Although we've had our fair share of Sam Bowies, Pervis Ellisons, Danny Ferrys, and Joe Smiths, more often than not teams with either the first or second overall pick will get a Rookie of the Year winner.
In fact, it's been 20 years since the last player to win Rookie of the Year was drafted outside of the top 10 (Mark Jackson in the 1987-1988 season). Since then, 13 of the last 20 Rookie of the Year winners were selected either first or second in their respective draft class.
With that in mind, I've narrowed the field down to the first two picks, which makes it into a three-horse race.
That's right, three. It's one of those rare occasions where two "No. 1 picks" will be competing for the distinction in the same year. The last time this happened was when David Robinson was drafted in 1987 and didn't play until 1989 where he competed against fellow 1989 No. 1, Pervis Ellsion.
Because last year's number one, Greg Oden, was sidelined the entire year by knee surgery his rookie campaign will be this season. That pits him against Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, the top two picks in this year's draft. Now that we see who the prime candidates are, let's get to the prime analysis.
Unlike most No. 1 picks, Greg Oden doesn't have the same expectation of being that singular spark responsible for his franchise's turnaround. A large part of that burden has been accepted by baller extraordinaire, Brandon Roy. With Roy's breakout season, the Blazers went on a 17-game win streak.
With a team already possessing it's go to guy on offense, Greg Oden isn't going to be expected to put All-Star numbers in that department. He'll be expected to do what he's done best and that's rule the interior by crashing the boards and defending the paint.
Putting him in lineups alongside another 7-footer in LaMarcus Aldrdge or Channing Frye will ease the burden of guarding the paint. Remember, to win Rookie of the Year you don't need to put up All-Star numbers, you just have to put up good consistent ones.
Greg Oden is destined to be a double-double machine. His NBA ready body should be ready for the physical nature of the pro game. It'll be easier playing alongside Brandon Roy with Roy the guy that defenses will scheme around. His first of many double double seasons to come.
The Blazers are going to have a tough time building off of last season's success with four rookies in their rotation, so it may take time for any chemistry to develop. In addition, Oden is coming off knee surgery, so there's no telling whether or not he's going to be the same guy who dominated in college with basically one hand.
He is also playing in the tough Western Conference as well, with the likes of Amare, Shaq, Timmay, David West, Carlos Boozer, and Pau Gasol. Historically, big men take a longer time to adjust to the NBA game, so Oden could be in for a humbling rookie campaign.
Among the three candidates he is the most complete player offensively. After all, the ROTY voters seem to have a bias towards offensive numbers. He has 3-pt. range, an NBA ready frame to press up against defenders, and athleticism—reminds me of a young Paul Pierce.
He's going to a team that with a superstar that commands double teams in Dwayne Wade, and a guy who has the knack of doing everything else in Shawn Marion. With defenses needing to account for those two high flyers, Beasley should have many opportunities to showcase his offensive talents. Because Marion often guards the opposing team's best frontcourt player, Beasley won't be asked to do any lockdown duty.
He'll be playing under rookie head coach, Erik Spoelstra, the youngest in the NBA. We have yet to see what Spoelstra's basketball philosophy is, but if he's going to succeed with the Heat's current personnel, he'll be wise to employ an uptempo style that exploits Wade and Marion's athletic advantage over most defenders.
However, if it's a disciplined half court style it may be to Beasley's detriment since he may need to adjust to not being the focal point of the offense. He was the NCAA's scoring leader, so having the maturity to defer to Wade could be an issue.
His biggest deficiency compared to Oden and Rose is his inexperience on the main stage. While both Oden and Rose willed their teams into an NCAA finals appearances, Beasley's K-State team was ousted in the second round of the tournament.
Can he prove that he's not just another Shareef Adbur-Rahim (Great statistical contributions on sub-par teams)?
He could be exactly what the team that drafted him needs, an athletic scorer who can create scoring opportunities when the offense stagnates. He has the athletic explosiveness of a young Allen Iverson. The Bulls lived and died by the jumpshot and struggled to do anything well except for heaving up contested jumpers with only seconds left on the shot clock.
He is probably playing on the most playoff ready team of the three candidates. Although the Bulls finished outside of the playoffs last year, they were "Raider" competitive (i.e. playing well enough to keep the game close until the opposing team's superstars took over).
He's a scrappy defender who won't be beaten one-on-one very often. As an addition to a competitive team, he'll only be asked to be Allen Iverson-esque in spurts, which I believe he's more than capable of.
What happens when the point guard running the pick and role can't nail down open jumpers off the pick? The defenders will sag off and let them throw up enough bricks to build a house. Derrick Rose has yet to develop a reliable jumper and has limited range. He depends on beating defenders off the dribble which is very difficult to do at the NBA level.
Unless, you're Steve Nash you won't be afforded the luxury of pounding the ball around too much. Derrick Rose may face the issue of holding the ball too much if he's going to be asked to run an NBA offense in which plays develop much more quickly given the 11 second discrepancy between college and the pros.
Very few rookie point guards have been successful at that, especially those with a "pass second" mentality that Rose tends to show. As far as defense goes, he has the explosiveness to jump passing lanes but may not be accustomed to playing tight in the backcourt the full 48 minutes.
I don't think any of the competitors I've selected will be a bust. They're all in a position to succeed by not landing on a perrenial doormat team and have decent supporting casts already intact. When comparing the three, Rose has the most difficult task by being a point guard.
The NBA has become a point guard league now, and the recent Renaissance of the position by the likes of CP3, Deron Williams show just how high of a bar is set for that position. It's a position that relies on nuance, and I'm not convinced a kid with only 1 year of college under their belt has the tools to understand all of that yet.
Michael Beasley may be the victim of circumstance. Because Beasley and Marion are both natural three's it'll be difficult for them to be on the floor together unless the new head coach goes with unconventional lineups placing Wade at the point or Marion at the four spot.
With a team consisting of two established All-Stars, Beasley will have to adjust to them instead of vice versa. The three spot is loaded in the Eastern Conference, so Miami would be weary to rely on the rookie when they already have a mismatch at that position.
The West Coast will be a difficult place to establish yourself as an inside presence with the Duncan and Amare redwoods already firmly rooted. But with the emergence of Andrew Bynum, initially a less gifted sapling in his own right coming out of high school, he has shown hope that an interior presence can thrive as long as you don't expose it to the sun too quickly.
With Oden going to a team on the verge of the playoffs, an offense that goes through Brandon Roy, and another young redwood right by his side, it looks like Oden has just the right amount of shade that ensures he'll be a thriving redwood much sooner than later.
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