NBA Rookie of the Year Award Has Its Flaws

David RobinsonContributor IDecember 18, 2008

I'm still bitter about the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year. I admit that LeBron James has to be one of the top three players in the NBA right now, but that doesn't cover up what he did in his rookie season.

James was fantastic his rookie year. He had more highlights on the court than Rihanna has in her hair. He is one of the only three rookies in NBA history to average at least 20 points with five assists and rebounds. (The other two are Oscar Robertson and some guy named Michael Jordan.)

He was a monster on the court, period. However, when he was awarded the ROY, I feel that it was unjustly given to him.

James took the Cavaliers plus-18 wins that year for a 35-47 record, and he failed to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. But let's look more closely at what the other draftees did that year.

Carmelo Anthony broke some records in his rookie year as well. He was the second youngest player to score 30 points in a game since the ABA-NBA merger (Kobe Bryant being the first). Anthony was also the third youngest to reach 1,000 points.

But the impressive stat that most stood out was his performance. Anthony led the Nuggets, who were tied for the worst record in the NBA the previous season, to a 43-39 record. This meant the Nuggets made the playoffs for the eighth seed in a tough Western Conference.

The Nuggets were eliminated in five games by the then top-seeded Timberwolves. (My how the mighty have fallen.) At least 'Melo snuck in a game, though. This is much more than James was able to do.

Even better still, the unheralded Dwyane Wade took his team farther than any rookie that year. Wade flew under the radar with 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.

Surprisingly, no one paid attention to Wade until he carried his team to the playoffs with a 42-40 record to make the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Then, as if that weren't enough, Wade led his teammates past the Baron Davis-led New Orleans Hornets in a last-second crossover that turned into a game-winning layup on Davis that will never be forgotten.

You want more?

As Anthony and James were now both at home watching the playoffs, Wade & Co. advanced to the second round. Indiana proved a tough foe and ultimately beat them in six games. 

But Wade wasn't going down without a fight. He had one of the most memorable dunks which came via Jermaine O'Neal.

Wade certainly didn't have better numbers than James or Anthony, but he certainly took his team the farthest. 

This is what worries me about this year's contestants. I think that Derrick Rose will ultimately win this year, but it won't be fair. Just because the "horri-Bulls" need him to score 60 points a game for them to win, doesn't mean that there aren't people more deserving.

Consider Rudy Fernandez of the Portland Trail Blazers. He was drafted in the Brandon Roy era, but chose to play in Spain for a year. And it helped tremendously.

Fernandez now comes off the bench for the Blazers and contributes significantly to a thriving Blazers team. He just doesn't get the spotlight like Rose, nor does he receive the playing time.

Another person that can be lumped in is San Antonio Spurs guard George Hill, who plays backup to All-Star Tony Parker. But don't let the position fool you. There is nothing lacking when Hill enters the game. Check the numbers.

My point is that the facts don't add up. I think if Fernandez switched places with Rose, their numbers would be about the same. I just think there should be more factors when picking ROY, lest we have another mistake like the 2004 debacle.



In hindsight, picking James for ROY will look good when he makes it to the Hall of Fame. But we shouldn't judge based on what a person could become, otherwise we'd have ROY awards going to players like Sam Bowie.