Teenage Phenoms: 10 NBA Players Who Could Take Home Rookie of the Year

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IOctober 14, 2010

Teenage Phenoms: Ten NBA Players who Could Take Home Rookie of The Year.

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    With two weeks left until the start of the season and teams beginning to cut down on their roster to create the team they think will bring them to a postseason, a number of teams are just hoping their newly-acquired rookies taken from this past June's draft can show them promise.

    The average NBA rookie has a tremendous amount of pressure bestowed upon him when being initially drafted.

    While players taken in the late first and second round don't have as much to worry about it considering they usually join an already-proven team, the top ten draft picks have the most amount of pressure on them, as their franchise expects nothing but greatness from them from the start.

    With Derrick Rose leading the Chicago Bulls and Kevin Durant leading the Oklahoma City Thunder, the expectations only continue to grow for the recent draft picks. Cellar dwellers now expect their high draft pick to begin to take them to the promise land of the postseason that has eluded a number of these teams for years, and even decades.

    Eight of the past 10 Rookie of the Years have already either proven themselves, or are on the road to having a lavish career of stardom.

    The other two are Mike Miller and Emeka Okafor. They haven't exactly had as good a career as say LeBron James or Amare Stoudemire, but are still quality role players on playoff-bound teams.

    This 2010 draft class will be no different, as teams such as the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers will be heavily relying on their draft picks to bring them postseason glory in the future.

    With 60 players drafted from 2010, and one from 2009 that has yet to play, in no particular order, here are 10 players who have the best shot of taking home NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

1. Blake Griffin

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    Blake Griffin might officially be entering his second season in the league.

    But at the moment, he's probably got the best shot out of any rookie taken in the 2010 draft to win Rookie of the Year this upcoming 2010-'11 season.

    Griffin was a highly-touted University of Oklahoma forward taken with the No. 1 pick last season by the Los Angeles Clippers. He was expected to end obscurity for the Clippers franchise until he landed wrong on his left leg after a dunk in a preseason game and suffered a stress fracture in his left knee to put him out for several weeks.

    Blake was the Summer League MVP prior to the injury.

    In his last year in college, he won the Associated Press, Naismith Award, John Wooden Award, and Sporting News Player of the Year Award for the 2008-'09 season. His ridiculous work around the net also broke the record for most double-doubles in a season by a Sooner with 30.

    Blake has already put in work over this preseason with a number of double-doubles. He scored 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a win over the Sacramento Kings and dropped 13 points and grabbing 17 caroms in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, where he was paired against Tim Duncan for most of the night.

    He also scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a loss against the Golden State Warriors.

    Needless to say, Griffin will probably have no trouble living up to expectations, as he has already begun to prove himself as a quality post presence on the offensive and defensive side of the court.

    He'll be the expected starter at power forward, and the Los Angeles Clippers will be heavily relying on Griffin for scoring and rebounding to help the team to an eluded postseason and a possible deep run in the years to come.

2. Evan Turner

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    The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off their worst season in nearly 15 years after finishing 27-55.

    The year following their last sub-30 win season, they took Allen Iverson with the first pick in the draft. This past draft, they took Evan Turner with the second pick.

    Philly will no doubt hope that Turner brings the same success that Iverson brought with him.

    The former Ohio State standout is coming off a career junior year where he won the 2010 National Player of the Year award, as well as Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player and the conference's player of the year while also being selected as an All-American on the first team. Turner also became the first men's basketball player in NCAA history to finish in the top two in scoring and rebounding in his respective conference.

    Turner has a multi-dimensional offensive game, where he could score from inside and out while holding a significant size advantage over other shooting guard's as he is 6'7" and 210 pounds. Much like former Rookie of the Year winner Brandon Roy, if Evan could utilize his athletic ability to his advantage, then the 76ers could expect a lot of offense in their future.

    In the four preseason games he has played in, Turner has yet to impress. In his first game, he hit only 1 of 6 from the field, but ended up going to the line for 12 free throws, which is possibly the most important aspect of his game.

    The next game wasn't any better, as he hit only 1 of 8. His third game was possibly his best, as he started for the first time and finished with a near quadruple-double at 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and six steals.

