Year after year the NBA holds the annual Rookie vs Sophomore game on the Friday leading into all star weekend.
In this article I want to take a closer look at the participants in the game and give my own review on their season so far and also my prediction on how they will fare in the game later this evening.
Brandon Jennings - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings started out the season on incredible hot streak and set the league on fire with his outstanding 55 point game in which he poured in the (Milwaukee franchise rookie record) points in only third quarters of action. The knock coming into the league for Jennings was that he was not only small but he could not shoot well enough for defenses to respect him.
He is proving everyone including myself wrong as he is shooting only 37% from the field but is shooting a more respectable 38% from three point land. Jennings has had to take a bunch of the scoring load on his own shoulders as Michael Redd is out for the season with an ACL injury and outside of Ersan Ilyasova,Luke Ridnour and Andrew Bogut, there are not many offensive weapons on a consistent basis.
Jennings also has possessed a knack for passing the ball as expected as he leads rookies in assists with 6.2 APG, and is the sure fire energizer that the Bucks need in order to stay competitive throughout the season. Jennings has recently been in a slump which have dropped his numbers down to 17 PPG, as teams have learned how to play Jennings more effectively and know that there are not many other threats on the team therefore focusing on switching every time Jennings rolls to the basket. Jennings will have to learn to fight through this stretch if Milwaukee has any chance at the playoffs in the east.
Rookie/Sophomore expectations : Jennings will look to get every one involved often as he can score on occasion but I look more for Jennings to break into the box score with his high assist numbers more so then lights out scoring. Stat Line : 12pts and 16 assists.
Tyreke Evans - G - Sacramento Kings
Evans is the clear front runner right now in the Rookie of the Year race as he has displayed a mixture of solid athleticism and ability to play off the ball and dominate when he has it in his hands. Teammate Kevin Martin has been out for most of the season, which has allowed Evans more freedom to score. Evans likes to use his size and strength to get inside on defenders quickly and often, and he is averaging 20 points per game on 46% shooting from the field but is limited on the outside only shooting 26%. He is also second in assists at 5.1 per game.
Evans has also recently had struggles as he has been hurt and with the return of Kevin Martin, he has also lost touches and doesn't control the ball as much. It will be interesting to see how it shapes out with both Evans and Martin in the back court as Evans is clearly more of a shooting guard than a point guard and it may cause a trade of Martin in the future.
Rookie/Sophomore expectations: Evans will look to rest his body but don't let that fool you when it comes to the chance of stealing the show for a chance at a rookie team win, as he is a scorer and will look to do it early and often. Stat Line: 23pts and 5 assists
Stephen Curry - G - Golden State Warriors
Curry has done exactly what I thought he would do when he was drafted. He scores and does it at a high rate. As evident of the triple double he posted earlier this week (36 points,10 rebounds,13 assists), he is on a fast pace to challenge Tyreke Evans for the Rookie of the Year award, but the only trouble is that he has Don Nelson as his coach and Monta Ellis controlling the ball along with Corey Maggette being a Tunnel Vision type player.
Curry looks to create for himself but has a keen sense of how to put his teammates in good position to score but he must learn to not force the issue as often as he did in college. He is shooting outstanding this season as he is averaging 15 points per game and is firing 43% from three-point land, although he could improve his 46% from the field. He does put up a respectable five assists per game and often is the main facilitator for the lowly Warriors. He will also be competing in the three-point contest and I hope he fares better than his dad (Dell Curry) did when he was invited in 1992 and 1994 (11 total in 1992 and 12 total in 1994).
Rookie/Sophomore expectation : Curry will look for quite a warm up session for the 3pt contest and I think it will be a 3pt battle between him and teammate Anthony Morrow for most three pointers ever made in the contest.Stat Line: 34pts and 6 assists.
Jonny Flynn - G - Minnesota Timberwolves
Flynn has surprised me this season as I thought he would of had more trouble in gaining the starting job as easily as he has so far. Flynn came in to the league with a chip on his shoulder. Ricky Rubio was also drafted by the T-wolves and was told he would be the starter when he decides to come over from Spain. That has left Flynn with a determination to prove his doubters wrong. Flynn is learning a new offense (the Triangle) under Coach Kurt Rambis and has struggled with his shot as he is only shooting 41% from the field and a average 34% from three, while dishing four assists per game.
