As we inch closer to the All-Star break, we mark the halfway point in the first year of the 2010 rookie class. Drafted to make a significant impact on their respective teams, most of these rookies have had a decent amount of time to show what they are capable of, their heart and their determination.
Some guys have made the grade. Others have fallen flat.
Note: Ratings are given based on the rookies' performances within their given situations and allotted minutes. While some guys find themselves in worse situations than others, their ability to contribute to their teams despite their limited minutes and improvement throughout the first half of the season are taken into consideration.
This is by no means a rating of future potential, but accumulated performances thus far.
1. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards
Though he has battled knee tendonitis throughout the year, when Wall has been able to stay on the court he has shined. Averaging 15.4 points and 9.1 assists per game, Wall has proven himself worthy of the Wizards' first overall draft pick.
The only things stifling his overall efficiency are a low shooting percentage and a semi-high turnover rate. However, much of this could probably be attributed to his inability to get into a consistent shooting rhythm, constantly coming on and off the court do to injuries.
Regardless, it has been proven the Wizards are a better team with him on the court than without. As Wall recovers from his tendonitis, the overall flow to his game will improve, helping him become a more consistent scorer and better passer.
Barring injury or further setbacks with his knee, I think Wall could soon be putting up 17.5 points per game while maintaining his 9.1 assists average. While I think Wall's shooting percentage will increase as he plays more, his scoring will be capped by Rashard Lewis' presence in the offense. This might even mean the number of shots he takes a game will be lower, but as he shoots more effectively, his points will go up a bit.
2. Evan Turner, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers
Evan Turner has struggled this year, both getting significant playing time and playing well when he gets it. His moment to shine came earlier this year when Andre Iguodala went down with a strained Achilles tendon. However, Turner was inconsistent as a starter, unable to put up double-digit games more than twice in a row. He soon saw his minutes decline until Iguodala's inevitable return, and was quickly relegated back the bench.
Turner has only scored 20-plus points once this season, and has only shot 39.5 percent from the field. While this may be partly attributed to the inconsistency of his minutes, Turner needs to continue to develop his NBA IQ, learning when to take shots and when to feed it to his teammates.
While I'd love to see Evan Turner find his game while playing backup to Iguodala, I don't really think he'll do much to improve his overall stat line in the second half. While his athleticism helped him dominate the college game, Turner still has much to learn about how to play in the NBA, and how to best use his athleticism to dominate. I see Turner as a long-term project for the Sixers, but I think he'll come around in the upcoming years.
Unlike a lot of writers out there, however, I don't think it would be in his or the Sixers' best interests to send him down to the D-League. I think his experience in the NBA is invaluable, and his one-on-one time with Iguodala can only help him improve. If the Sixers truly want him to become a star, they'll have to be patient with his development.
3. Derrick Favors, PF, New Jersey Nets
Derrick Favors has been another guy who has yet to perform to his fullest in the NBA. Drafted third overall by the Nets, the franchise hoped he could dominate with Brook Lopez down low. However, Favors has been slow to develop coming off the bench for the Nets, and has been largely unproductive with the minutes he has been given.
Favors has had trouble creating his own shot even in college, so it's no surprise he has struggled in his rookie season in the NBA.
While he has grabbed five rebounds a game in a little over 18 minutes of work, much of this is because Brook Lopez has been such a horrible rebounder this season. As a result, Favors has benefited from Lopez's inability to grab the boards.
Also hurting Favors is the Nets' general lack of identity under new coach Avery Johnson. As Johnson continues to work and develop his team, however, the quality of play for the team as a whole should improve dramatically.
Until Favors and the Nets gain confidence in his ability to play, Favors will remain an unproductive, undeveloped member of the bench. Considering how poorly the Nets have played thus far this season, if I were Derrick Favors, I would do what I could to dominate every game I played, as much as the coaches would let me. Favors needs to learn not only in practice, but in a live game, what he can do and what he can't in the NBA.
4. Wesley Johnson, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Johnson was quickly inserted into the Timberwolves starting lineup early into the season. While he has proven largely inconsistent, Johnson has put together some strong performances against quality opponents: he scored 18 points with four threes against Atlanta, 15 points shooting 71 percent and three blocks against San Antonio and 24 points with six threes in a win against New Orleans.
Noticeably absent from Johnson's stat line is the rebounding. He currently is only averaging 2.9 rebounds a game, tiny for a guy who had more than his fair share of the boards in college. For a guy who was compared to a young Shawn Marion-type in the preseason, Johnson has fallen flat in rebounding. While Kevin Love fantasy owners love his massive rebounding nights, Johnson should really be doing more to help.
The biggest thing going for Wesley Johnson this season seems to be his slightly above-average perimeter scoring. Like JR Smith, when Johnson gets hot, the threes come constantly. However, when he's not, Johnson's efficiency is killed by his inability to create his own shot off the dribble, and as a result, get to the free-throw line.
Because of his inconsistency, Johnson has seen his minutes drop as of late, giving Corey Brewer the opportunity to possibly retake the starting position. Brewer seems to be the safer option here for Minnesota, playing more consistently when given 20 or more minutes of playing time. Also, Brewer seems to make a stronger case on the defensive end, amassing steals and creating turnovers when he's on the court.
As a result, I think Johnson's 8.9 points and 2.9 rebounds a game are going to stay where they are.
5. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings
Passed over by New Jersey, Cousins has performed beautifully for the Kings this season. While his role as a starter or bench player was a bit undecided to begin the season, Cousins has found himself a key member of the roster, playing significant minutes both in the starting lineup and coming off the bench.
With his position as a starter solidified as of late, Cousins has averaged 17.4 points per game in the month of January, to go along with 7.9 rebounds per game. His ability to create his own shot and even play with his back to the basket has contributed to his success so far, and as he improves, Cousins proves to be an even more dangerous member of the Kings roster.