    Evan might be expected to start in the near future if Philly continues to shop Andre Iguodala, but for now he is a backup who will be expected to grow until the 76ers are ready to start him.

3. Derrick Favors

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    The New Jersey Nets might have finished 12-70 last year and flirted with the possibility of becoming the worst statistical team in NBA history.

    The last thing the Nets will have to worry about this season will be the possibility of having to pass the 10-win plateau again. The offseason acquisitions of Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, and Travis Outlaw were impressive, but none were possibly more effective for the future than taking athletic oddity Derrick Favors with the third pick.

    Favors averaged 13 points on 62-percent shooting, eight rebounds, and two blocks as a standout with the Yellow Jackets as a freshman, and was named ACC Rookie of the Year for his contributions with the team.

    His free-throw shooting could desperately use some work however as he only averaged 63 percent from the charity stripe. Nonetheless, Derrick's athletic ability allowed him to average two blocks per game as a power forward, while showing off a powerful knack for rebounding.

    His overall offensive game could use some needed work to become a more well-rounded player, but at only 19, he only has upside to grow and learn as a player. He'll also be under the guidance of veterans in Joe Smith and Troy Murphy, who could teach Favors how to develop an offensive game.

    Like Turner, Favors has had a less-than-stellar preseason so far, with his lone quality game coming against the 76ers. He scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his first game as a starter in 26 minutes.

    His other three games were terrible, as he tallied 11 fouls in his first two games and then went 0 for 4 in his fourth game.

    It is still only preseason, however, and Derrick will take this as a lesson learned as he continues to grow into the quality player that he is expected to become.

4. Wesley Johnson

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    Wesley Johnson is an interesting case, as he is by and far the oldest member of the 2010 draft class at 23 years old.

    While entering the league at 23 might have been an ordinary practice 10 years ago, it has actually become a liability to have a player join the team at that age in his first year. It could still greatly be a positive, as he learned much more than any other player who skips their sophomore, junior or senior season.

    In his time at Syracuse, Johnson was the team leader, as he led the team to a No. 1 seed in this past NCAA tournament before falling to eventual runner up Butler. Johnson led the team last season at 17 points and nine rebounds per game, while also hitting nearly two three-pointers per game on 42-percent shooting and hitting 51 percent overall.

    While the 17 points per game is promising, Johnson has a lot to develop in the NBA as he has had trouble in developing his own shot at the college level. Spot-up shooting is a strong feature for any NBA player, but if Johnson wants to lead the Timberwolves, he will need to learn to create his own shot rather than looking for open opportunities from his teammates.

    On a team like the Timberwolves, they could use all the help they can get. They'll need it from Johnson, who has the ability to explode of the offensive side of the court.

    His superior three-point shooting also gives him a wider range to shoot from anywhere on the court. Minnesota nearly finished at the bottom of the league in three-point shooting at only five per game.

    Johnson could see himself behind the three-point league for a good part of the season, as the T'Wolves strive for some sort of scoring output.

    Wesley has been as stable as any other top-five draft pick, with three quality outings in three games, including scoring 16 points in only 19 minutes off the bench in a win over the Denver Nuggets.

    He also hit three of five from beyond the arc, giving the Wolves even more reason to possibly play Johnson even more.


5. James Anderson

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    James Anderson could be considered a longshot after he was drafted 20th overall by the San Antonio Spurs, but if there's anything we know about the Spurs, is that they know how to draft.

    Just ask David Robinson, Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair.

    Anderson was an offensive juggernaut in his time at Oklahoma State, and finished off his final year at the NCAA level averaging 22 points per game on 46 percent from the field. He also hit over two three-pointer's per game on 34-percent shooting.

    James was highly touted coming into the draft, but suffered a hamstring injury during a workout and saw his stock fall.

    The Spurs were ready to take the risk by drafting the 6'6" guard/forward, and are now prepared to start him. Barring coach Gregg Popovich doesn't start Manu Ginobili in his place at the two spot.

    In his time at OSU, Anderson was a member of the 1st team All-Big 12, the Big 12 Player of the Year, and received a nomination as a First Team Sporting News All-American.

    As you can tell by his stats, Anderson is a multi-dimensional scorer who can hit from just about anywhere on the court. In his short time with the Spurs, he has received little minutes and hasn't had too much of a chance to prove himself, as he has come off the bench in all three preseason games thus far.

