NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Under-the-Radar Challengers to Damian Lillard's Throne

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 24, 2013

NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Under-the-Radar Challengers to Damian Lillard's Throne

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    Is there anyone out there capable of knocking Damian Lillard off his throne?

    Maybe, but only if Lillard has a serious collapse, which just seems unlikely when you consider how consistent he's been.

    There is one new surging rookie making his way up the board, and he's not someone we've spoken much of for the past several months.

    Another rookie's stock took a hit after someone forget to tell him that the All-Star break had ended.

    The toughest part about trying to make it as a rookie is maintaining consistency and producing routinely. So far, only a few have managed to succeed.

10. Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 9

    It would be irresponsible to take Jared Sullinger off the board, despite his season-ending back injury.

    Sullinger is easily a top-10 talent from the 2012 class, and he was on the cusp of breaking out before the awful injury news.

    Knowing what we know, we have to operate under the assumption that Sullinger will be ready to go next year, where he'll be an integral part of a Celtics team that's looking to form an identity.

9. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 7

    It's been an absolutely brutal week for Harrison Barnes, who shot a combined 3-of-20 over his last three games.

    This type of inconsistency is what got him into trouble at North Carolina. Barnes struggles to get himself easy points in the half court, taking too many long two-pointers and rarely getting to the line.

    If his jumper is off, chances are that Barnes won't be a factor. He's got to find some middle ground to increase his margin of error.

    But I still believe it will eventually click. Expect Barnes to be one of the better players from the class when it's all said and done.

8. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 10

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got back on track after the break, scoring in double figures in three consecutive games.

    It's not the biggest deal in the world, but when you consider Kidd-Gilchrist hadn't scored more than 10 points since January 14, we should at least acknowledge the fact that he's starting to find his rhythm.

    Without the ability to create half-court offense, inconsistent scoring numbers are going to appear. As long as he stays aggressive and continues to attack the rim, Kidd-Gilchrist will remain a threat to opposing defenses.

7. Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 10

    Andrew Nicholson makes a huge jump up the board after another week playing regular minutes.

    Prior to Saturday night's game against Cleveland, he finished in double figures in six consecutive games, making that 8-of-11 games on the month with at least 10 points.

    Nicholson is a polished post scorer and knows how to get himself points. He's got excellent countermoves on the interior, meaning if the defense takes away his first look, he's able to adjust and get a better one.

    As an under-the-rim post player, he'll have problem rebounding consistently. But Nicholson is still a reliable source for points in the half court.

    It turns out Orlando got itself a nice little player at No. 19 overall.

6. Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 4

    Alexey Shved actually had one of his best games in recent memory on Friday, going for 17 points in a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Other than that, Shved has been pretty quiet. To his credit, he's stuck in an overcrowded backcourt and would have benefited greatly had the team traded Luke Ridnour.

    Prior to the Thunder game, Shved shot 2-of-9 against the Sixers and went scoreless against the Jazz.

    With Dion Waiters and Bradley Beal heating up, he will have to break through the rookie wall to finish a top-five rookie.

5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 6

    Bradley Beal put up 28 points on the Milwaukee Bucks just before the All-Star break, and he has continued his hot play over the past few games.

    Most recently, Beal put up 21 points, four assists and five boards in a solid win over the Houston Rockets. Prior to that, he went for 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in a win over Denver, and he cashed in 25 points in a loss to Toronto just before that.

    The size of the rim is starting to increase for Beal, who, after a slow start to the season, has really come on as of late.

    Credit John Wall for getting Beal some open looks and drawing attention away from the talented rookie guard, but this kid can ball on his own.

4. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 5

    Dion Waiters had an efficient stat line against the New Orleans Hornets, going for 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, three assists and zero turnovers.

    This is the type of game that Waiters needs to repeat. He only took one three-pointer, got to the stripe four times and didn't force the issue on offense.

    Picking his spots as a scorer and facilitator will be his challenge moving forward as he continues to make the transition to the NBA level.

3. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 3

    While we eagerly await the return of Andre Drummond, his seat at the No. 3 spot remains saved.

    The good news is that, just before Drummond went down, Lawrence Frank mentioned that Drummond was on the verge of starting. That is big, considering the only thing holding back a healthy Drummond had been playing time.

    If Drummond is given regular minutes, Anthony Davis could be looking over his shoulder at the No. 2 spot if he's not careful down the stretch.

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 2

    Anthony Davis put up two double-doubles this week, going for 10 and 11 against Dallas and 15 and 10 against a tough Chicago front line.

    He's starting to score with consistency—something I didn't think we'd say until his second or third year in the league.

    Against Cleveland this week, he only finished 2-of-7 from the floor, but he got to the line eight times and nailed all eight.

    These are great signs moving forward. Davis is going to be one of the more versatile forwards in the league once his body fills out and the transition process is finished.

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 1

    It wasn't Damian Lillard's most efficient week at the office, though you won't know it from the numbers.

    He scored 24 against the Phoenix Suns, but turned the ball over six times to his seven assists.

    Lillard also went for seven dimes and dropped 19 points on the Lakers, but he missed 13 shots in the process.

    It's not going to affect Lillard's stock, as he, realistically, isn't going anywhere as the leader for Rookie of the Year. There aren't many rookies who can average 21.5 points and seven assists for the week and not come away satisfied. 

    His turnover rate and shot selection will only improve over time.