NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Final Regular-Season Report Card Grades for Top Rookies

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterApril 14, 2013

NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Final Regular-Season Report Card Grades for Top Rookies

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    It's hard to believe these guys won't be considered rookies for too much longer. It's even harder to believe that a guard like Damian Lillard can go from tearing up the Big Sky to torching the NBA within a year.

    Lillard has had one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in recent memory, while Anthony Davis has been just as spectacular in his own way.

    And Andre Drummond looks like the biggest miss by NBA teams, as he has arguably been this year's third-best rookie despite going No. 9 overall.

    However, outside the top three, most of this rookie class struggled with injuries and inconsistency. Still, there's loads of promise here, and you can expect an uptick in production in their sophomore campaigns.

10. Chris Copeland, New York Knicks

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    Stock Watch: Up

    Last Week's Rank: Unranked

    Though Chris Copeland's numbers don't suggest it, he's easily a top-10 rookie in terms of talent.

    Copeland spent the last couple of seasons trying to make a living in the D-League and overseas, and now he's a force in the NBA.

    At 6'8", Copeland is a mismatch small forward with an accurate three-point stroke (41.9 percent), a clean off-the-dribble game and the strength to fight for buckets inside. With Amar'e Stoudemire out, Copeland has stepped up to become an important piece of the rotation and is someone the Knicks will need come playoff time.

    He's nearly a lock for double-digit points if he's given 20 minutes because of his ability to generate offense without having to be set up.

    Give the Knicks credit for thinking outside the box with Copeland. It certainly paid off.

9. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 9

    Jonas Valanciunas gained confidence down the stretch, which has allowed him to flourish as a go-to option for points in the half-court.

    He's a solid all-around post player who can score with his back to the basketball or facing the rim. Valanciunas also displayed a soft touch on his mid-range jumper.

    With his size and skill set, it's no wonder he went No. 5 overall in 2011. Valanciunas looks like Toronto's center of the future and a long-term building block moving forward.

8. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 8

    Harrison Barnes struggled with the same issue all year—consistency.

    He's been a fairly reliable shot-maker as a catch-and-shooter, finishing his rookie season at 36.2 percent from downtown, but his inability to create easy shots for himself off the dribble limited his scoring opportunities.

    Barnes only took 7.7 shots attempts per game this season without ever posing as a top-three scoring option on the floor.

    He's got the tools to be that third scoring option once he expands his offensive game and builds confidence with the ball in his hands.

7. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 7

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist didn't provide No. 2 overall value as a rookie on the offensive end, but he's still in the early stages of his development.

    Right now, he lets his motor and athleticism do most of the talking, with his creativity as a scorer taking a backseat.

    He's an excellent defender and finisher in the open floor. Kidd-Gilchrist's offseason goal should be to incorporate a few go-to moves into his repertoire to make him more of a threat in Charlotte's half-court offense.

6. Moe Harkless, Orlando Magic

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 6

    Moe Harkless received his opportunity late in the season, and he ran with every minute of it.

    He wasn't supposed to contribute his rookie year, labeled as a project out of St. John's who needed all sorts of seasoning. But Orlando saw results right away, making it difficult to keep him out of the rotation.

    Harkless had some monster games over the last two months of the season, including a 25-point, nine-rebound, four-block, four-steal performance against Oklahoma City and a 28-point game against the Rockets.

    With smooth athleticism and effortless agility at 6'8", Harkless has a great feel for the game even though his skill set is unrefined. Once his jumper becomes a reliable threat and he's able to create on the perimeter, Harkless could end up looking like Rudy Gay 2.0.

5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 5

    Bradley Beal battled ankle problems his entire rookie year, and it ended up costing him the final portion of the season.

    He finished with a 13.9 point-per-game average, showcasing a smooth perimeter game with a promising long-range stroke.

    Beal struggled at times to create easy scoring opportunities for himself, but he proved to be a reliable shot-maker and explosive finisher in the open floor. Once he figures out how to create open looks for himself off the dribble, Beal will be a bigger threat to opposing defenses in the half-court.

4. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 4

    Dion Waiters' knee acted up down the stretch, but it doesn't change the fact he averaged nearly 15 points as a rookie.

    The Cavaliers reached for Waiters at No. 4 overall in an attempt to steal a prolific scoring guard, which is exactly what they got.

    However, he does have much to improve upon as a sophomore in the NBA. Waiters finished his rookie year shooting just 41.1 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from downtown, while only getting to the stripe 3.6 times per game.

    Waiters' shot selection needs work, but this will come with more reps as he adjusts to the speed and spacing of the NBA.

    Cleveland took an early gamble in the 2012 draft considering Waiters only scored 20 or more points three times in two years at Syracuse. It looks like this one should pay off, though.

3. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 3

    Andre Drummond missed a good chunk of his rookie year with a back injury, but his minutes on the floor were well spent.

    He dominated the interior as a finisher, rebounder and shot-blocker.

    His highlight performance of the year might have come this week when he went for 29 points and 11 boards on 10-of-11 shooting against Cleveland. He does all of his damage in the paint with nobody physically capable of slowing him down.

    Drummond isn't the most skilled rookie in the class, but his size, athleticism and aggression are unmatchable.

    Detroit got incredible value with Drummond at the No. 9 pick.

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Lat Week's Rank: No. 2

    Though he'll finish No. 2, Anthony Davis exceeded expectations as a rookie despite being the top overall draft pick.

    He's been phenomenal offensively, which is ironic considering he established his stock with defensive dominance. Davis showed off his guard skills and the ability to play face-up basketball, which has made him a much more difficult matchup for big men not used to defending the perimeter.

    Davis has had some trouble staying healthy and will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, but he's been fairly durable down the stretch and consistently effective when given minutes.

    He finished his rookie season averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game as the clear-cut No. 2 rookie in the class. His future is just as bright as Damian Lillard's because of his offensive promise and defensive tools.

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Stock Watch: Steady

    Last Week's Rank: No. 1

    Not only does Damian Lillard finish the year as the top rookie in his class, but he's already established himself as one of the top point guards in the NBA.

    Despite Portland's recent struggles, the highlight of Lillard's week came when he dropped 38 points and nine dimes on the Lakers, putting him smack in the middle of Kobe Bryant's radar.

    #vintagevino. Lillard is the real deal #mambasalute

    — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 11, 2013

    Lillard's scoring ability off the dribble, deep three-point range and maturity at the position have allowed him to excel as a pro and flourish as a point guard.

    He averages 19 points and 6.5 assists per contest and is the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year. Congratulations to the Blazers for risking an early pick on a guard from the Big Sky Conference.