    He did have a very well-rounded game against the Miami Heat, when he finished with six points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks.

    James will be a longshot for the Rookie of the Year award come next summer. But the Spurs have had no trouble in developing their draft picks over the past two decades.

    With Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair joining Anderson, the Spurs might be able to fill the shoes that Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Ginobili will soon leave behind.

6. DeMarcus Cousins

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    The Western Conference is set to be on notice.

    With teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets currently controlling the upper tiers, there is a team in northern California that is almost ready to crash the party.

    That northern California team can thank last year's draft pick in Tyreke Evans for leading the brigade. They might thank DeMarcus Cousins in advance for helping to keep the momentum.

    It shouldn't be that hard for Cousins, who is coming off a career season at the University of Kentucky where he used his enormous 6-foot-11, 270-pound frame to control the paint.

    Cousins averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in his lone season with the Wildcats, as he helped John Wall lead the team to the Elite Eight of last year's NCAA tournament.

    DeMarcus was a force in the middle, as he helped will the Wildcats to a number of wins by committing opposing players to steer clear from the paint and away from his 7.5-foot wingspan.

    Unlike most NBA centers, DeMarcus actually has an offensive game to work with. He has excellent hands, and even has a mid-range shot to go along with his already elite post up game.

    Not to mention, he has the footwork to go with it, and can confuse opposing centers with his ability to be multi-dimensional. A healthy center with an offensive game is one of the strongest advantages a team can hold, and the Kings might have lucked out by taking Cousins fifth.

    Before the season even started, Cousins was winning awards in the NBA, as he took home July's Rookie of the Month for his outstanding summer league play. He has transitioned it into the preseason as well, with five quality outings out of five games that includes a 16-point and 16-rebound debut against the Phoenix Suns.

    He has had a double-double in three of the games as the Kings' starting center.

    With Samuel Dalembert ailing, Cousins might have the open door to take home the Rookie of the Year award, as he gets a better chance than many to win.

    With the way he's throwing his body around so far, I don't think he, or the Kings, should have any problems in the future.

7. Paul George

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    The man with two first names might not have been a household name during his time at Fresno State.

    But by the end of the 2010-11 season, Paul George might become a household name across the country and most prominently in the state of Indiana.

    George is coming off of a premier season at Fresno State, where he led the team with 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals per game. Paul also showed off impressive range to go along with a quality shot and hit two three-pointers per game on 35-percent shooting.

    His overall shooting percentage was a lowly 42 percent, which could be cause for concern.

    The Pacers will be very pleased with George as a three-point shooter, as it takes the load off of Danny Granger, who averaged an absurd seven three-point attempts last season. A starting role could come soon if Mike Dunleavy, Jr. continues to disappoint.

    The 6'9" Dunleavy has played most of his career as a small forward, and has been playing as a shooting guard in the preseason, but has so far seen little success. If George can take advantage of the opportunity, he might find himself in the starting spot on a rebuilding Pacers squad.

    After three terribly off nights to start the preseason as he shot 3 for 21 in his first three games, George had an impressive fourth outing in a 98-96 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves where he scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in 24 minutes.

    He also hit two three-pointers to support the Pacers in a winning effort.

    It was Paul's first game where he received a substantial amount of minutes, and he was able to take advantage of it with his first double-digit scoring output of the preseason. 

    Dunleavy only scored nine points in 30 minutes and George might just the spark that the Pacers need alongside Granger to make a postseason run.

8. John Wall

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    There haven't been as many rookies hyped as John Wall has over the offseason, and that could cause the demise of any rookie set to lead a franchise.

    Luckily for Wall, he has plenty of talent surrounding him on the Washington Wizards that he has less to worry about than the average No. 1 pick.

    In his time at the University of Kentucky, Wall was a nearly unstoppable force, as he could use his agility and quickness to drive against the stingiest of SEC defenses. In his lone year with the Wildcats, Wall averaged 17 points, seven assists, and five rebounds as the team's starting point guard.

    Wall was an offensive machine with the ball, as he had the choice to either drive and get the shot or go to the foul line or to pass to one of his many offensive weapons.