Flynn is used to a quick pick and roll and often relies on his heart and hustle to get buckets quickly in the lane. He will have to improve his mid range shooting in order to truly be effective and keep the T-Wolves with a believe that he can co-exist when Rubio decides to join the club.
Rookie/Sophomore expectation : Expect a few high flying dunks and quick buckets by the speedy guard. Stat Line: 16pts and 4 assists.
James Harden - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Harden has been effective in the sporadic minutes that he has received this season. He is averaging 9.7 points per game and is shooting only 38% from the field, but it is his hustle and defense that keeps him on the floor. He is just getting comfortable in playing at such a high tempo and will only get better as the Thunder try to steam roll into the playoffs, which is a realistic possibility.
Rookie/sophomore expectation: Harden will get a few cheap buckets but like in Oklahoma City, he will defer to his teammates and will scrap on defense (what little will be displayed). Stat Line 11pts and 3 assists
Jonas Jerebko - F - Detroit Pistons
The 6'10 Sweden has been a major surprise to everyone this season as he has not only cracked the rotation, but he has started most of the season and has not disappointed. Jerebko has the ability to play both forward spots and has earned more time with his rebounding skills (5.7 RPG) and his hustle on both ends of the floor and he also is shooting 47% from the field. He even hits the occasional 3pt shot when needed. Jerebko's defense needs work but it is already better than many expected.
Rookie/sophomore expectation: Jonas will puck up all the dirty work and will look for rebounds and the put backs. Stat Line: 8pts and 10 rebounds
Taj Gibson - F - Chicago Bulls
Gibson has been a consistent big man presence for Chicago this season and has been very effective next to Joakim Noah as he has averaged eight points per games,coupled with a very efficient 6.4 rebounds per game. Gibson has battled Planter Fascitis for the last few weeks which has limited his production value but will look to rest it the next few days in order to capitalize on the second half of the season.
Rookie/sophomore expectation: Taj is limited with a foot injury and will play only spot minutes instead allowing himself to heal for the second half of the season. Stat Line: 4pts and 4 rebounds
Omri Casspi - F - Sacramento Kings
Casspi (the Israeli Assassin) is producing at an effective rate on early on for Sacramento and is a fresh change of pace player who can facilitate his own offense and well as create for others if needed. He is an effective player who uses his craft well as he shoots 47% from the field and 38% from 3pt land but also pulls down five boards per game.
Casspi has recently regressed a little as his volume of shots has decreased since the return of Kevin Martin but he also used the decrease in shots to utilize his other skills such as rebounding and creativity for others.
Rookie/sophomore expectation: Casspi will look to score effectively and hoist three-point shots at will in a game suited for him as defense is sparse. Stat Line: 18pts and 7 rebounds.
Dajuan Blair - F/C - San Antonio Spurs
Blair fell into the Spurs laps last June as teams were concerned with his many knee issues and felt like he could not be as effective with the lingering issues. But that couldn't be further from the truth as he has been a major contributor for the aging team. Blair is very effective this season in a role as the glue guy who comes off the bench and spots starts, he utilizes his incredible rebounding ability (6.5 rebounds in only 18MPG) and uses that to create his scoring chances as put backs and dunks are his main weapons on the offensive end of the floor(averaging eight points per game).
Blair is not a flashy player but fills a major need for San Antonio and will be a force for the future on the front line as he will look to gain major minutes come the second half of the season.
Rookie/sophomore expectation: Hustle plays and rebounding will be Blair's main contribution. Stat Line: 14pts and 22 rebounds.
O.J. Mayo - G - Memphis Grizzlies
Mayo is in his second season and although he is not the first or second option on his team, he is still an explosive scorer who can fill it up in bunches. Mayo is shooting an effective 37% from 3pt land and often controls the offense but only dishes three assists per games. Mayo has deferred the offensive load to Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay but if Memphis has a chance at the playoffs this season, a lot will be at the growth of Mayo as a leader and the ability to close out games effectively.
Rookie/sophomore expectation: Mayo will look to score above anything else but with so many options on the team, I think he will only put up decent but not eye popping numbers. Stat Line: 18pts 4 assists.
Eric Gordon - G - Los Angeles Clippers
Gordon is an explosive guard who can get his points easily through a wide array of shooting and driving to the basket. He is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 37 percent from three while leading the way along with Chris Kaman and Baron Davis for the inconsistent Clippers team. Gordon also brings it on the defensive end with two steals per game and is often guarding the elite guards on the opposing teams nightly. Gordon in my opinion will still turn out to be the most effective scorer in the draft class in two through three years.
