NBA Rookie Stock Watch: How Top Youngsters Are Faring in Round 1
You won't find too many coaches who trust their rookies during the NBA playoffs. But some of them don't have a choice.
There's only a handful of rookies out there making an impact in the postseason. Most of them play for the Golden State Warriors, who've taken a 3-1 series lead thanks to their contributions.
Others have seen their playing time cut off, though with injuries and now suspensions (see New York Knicks), opportunity could knock at any time.
Where'd My Minutes Go?
Chris Copeland, New York Knicks
Copeland had been tearing up the league late in the regular season, averaging 21.3 per game over his last six. But Mike Woodson has been reluctant to get him time during the postseason so far. Copeland only played 11 minutes combined in Games 2 and 3, and he hasn't recorded a made field goal yet. Keep an eye out for Copeland in Game 4 with J.R. Smith suspended for his cheap shot against Jason Terry.
John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks
John Henson only logged eight minutes combined during Game 2 and Game 3 against Miami after going for 28 points and 16 boards in the final game of the regular season. It has to be a little bit frustrating for Henson, especially since the Bucks aren't getting much from their veteran big men.
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets
Motiejunas broke out in March and carried it into April, but not the NBA playoffs. Motiejunas hasn't seen the floor in two of Houston's three playoff games. Maybe after being down three games to none coach McHale will try something new.
6. Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets
Terrence Jones wasn't a name you heard a whole lot of during the regular season, and even though he's not scoring much in Round 1, he's been active during his time on the floor.
Coach Kevin McHale gave Jones 17 minutes in Game 3 and 18 minutes in Game 1, totaling 15 boards in limited action.
Jones plays hard. I wouldn't count on him for much offense yet, particularly in the playoffs of his rookie year, but you have to admire his motor in limited minutes.
He scored in double figures four times in the month of April, a likely reason McHale has given him a role in Round 1.
5. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green knows his role and plays it well for Mark Jackson. It's technically the same role he played at Michigan State, only his scoring opportunities are limited.
Green is your prototypical glue-guy. He makes the extra pass, knocks down the open shot, defends with intensity and finishes plays that come his way.
The stats don't reflect his contributions to the team. Green isn't the most skilled player, rarely using a dribble or doing any sort of creating. But every team needs a ball-mover like Green in the lineup to provide balance between scorers.
It's just usually a veteran who plays this role—not a rookie.
Green has earned the confidence of his coach, and his role has been increased with David Lee on the shelf. He's scored 10 points, grabbed eight boards and blocked two shots in Games 2 and 3 combined.
4. Festus Ezeli, Golden State Warriors
Festus Ezeli made one of the most significant plays of the postseason in the Warriors' Game 3 win over Denver. Mark Jackson had put Ezeli in for defense, which is what should keep him in this rotation, at least in a limited role.
Up two in the closing seconds, Nuggets guard Ty Lawson was looking to turn the corner and get to the rim and tie the game at 110. But Ezeli read the play beautifully, hedging and staying in front of Lawson, cutting off his angle and eventually forcing a game-saving turnover.
In Game 2 he made all three of his field-goal attempts and blocked a shot in 16 minutes.
Forget the fact that he's a raw offensive player. At nearly seven-feet tall with a 7'5.75'' wingspan and exceptional strength, Ezeli's interior presence can provide some easy buckets at the rim and reliable defensive rim protection.
Ezeli doesn't need to score to give the Warriors valuable minutes.
3. Evan Fournier, Denver Nuggets
Evan Fournier played well for Denver down the stretch of the regular season, and made an impact in the team's Game 1 win over Golden State.
He scored 11 in the victory, playing the combo guard role while taking advantage of his ball-handling skills and size. Fournier can slither his way to the rack or stop and pop in the mid-range, and can give opposing guards trouble because of his versatility as a playmaker.
Though he hasn't shot the ball well lately, he knocked down 40 percent of his threes during the regular season and should be regarded as a threat whenever he's on the floor.
The Nuggets lost Games 2 and 3 without Fournier getting more than 13 minutes, so look for George Karl to give his 2012 first-round pick some more time as the series progresses.
2. Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks
Pablo Prigioni's stats might not jump out at you, but his motor and savvy IQ do when watching him play.
He's the type of guy who can impact a game without taking a shot.
I've watched Prigioni all year and can honestly say he's one of the sneakiest, most clever players in the league. He hustles defensively, getting his hands in passing lanes, poking balls away and coming up with steals that the offense never sees coming. He racked up five of them in Game 3 against the Celtics.
This is a guy who makes the extra pass, knocks down the open shot, handles the ball, spreads the floor and defends with passion.
With Prigioni in the lineup, the Knicks are a more efficient team on both sides of the ball. He got 30 minutes in Game 3 because of his effectiveness throughout, and coach Mike Woodson has felt comfortable leaving the 35-year-old rookie in the starting lineup.
Clearly, Prigioni is not your typical NBA rookie.
1. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Harrison Barnes has been huge for Golden State during Round 1 against Denver, which is ironic because of his struggles during the postseason as a college player at UNC.
He's been shooting it lights out from downtown during the series so far, now 7-of-12 from long range in the first three games.
Barnes went for 24 points in a Game 2 win and followed up with 19 in a classic Game 3 to help give the Warriors a 2-1 series lead.
He really has all the tools to excel as an offensive player, considering his size, athleticism and skill set for a wing. Barnes looks like a true pro when he's working the pull-up and step-back mid-range jumper.
With David Lee out, Golden State really needs him to step up as the offense's No. 3 scoring option. So far so good.