NBA Midseason Report Card: Grading the Top 10 Rookies

Erik LandauCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2011

NBA Midseason Report Card: Grading the Top 10 Rookies

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    We are just past the midway point of the season and the young legs of these rookies will begin to be tested by the long NBA season.

    Some guys have shined as well as any youngsters of the past—others have struggled and will need extra seasoning to kick off their careers in a more plentiful fashion.

    Blake Griffin has been great and we all know that, but there are other players who are making their mark in their own right.

    John Wall has truly been a wizard with the basketball and other young players are using experience towards growth.

    Let's look at the ten best rookies so far this year and what type of grade they deserve based on their play.

10. Eric Bledsoe

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    The first of the dynamic freshman trio from Kentucky, Eric has been playing decently in his first season with Los Angeles.

    With the recent injury that hampered Baron Davis, Bledsoe was given a chance to show his mettle. Eric has averaged 7.0 points per game, while still averaging 4.0 assists per game and committing 2.4 turnovers per game. Not bad, considering he is a 19-year-old point guard who is just getting his feet wet.

    He also picks up a steal each game and that might become his forte to work on in the future.

    Grade: C

9. Evan Turner

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    Evan was quite the star during his tenure at Ohio State for three seasons, including winning the Player of the Year award in 2010. While he enjoyed success at the collegiate level, things haven't gone as smoothly on the professional one.

    Turner is only playing 24.5 minutes per game on a lackluster Sixers squad who can still play better than their record might indicate.

    Turner has only been shooting 39 percent from the field, which has led to a scoring average of just over 7 points per game (7.1). He is at least hitting the boards, averaging 4.5 per game, as a way of trying to round out his game.

    What keeps Turner relevant is that he is getting the chance to prove himself, something that many other rookies don't get. He hasn't been great—but good enough to be among the top ten.

    Grade: C

8. Paul George

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    Paul hasn't been amazing—he's been far from it. What the former Fresno State Bulldog has done though, is find a way to keep improving his game incrementally—enough so that he is challenging Brandon Rush for minutes on a lackadaisical Pacers squad.

    His stats are still low, but his strong showing against the Mavericks on January 12th gives some hope that he can keep improving.

    Grade: C-

7. Ed Davis

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    The former Tar Heel is beginning to get a feel for the professional ranks north of the border. In Toronto, Ed Davis is finally getting a chance to play and he's for the better because of it.

    He has only played in 27 games, but he is filling in nicely when given the chance. His 2.3 offensive rebounds per game (6.2 overall) are a nice bonus to go with his 56 percent field goal percentage.

    We'll see if this added time continues to mean more improved play.

    Grade: C

6. Greg Monroe

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    Greg is slowly learning to find his route to success in Detroit even if the standings don't show it.

    There have been many issues in Detroit related to the impending Carmelo Anthony trade with rotating starting lineups and role reductions/increases this season.

    Monroe is on his way up the board. He's only picked up 6.5 points a game, but he's playing the passing lanes as a big man, still nabbing a steal each game and keeping his turnovers low. Not great play so far, but solid enough.

    Grade: C

5. DeMarcus Cousins

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    Early on in the season, there was talk that DeMarcus might find himself down in the Developmental League.

    For all intents and purposes, that did not seem like a great choice, given the lack of success of the Kings. Cousins needed the experience of playing in the league and he has been providing better play over the last couple of weeks.

    DeMarcus has been a little foul-heavy and is only shooting 42 percent, which is somewhat frustrating to get out of a big man. He is also averaging four fouls per game and thus limiting his amount of time on the floor by being in foul trouble.

    Given all that however, he is still averaging 13 points and almost 8 rebounds per game.

    Grade: C+

4. Landry Fields

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    Landry is up just as the Knicks fortunes have been up so far this year.

    The former Stanford product and 39th overall pick is adjusting nicely to the pro game and showing it with solid play throughout the year.

    His ten points and seven boards a game are needed to fill the production that has just not been brought by the talented Anthony Randolph. He is also shooting 51 percent from the field which can help the fact that his last couple games have been rough.

    Grade: B+

3. Gary Neal

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    Neal has taken to shining in a spot that was not meant to shine.

    Following in the footsteps of DeJuan Blair in the previous season, he has gone from a player that no one was truly interested in, to a necessary piece in the Spurs puzzle.

    Neal has been hitting clutch shots throughout the year and has not been afraid to take them when needed. He is an old rookie (26 years old), but the Towson product has been impressive in his fill-in role.

    It will be of keen interest to see if he can keep it up on the team with the league's best record.

    Grade: B+

2. John Wall

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    It has been an up and down year so far for John Wall, although his play has mainly been up for the majority of the season.

    This guy is already a scoring and assist machine in his rookie year on a team that is frankly still weak around him.

    He is showing the flashes of Derrick Rose before Rose blew up this season and his 9.2 assists per game is fourth in the league. So far, he is living up to his first overall pick status.

    Grade: A

1. Blake Griffin

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    Was there any doubt about who is number one?

    His recent 47 point, 14 rebound performance against the Pacers might just be a footnote in what has become an experience, not just a game, from Blake Griffin.

    He has played All-Star level ball and might be the most impressive rookie since LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were dueling during the 2003-2004 campaign.

    He's quick, strong and a lot of other things that he shows nightly. He is definitely worth the price of admission and plays the roles of a true power forward while expanding his game with a jumper.

    He is still young, but he reminds one of a mix between Karl Malone and Shawn Kemp. That is nothing to complain about, especially since he's doing this on the Clippers.

    Grade: A+

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