NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Race for Second Place as Damian Lillard Owns 2012 Class

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 10, 2013

NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Race for Second Place as Damian Lillard Owns 2012 Class

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    There isn't anyone riding in Damian Lillard's rear-view mirror. He's just too far ahead of the pack.

    Meanwhile, Anthony Davis is closing in on solidifying his status as the runner-up in the class, while Dion Waiters, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond continue to miss games and hurt their chances of catching up.

    We've got a new rookie to talk about this week at the tail end of the rankings who happens to be a personal favorite and sophomore breakout candidate.

    This has been a slightly bizarre draft class with an absurd amount of inconsistency amongst rookies No. 2 through No. 8.

10. Moe Harkless, Orlando Magic

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: Unranked

    My personal sleeper from the 2012 NBA draft, Moe Harkless has emerged for the Orlando Magic and is playing a big role in their rotation.

    Before Friday night's loss to Indiana, Harkless scored in double-figures in 10 consecutive games. Though mostly a power forward at St. John's, he's made the quick transition to the wing, and it's playing to his strengths.

    He's one of the more fluid athletes you'll see, with long arms and effortless agility.

    Harkless has excellent instincts inside, showing a soft touch and the ability to finish around defenders. And though his three-point percentage for the year isn't one to brag about, he's actually been hot throughout March, shooting treys at a 42.9 percent clip.

    Harkless is considered a long-term project, but the Magic are getting unexpected results early in his career. He was one of the most overlooked players in the trade that sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles and should play a prominent role in Orlando's rebuilding process.

9. Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 7

    Alexey Shved is hanging in the rankings thanks to early season success, but I'm not quite sure how long his grip will hold.

    He's been a non-factor over the past few weeks, averaging six points on 29 percent shooting in the month of March.

    There were higher expectations after he came on quickly for Minnesota, but with an overcrowded backcourt, his production has started to drop.

    We still like his long-term potential, but his status as a top rookie is starting to fade away.

8. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 8

    Harrison Barnes scored in double-figures three times this week, his statistically best month of the year.

    He scored 10 against Milwaukee, 14 on Sacramento and 12 against the Raptors, demonstrating his shot-making skills on the perimeter and ability to catch and finish at the rim.

    Barnes needs work on his in-between game, as you'll rarely see him use the dribble to create open looks for himself.

    Barnes has been having issues with consistency, just like he did as a freshman and sophomore at North Carolina. Figuring out how to generate easier scoring opportunities will allow him to put up double-digit points on a regular basis.

7. Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic

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    Stock Report: Down

    Last Week's Rank: 6

    Andrew Nicholson has been the poster boy for efficiency in the month of March, averaging 9.4 points on 69 percent shooting playing only 19 minutes per game.

    Despite his limited opportunities, Nicholson made at least four field goals in four of his last five games. He's got a great feel in the post with the ability to get himself points using go-to and counter moves.

    Nicholson is limited as a rebounder as an under-the-rim forward, but his ability to generate half-court points should be reason enough to keep him on the floor.

6. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Stock Report: Up

    Last Week's Rank: 9

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had two of his best games of the season this week, double-doubling for 17 and 10 against Portland and going for 17 and five against Brooklyn.

    He combined to shoot 16-of-24 between the games, doing what he does best by aggressively attacking the rim and getting out in transition.

    Unfortunately, he followed up with four total points over his next two outings, but we can't be picky here. M.K.G. contributes as much as anyone on the defensive side of the ball, which allows us to overlook some of his offensive deficiencies.

    This rookie class has really struggled to consistently produce, so any signs of positive results will be rewarded in the rankings.

5. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 5

    The Pistons appear to be in no rush to get back their prized rookie big man, who has now missed the last four weeks with a back injury.

    Before going down, Andre Drummond was sporting an astounding 22.37 PER, making his presence felt on both sides of the ball for every minute of time he was given.

    With Detroit going nowhere fast, don't expect to see Drummond suiting up until he's more than 100 percent ready to go.

4. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 4

    Dion Waiters had really started to get going before missing a couple of games with an illness. The rigorous NBA schedule is clearly taking its toll on the rookie class.

    His latest offensive heat wave resulted in 26 points at Miami, 25 in Chicago, 23 against Toronto and 17 against the Clippers in four consecutive games.

    Waiters is a streak scorer, so it's a shame to see a fluky illness halt his momentum.

3. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 3

    Bradley Beal missed his third consecutive game on Saturday with a bum ankle. Injuries have hurt Beal so far in his rookie year, as he has already missed 10 games for the Washington Wizards.

    Beal was smoking hot before the latest injury, so we can only hope some time off doesn't kill his offensive rhythm.

    He's got his scoring average up to an impressive 14.2 points per game on 37.9 percent shooting from downtown.

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 2

    It's hard to believe how quickly Anthony Davis has figured out how to play offense.

    He had one of his better weeks of the year, going for 17 points, 15 boards and four blocks against Orlando, 13 and six against the Lakers and dropping a monster line of 20 points and 18 boards on the Grizzlies.

    And he's still a raw product at this point in his career. He's got such a diverse offensive arsenal that when he can start converting shots with consistency, he is likely to be one of the tougher overall covers in the entire NBA.

    Though Damian Lillard looks like the Rookie of the Year lock, the New Orleans Hornets should feel great about their 2012 selection.

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: 1

    Talk about a smooth transition process.

    Damian Lillard has gone from tearing up the Big Sky Conference to dropping 35-point, nine-assist games on the San Antonio Spurs.

    And it's not like these games are coming out of nowhere. He's put up at least 20 every game this month and is now tied for No. 14 in the NBA in scoring in just his first year in the league.

    Portland found a star point guard six picks into the 2012 NBA draft. Props go out to the scouting team that coveted him, who overlooked the mid-major question marks and took the best player on the board.