Cousins has proven his detractors wrong, playing extremely well thus far. As the season goes on, he continues to improve his game, playing smart basketball. While he needs to improve his shooting percentage, Cousins has shown to be quite capable of getting to the free-throw line.
With Cousins' position in the starting lineup seemingly secured, I wouldn't be surprised to see him consistently produce 17 points and nine rebounds a game. Samuel Dalembert hasn't been nearly the scoring threat Cousins has been, and as a result, will get less playing time on a regular basis. Cousins' fate is entirely in his own hands, and if he can continue to perform while keeping his cool on a losing Kings team, he'll finish out the season well.
6. Ekpe Udoh, PF, Golden State Warriors
Ekpe Udoh has seen very little action with the Warriors, battling a wrist injury at the start of the season. While a big rebounder and shot-blocker with Baylor, Udoh has yet to shine in his first NBA year. The most rebounds he has grabbed in a game thus far has been only seven against the Houston Rockets, though he has put together several three-block games.
Splitting time with Louis Amundson off the bench, it's unclear when we'll ever see Udoh really perform. David Lee has been solid this season in the power forward spot, and Andris Biedrins is back from injury. Udoh seems to be like another Brandon Wright for the Warriors; another drafted power forward lost in the mix.
The biggest things Udoh has going for him are his massive frame and wingspan, and his incredible work ethic. While he could afford to bulk up to compete against opponent power forwards and centers, his 7'4" wingspan makes him a formidable shot-blocker.
Expect more of the same from Udoh, as little as that may be. David Lee's just too pivotal to the Warriors offense for him to come off the court for any significant time for Ekpe Udoh. Also, Amundson seems to be the more aggressive rebounder off the bench, and until Udoh can get as physical grabbing the boards, expect his production to continue to be limited.
7. Greg Monroe, PF/C, Detroit Pistons
What player has the most potential to turn around his performances in the second half of the season?
Greg Monroe's long-awaited rise to success has finally arrived in the month of January. A big-bodied power forward and center, I was sure he would be able to take the starting position from an aging Ben Wallace much earlier in the season, but it was not meant to be.
Regardless, in the eight games this month, Greg Monroe has shown a great balance of scoring and rebounding. And while he hasn't been the greatest shot-blocker, his defensive presence has been felt in his impressive 41 steals.
His time with Ben Wallace has certainly shown in the maturity of his game. Monroe has cleared up on both ends of the court, successfully grabbing both offensive and defensive boards. And while I mentioned he hasn't blocked many shots, he does a good job at challenging shots on defense. In fact, being left-handed has its advantages, as it helps a left-handed player challenge right-handed shots more easily.
Monroe needs to work on his passing, however. A decent passer in college, if he could start averaging his college 3.8 assists per game in the NBA, Monroe could be a much more complete player.
With Monroe's move to a starter seemingly permanent, his production should rise considerably. I think he could easily average 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. And if he could work on his post defense and get a few more blocked shots, it would be an added bonus. Monroe has shown he can be a smart, versatile player, and the more NBA experience he gets, the better he will become.
8. Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Los Angeles Clippers
Al-Farouq Aminu has found the majority of his success as a starter in November, before dropping off into oblivion shortly thereafter. Lately his performances have been spotty, having lost minutes and faith from Vinny Del Negro.
I actually think Aminu is a better play at the small forward position than Ryan Gomes. He's a more consistent shooter and better on D. Also, I think the energy he brings to the court simply cannot be matched by Gomes, who would prefer to take the jump shot than put the ball on the court.
But I think the biggest thing Aminu brings is his ability to rebound the ball. He has a massive 7'3" wingspan and is active on both sides of the court. And while most of the rebounds are dominated by DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, Aminu's ability to clean up the leftovers helps minimize opponents' second-chance opportunities.
I think Aminu can make a second run at the starting spot for all the reasons I mentioned above. On top of that, Gomes seems to have struggled with his shot as of late, and if Aminu can prove to be the more reliable scorer, he can quickly solidify his spot in the lineup.
9. Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, Utah Jazz
Hayward has done a lot of nothing in his time with Utah. Though he hasn't gotten many minutes on a per-game basis, he has put up a horrendous amount of zeroes in the box score.
For a guy who was a pretty consistent scorer with Butler, Hayward has been anything but with the Jazz. His one good game this season, 17 points, three threes and six rebounds against the Clippers, came back in December in 43 minutes worth of work.
There really isn't much more to say here; Hayward has been essentially a bust for a top 10 draft pick.
Hayward hasn't really shown me or Jerry Sloan much to believe he'll suddenly have an increase in his production. His minutes can't really even fall much further, unless Sloan keeps him glued to the bench.
10. Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers
George didn't get much playing time early in the season, being inactive for almost the entire December. Lately, however, he has shown to be capable of scoring despite the limited minutes he's receiving. His ability to hit the three is nice to see, and he has shot for pretty good percentage in his last eight games.
George has shown the potential to make a contribution to the Pacers on and off, but he'll need to step up his consistency if he wants to be given a steady amount of minutes. The Pacers are relatively deep in the number of guys who can play at small forward, and George will have to prove a lot to stand out from amongst the crowd.
The rise in George's production in his last eight games makes me think we might see a slight rise in his overall numbers, but nothing significant. I think his points will stay in the 7-8 range, but he definitely won't be hitting double digits on a nightly basis. I think his minutes will level out eventually as well, making for more consistent play from the young SF.
Look for mid-year evaluations for draft numbers 11-20 next week.
Also, my "NBA Fantasy Filler No. 5" will be postponed until Thursday or Friday.
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