there's no denying that he's helped stretch the floor for the Golden State Warriors. 

    Barnes still needs to improve his facilitating skills, as that's been holding back his overall offensive game. However, his defense has been tremendous thus far—believe it or not, that's possible for a perimeter player on the Dubs. 

    According to 82games.com, the former North Carolina Tar Heel is holding opposing shooting guards to a PER of just 13.3 and opposing small forwards to a PER of 13.4. Those are undoubtedly impressive figures for a rookie. 

    Grade: B

7. Kyle Singler

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    Team: Detroit Pistons

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.3 steals, 12.15 PER*

     

    Kyle Singler was massively inconsistent at the beginning of his delayed rookie season, but he's now rounding into form with back-to-back 16-point performances against the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.

    The former Duke Blue Devil is taking advantage of an increased role with the Detroit Pistons, and if he keeps it up, it won't be one he'll need to relinquish at any point. 

    Singler's game against the Blazers showed just how valuable he could be one day. The versatile forward recorded 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one block and two steals while hitting six of his seven shots from the field, including all three attempts from downtown. 

    This wasn't a name many expected to find near the top of the rookie ranks, but he's trending up rather quickly.

    Grade: B+ 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Monday, Nov. 26, the PER is updated through Sunday, Nov. 25. 

6. Alexey Shved

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    Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Position: PG/SG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.4 steals, 15.84 PER

     

    Alexey Shved wasn't on the radar for too many casual NBA fans because of his absence from the NBA draft experience, but the Minnesota Timberwolves found themselves an impressive rookie in this Russian standout. 

    Thanks to a prolonged slump from the perimeter, Shved hasn't been able to make a tremendous scoring impact for the Wolves. The benefit of his 9.6 points per game is virtually negated by his 37.3 percent shooting from the field, but his passing and defensive play has made him quite valuable. 

    In just 22.6 minutes of action per game, Shved has managed to rack up 4.1 assists against just 1.7 turnovers per game. Perhaps more impressively, the big point guard makes a stingy Minnesota defense even better. 

    According to NBA.com's advanced stats, the Wolves allow 2.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when Shved is on the court than when he's catching his breath on the pine. 

    Grade: A-

5. Jonas Valanciunas

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    Team: Toronto Raptors

    Position: C

    Age: 20

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.3 steals, 16.61 PER

     

    Jonas Valanciunas—along with Kyle Lowry and the improved play of DeMar DeRozan—has certainly given the Toronto Raptors reason to look forward to the future. 

    Perceived as far better on the defensive side of the ball than the more glamorous offensive side, the Lithuanian big man has put his potential on display quite often for the Raptors. He's made a sizable impact when it comes to slowing opposing bigs, although technical masterminds like Tim Duncan have still been able to handle him with relative ease. 

    Valanciunas' efficiency has been the most impressive part of his offensive game. He's rather limited to putbacks, finishes around the rim and scoring on the receiving end of pick-and-roll sets, but the seven-footer has shown off a potent mid-range game as well. 

    Through 14 games, the majority of his shots have come right at the basket, per Hoopdata. However, he's been quite solid outside of the restricted area as well. Valanciunas has gone 8-of-17 from three to nine feet, 7-of-13 from 10 to 15 feet and 8-of-18 from 16 to 23 feet. 

    Grade: B

4. Andre Drummond

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    Team: Detroit Pistons

    Position: C

    Age: 19

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, 21.97 PER*

     

    Andre Drummond's offensive development has been hindered in large part by two things: his own rawness on that end of the court and Lawrence Frank's inexplicable unwillingness to give him more minutes. You'd think that Drummond would be playing more, seeing as the Detroit Pistons aren't exactly going to be competing for a playoff spot. 

    Of course, offense isn't where Drummond is supposed to make the biggest impact, especially when he's taking such care to pick and choose his spots, hence the 57 percent shooting from the field.

    Right now, he's already a terror on the boards and an intimidating presence in the paint on defense. Going into Nov. 25's set of games, Drummond's 19.7 total rebounding percentage would have left him trailing just Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson, Zach Randolph, Kenneth Faried, Kris Humphries and Omer Asik had he played enough minutes to qualify.

    Grade: A+ 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Monday, Nov. 26, the PER is updated through Sunday, Nov. 25. 

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    Team: Charlotte Bobcats

    Position: SF

    Age: 19

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.2 steals, 18.85 PER*

     

    As his impressive PER indicates, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist does a fantastic job making an impact in all areas while playing to his strength from tipoff until the final buzzer sounds. 

    Take his shooting for example. Shooting just about 46 percent from the field, MKG has picked his spots carefully, recognizing the fact that calling his jumper inconsistent would be extraordinarily generous. 

    Going into his 15th game in the NBA, the former Kentucky Wildcat and No. 2 draft pick had taken 106 shots from the field. According to NBA.com's advanced stats, 83 of those attempts came from the paint. 

    The difference that Kidd-Gilchrist has made for the much-improved Charlotte Bobcats has been palpable as well. Charlotte has allowed 5.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when the rookie small forward is on the court than when he's sitting on the bench.

    Grade: A 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Monday, Nov. 26, the PER is updated through Sunday, Nov. 25. 

2. Anthony Davis

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    Team: New Orleans Hornets

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 19

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 2.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 26.34 PER

     

    When Anthony Davis has been on the court, he's been absolutely magnificent. The expectations for "The Brow" were insanely high following his first and only season with the Kentucky Wildcats, but he's actually managed to surpass them. 

    All those who questioned Davis' ability to make an impact on offense during his rookie season might want to think again. He's been one of the most consistent contributors on offense for the New Orleans Hornets, finishing shots in the post, making tough, contested jumpers and thriving in the fast-paced transition game. 

    However, this is only true when he's been healthy. And unfortunately for the Hornets, that hasn't been all too often, as a concussion and ankle injury have limited him to just six games in his first month, and he's currently dealing with a stress reaction that could sideline him for weeks.

    We've seen enough to realize that Davis is a bona fide star in the making, but we still haven't seen enough for our own personal satisfaction. 

    Grade: Incomplete

1. Damian Lillard

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals, 20.15 PER*

     

    Although he's a rookie and prone to the occasional 0-of-12 start like he had against the Detroit Pistons in a disappointing 108-101 loss, Damian Lillard is still proving that he was a massive steal when he fell to the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 6 on draft night. 

    The point guard is quite the dynamic offensive player, aided by his 22-year-old mind and extra experience playing basketball. In a lot of ways, he's a rookie in title only because of his extensive time at Weber State. 

    Lillard isn't just scoring a lot of points. He's lighting up the scoreboard from all areas of the court while maintaining efficiency and still finding his teammates to rack up the dimes. 

    His defense could stand to improve quite a bit, as he's currently a liability out on the perimeter, especially against bigger guards, but Lillard's offensive game has made him into the early Rookie of the Year favorite. 

    Grade: A+


    *While the per-game stats are updated through Monday, Nov. 26, the PER is updated through Sunday, Nov. 25. 

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