    He is turnover-prone at four per game, but he could see that change in his first NBA season, as he will share the ball-handling responsibilities with Gilbert Arenas. Wall and Arenas could clash when it comes to controlling the ball.

    Or they could mesh well and form one of most volatile, dangerous backcourts in the NBA and make basketball relevant again in D.C.

    John still needs a number of aspects to improve on, such as his weak jump shot and his limited range. But if he can maintain his ability to explode against NBA defenses like he did against his NCAA counterparts, then the Wizards will know they haven't made another mistake with the No. 1 pick, as they did nearly a decade earlier when they took Kwame Brown.

    Michael Jordan wasn't controlling the decision this time, so Washington will have little to worry about.

    Wall has been very impressive thus far in the four preseason games he has started in, and hasn't scored less than 11 points. His turnovers haven't posed too much of a problem thus far, as he has committed 11 in four games.

    But his assists have made up for it, and he posted a high of nine in his debut with the team, when he scored 21 points to go along with it.

    John Wall is one of the many front runners for the Rookie of the Year award, but the young man mostly has a postseason and making this Wizards team relevant again on his mind before anything else.

9. Gordon Hayward

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    The Utah Jazz might have lost out of their white, long-haired sharpshooter in Kyle Korver.

    But they had no trouble replacing him via the draft with a white, long-haired sharpshooter in Gordon Hayward out of Butler University.

    Hayward became a household name during last year's NCAA tournament, when he led his Cinderella Horizon League team to their first Final Four appearance. He was one buzzer-beating half-court shot away from securing the team's first NCAA Championship.

    Gordon averaged 16 points and eight rebounds in his final year at Butler, and made a lasting impact on the university in the process.

    Taken with the ninth pick in the draft, critics have already begun to say that Hayward was drafted extremely high and have labeled him as a bust in the making before even participating in a regular season game. His defense has also been accredited as being subpar, and his three-point shot was a dismal 29 percent in his final season at the NCAA level.

    Nevertheless, Hayward is still a dynamic jump shooter from within the arc, and put it on display by shooting 59 percent from within 25 feet. He has yet to transition that into the preseason and has not eclipsed double digits in three preseason games.

    His lone quality game came in his debut when he scored nine points on 2-of-5 shooting from the field and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc in 27 minutes.

    Gordon shouldn't expect to start soon as long as the Jazz still have Andrei Kirilenko. But if AK-47 can't remain healthy, which he hasn't over the past two seasons, then the door is open for Hayward, who will gladly take the starting spot.

    Hayward is expected to start in the team's next preseason game, and could use the experience in the starting lineup if given the opportunity to start in the near future.

10. Xavier Henry

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    On a Memphis Grizzlies team already chock full of athleticism and talent, Xavier Henry could be considered a longshot for Rookie of the Year.

    With the shooting guard and small forward position also filled by O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, Henry will need to put in serious work off the bench if he wants to take home the hardware come next summer.

    Henry is one of the youngest players at the NBA level at only 19 years old, but has already proved so much in his little time at the national level. As a member of the Kansas Jayhawks, Xavier quickly established himself as one of the higher-quality three-point shooters in the league.

    He hit nearly two three-pointers per game on an extremely impressive 42 percent. Couple that with the 13 points per game Henry averaged on the year, and you get a player worthy of a 12th pick.

    Xavier could be more well-rounded, as he only averaged four rebounds and two assists per game. But since he will be coming off the bench for the Grizzlies to begin with, Memphis will look to Henry as a spark off the bench who could hit three-pointers in a timely manner.

    A starting role will be out of reach for Henry at the moment, but he can compete with Sam Young for the backup shooting guard spot.

    In the Grizzlies four preseason games, Henry has started in one game, and has yet to eclipse double figures in any game thus far. He has been given a decent amount of minutes in each game as well, averaging 20 minutes of playing time.

    Henry will need to continue to prove himself if he wants to receive the minutes he's getting in the preseason, and will need to exceed expectations if he wants to win Rookie of the Year as well.

    Luckily for Henry, he joins an athletic, young team that is hungry for the postseason. Henry should have no trouble fitting in with the Grizzlies.

    His three-point shooting will be greatly appreciated, as Memphis finished dead last in three-point makes last season at only four per game.