Rookie/Sophomore expectation: 21pts and 4 steals.
Russell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook has been very effective in his second season. Regarded as a defensive guard when he came out of UCLA,he has brought many intangibles to the young Thunder squad. Westbrook dishes out a very effective 7.5 assists per game and keeps defenders on their toes with his blinding speed and athleticism.
While being effective in those areas, he also needs to work on a few things. Turnovers and low shooting percentage have plagued Westbrook since he has been in the league (3.2 turnovers per game, while shooting 40 percent from the field), which comes from his flashy style and should be a point of emphasis going into the second half of the season as the Thunder push their way toward their first playoff appearance.
Rookie/sophomore expectation: Westbrook will bring highlight plays early and often while being one of the few who defend in the game. Stat Line: 12pts and 8 assists.
Anthony Morrow - G - Golden State Warriors
Morrow is a very effective shooter as he led the league in three point % last season at 47% and is fourth this season at 45%, but is limited to injuries this season as well as the inability to consistently create for himself as he is often limited to spot up opportunities. Morrow replaced Derrick Rose in the game, as Rose was selected to the All-Star Team.
Rookie/Sophomore expectation : Morrow will look to shoot it often from outside and has a chance to break the three pointers made in a game record. Stat Line : 26pts and 2 assists.
Danilo Gallinari - F - New York Knicks
Danilo has fully recovered from last season's back surgery and has been along, with David Lee, the bright spots for the underachieving Knicks this season. Danilo has great range on his shot and is not shy from the outside as he leads the league in three point attempts (326) and makes (131), good for 40% from outside. Danilo has the ability to create for himself as well putting the ball on the floor when his shooting is off and has recently become an effective rebounder at five rebounds per game.
Rookie/Sophomore expectation :Danilo will look to shoot often from three point territory as he warms up for Saturday's three point contest where he labeled himself the winner. Stat Line: 18pts and 4 rebounds.
Kevin Love - F - Minnesota Timberwolves
Love has battled an injured hand this season but has been a tremendous bright spot for the young T-Wolves as he has been a consistent scorer off the bench as the sixth man. Love is a constant threat at both scoring and on the boards (15 points per game, 11 rebounds per game) and will only get better as he learns the Triangle offense and gains substantial minutes.
Rookie/Sophomore expectation: Love will put up his normal double double numbers. Stat Line : 16pts and 15 rebounds.
Michael Beasley - F - Miami Heat
Beasley will look to showcase his natural athleticism and ability to run the floor, as he will be an effective weapon for the Sophomore team. Beasley is starting to come into his own this season after much distraction early on in his career. Beasley is still not at the point where he can effectively take over a game or even finish out one for that matter, but the sky is the limit for him and his scoring potential as he is scoring a pedestrian 15 points per game and pulling down seven boards a game.
Beasley will look to become an increased option in the offense for the second half of the season in hopes that he will help lead the Miami Heat into the playoffs and force an upset.
Rookie expectation : He has a strong chance to take home MVP honors as he will look to score often. Stat Line: 27pts and 10 rebounds.
Brook Lopez - C - New Jersey Nets
Lopez has been the lone bright spot for the awful New Jersey Nets this season. Ge has improved in every category this season and will only get better as the season progresses and will be a building block for the Nets as the move into Brooklyn in two years. He combines a effective mid range game with toughness down low to score 19 points per game and pull down nine rebounds.
Often times he brings it on defense as he blocks shots at a good rate (1.9 blocks per game) and sets the tone for the game but just does not have enough of a supporting cast to be better recognized yet. That will change for next season as the pieces build around him effectively.
Rookie/Sophomore expectation: Lopez will be effective down low and look to rebound often. Stat Line: 12pts and 12 rebounds.
Marc Gasol - C - Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol, who was thought to be a laughable afterthought when he was traded for brother Pau Gasol, has come into his own this season as very effective low post presence for the Grizzlies. Gasol is scoring 15 points per game on 58% shooting and pulls down 9.5 boards a game, teaming with the revitalized Zach Randolph as front court options on the much improved Memphis team.
Rookie/Sophomore Expectation: Gasol will not be counted on to provide much scoring and will just focus on the glass and blocks. Stat Line: 8pts and 11 rebounds with 3 blocks.
All in all it will be exciting to watch tonight, with a win going to the Sophomores as the easily defeat the outmatched rookies with a final score of 158 - 140.
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