The Race for the NBA Rookie Of The Year
I have never written for Bleacher Report before and I thought I would start with the topic that interests me the most as the season progresses. The Rookies.
One thing I have noticed is that its rare when a No. 1 pick gets the Rookie of the Year (RotY). It has only happened eight times in the last 20 years and twice in the last 10. One being LeBron James (and whilst not unworthy, he and Carmelo Anthony had similar stats—bar assists—but the Nuggets made the play-offs. Oh and so did the Heat with a guy called Dwyane Wade!)
The other was the joint winners in Brand and Stevie Franchise, Brand being the top pick.
Now that might be a anomaly but it does makes me ponder on this and last years top picks, Derrick Rose and Greg Oden.
I don't see Rose winning the honour as the Bulls, in my opinion, will manage his minutes and he might not even start as the Bulls logjam at guard might be easiest resolved by bringing the rookie off the bench. This would settle the veterans and take the pressure off Rose who has still to learn the most difficult position in the game.
A starting unit of Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, Luol Deng, Drew Gooden and Joakhim Noah or even Aaron Gray, isn't beyond belief and the bench of Rose, Ben Gordon (assuming he's there), Tyrus Thomas, Andres Nocioni and Thabo Sefolosha isn't too shabby.
There is also the other matter of the only other point taken No. 1 in the last ten years— Allen Iverson!. He posted 23.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.5 apgin 76 games with 40.1 mpg in his rookie year. I could even throw in Stevie Francis, his rookie stats were 18 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.6 apgin 77 games with 36 min played. I realistically don't see Rose getting near those stats this year.
Oden is a different in a few ways, firstly he wont be the best player on the Blazers. Plus this team has ambitions, the Blazers surprised me last year by being so good. Last year they were 9 games from a play-off spot, Toronto had the same record and finished sixth in the east.
Oden won't play the kind of minutes he would need to win the award. And then there's that knee to think about. In the rookie evaluation last year Oden outperformed Durant in athletic ability, and the Blazers will need that to be intact if Oden is to be a factor.
NBADraft.net had Oden compared with David Robinson, but the admirals rookie stats were 24.3 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 3.8 bpg in 81 starts playing 36 mpg. I cant even imagine Ogden coming close to those stats, and since he isn't even the best player on the Blazers, they don't need him to.
So lets look at the stats of the last two big men RotY winners.
Emeka Okafor won the award in 04-05 and posted 15.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.7 bpg in 73 games playing 35 mpg.
Amare Stoudamire won it in 02-03 posting 13.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg in 71 games playing 31 mpg.
I think these are more likely the type of stats we will see from Oden this year except I think the blocks will be higher, 2.5 to 3 bpg is where I feel the big guy will be and I don't think he will score as much.
I also don't think Beasley will get the minutes he needs to win the award. As soon as I read he was being fined for that nonsense in the rookie induction, I just shook my head.
I read reports on how Pat Riley was embarrassed by Chalmers invlolvement, then Mike comes clean much later than he should have.
If anyone doesn't think the rookie Heat coach is being guided by Pat Riley then I would love to live in your optimistic world. Minutes will be harder to come by this year for the Heat new boys.
The Heat line up on the first game will be in my opinion, one of their points (not Chalmers), Wade, Marion, Haslem and probably Blount.
So who's left? Well the trend for RotY winners seems to be minutes, most have played consistently high minutes for bad teams, Durant, Roy, Paul, Okafor and L.B.J. In recent years (hence why the had high picks in the first place). That prompts me to look at Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo.
Westbrook is a great player and is joining Durant and Green in a young Oklahoma city team. His only competition for the starting job is Earl Watson, a good player, but for a talent like Westbrook is beatable for the starting job.
For a team with no real playoff ambition this guy should get all the burn he needs to put up the kinds of stats to be in the thick of the debate for the best rookie.
Gordon is more of a reach because I don't see him starting. He might be in the sixth man talk coming off the bench because the guy can flat out score! If Ben Gordon can do it so could Eric, plus it would be fun for the first two rookies to win that award to have the same name.
His RotY chances are slimmer as the Clippers have back court scorers all ready. Baron is the starter and will play heavy minutes when healthy and Mobley will most likely be a locker room distraction unless he starts and gets his minutes and shots. Then there's Thornton (whom I think will be an all star in the next year or two) and touches for Kaman and Camby.
I don't think that leaves enough for Gordon to win the award unless someone goes down and he gets a shot. A real possibility on this team which is why I thought of him.
So that brings me to O.J. Mayo, he plays for a team that isn't expected to make the play-offs, he should get all the burn he can handle to play through mistakes and gain experience and the Grizzlies should provide some great offensive moments this year.
My choice to start their back court would be Mike Conley, Mayo and Rudy Gay. That's a quick and very offensive back court. Perfect for a player looking to get the RotY.
Other than that I don't see any other rookie getting it. Kevin Love might lead all rookies in assists just feeding Al Jeferson, Fernandez will be a great asset for the Blazers but wont get the time required to win the award. I loved the reports on how hard Roy Hibbert is working and how high his coaches are on him, look for him to be in the T-mobile top ten more often than not.
My dark horse has to be Donte Greene, I think he will get the chance to play but Garcia will start and Salmons is a close second after him for the Kings, but this kid can play. He isn't on a good team, and again, if he gets a chance I think he will the kind of stats that demand attention.
So, after all that, I think it will be either O.J. Mayo or Russell Westbrook.
Lastly I'm going to make a second round prediction, I think Richard Hendrix will be a stud. His production for Alabama went up markedly when he invested in his body, he lost weight, got quicker and fitter.
According to the reports I read, he seemed to have turned a corner and realized how effort in the gym could be rewarded on the court and now he is a full time athlete I hope he carries it on and achieves his potential. At worst, I see a Jason Maxiell-type coming off the bench, either way the guy should have a good career as soon as he gets out of the Warriors.
Other than that I look forward to the season and being proved wrong by some young guy that can flat out play. I can't wait!.
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