Rookie Impact: Looking Back While Looking Ahead

It was quite a preseason, to say the least.  The Toronto Raptors were an Eastern Conference-best 6-1, the Los Angeles Lakers were an NBA-worst 0-8, and the rookies came out to play.

With the preseason officially coming to a close Friday night and everyone resting before tomorrow night’s season opener, it’s time to review the top performances from the league’s newest members in the final Rookie Impact before tip-off.

Player(s) of the Preseason:

Damian Lillard lead the Class of 2012 with an impressive 16.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, and an impressive 5.8 apg.  His point total was higher than that of any other rookie, as well as his output of assists.  Lillard also showed consistency in his play by never scoring fewer than 12 points in a game and averaging no less than 3 assists per game.

Anthony Davis should have an enjoyable rookie season, where he could challenge for DPOY, and ROY is between him and Lillard. (ksrcollege.com)

Anthony Davis is living up to his draft expectations, as he average 14.9 ppg and 9.9 ppg for the New Orleans Hornets during the preseason.  He was also third among rookies in blocks per game with 1.57 behind only Jonas Valanciunas and John Henson.  While Davis sometimes struggled to put the ball in the basket (2-for-12, 4-for-12, etc.), his effort on the defensive end was obvious, and helped the Hornets to a 4-4 finish.

Undrafted rookie Chris Copeland earned himself a roster spot with the New York Knicks after averaging 15.5 ppg for the New York Knicks with a .517 clip from the field.  Copeland should be able to spell Carmelo Anthony should he fall flat during a game, or need long periods of rest.  Copeland is also very accurate from the free-throw line, shooting 81% during the preseason.

Jared Sullinger proved that he can play with the big boys of Beantown.  While he didn’t record a single double-double in the preseason, Sullinger filled the stat sheet on an otherwise deep roster, showing that he can play when other stacked teams come to town.  Sullinger also impressed head coach Doc Rivers, which is not an easy task, as Rivers has been impartial to younger players in the past; Sullinger earned the coach’s trust, and could be the starting power forward for doing so.

End of the Bench, Rook:

Charlotte’s second-overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist struggled mightily during the preseason as he averaged only 5 ppg.  It’s hard to expect much out of MKG offensively, given that his jump shot is still developing, and that Charlotte is now focusing more on the defensive side of the ball.  Yet it’s hard to see MKG battling for the all-rookie first-team at the end of the season if his offensive output doesn’t improve.  His defensive intensity, however, and overall knowledge of the game will help him to remain involved as he works through his growing pains.

Kendall Marshall of the Phoenix Suns also had a frustrating preseason.  The North Carolina product averaged a mere 3 points per game this preseason.  Marshall, who was drafted to coincide with Steve Nash leaving, is expected to be the point guard of the future for Phoenix.  Yet it is clear that the team doesn’t think he’s ready just yet, especially with Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola in their primes, and Michael Beasley finally starting to play better basketball.  Give him time, though, and Marshall should excel as he did at UNC.

Golden State got an absolute steal in the draft when the polished collegiate product Draymond Green fell to them at 35 overall.  Green, however, didn’t get a lot of court time, and his numbers suffered greatly because of it.  The Warriors’ rookie only averaged 3.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, and 1.8 apg.  For someone coming off a triple-double in his last NCAA Tournament, Green has quite a lot of competition to get back to that level of productivity.

Dallas drafted Jared Cunningham with the thought of him taking over for either Jason Terry or Vince Carter in the long run, due to his solid shooting skills, and his athletic ability.  Yet the Mavs, who are in win-now mode, signed O.J. Mayo this offseason, which limited Cunningham’s minutes.  The Mavs’ first-round pick only averaged 3.9 ppg, 1 rpg, and 0.9 apg.  While he has the time on the bench, Cunningham should be asking as many questions as he can of his veteran teammates now, so that he can take over for them when the right time comes.

Keep an Eye On:

While Cunningham struggled, his teammate Jae Crowder had a very enjoyable preseason.  Crowder, who found himself starting several games due to injury, took advantage of the opportunity and could also start the season opener due to a lack of big men.  The Marquette alum averaged 11.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and led all rookies with 1.88 steals per game.  Expect the rookie’s defense to keep his name in constant conversation throughout the season for the all-rookie first-team.

With John Wall out for six or so more weeks, Bradley Beal will have a lot of pressure from hardcore Washington fans to produce for the team.  Beal, though, is up for the task.  While his play was inconsistent throughout the preseason, he still finished with averages of 11.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and 2.5 apg, and should provide Washington with a wonderful two-guard for years to come; for now, he will most likely fly under the radar without Wall by his side, but it’s probably best for him to focus on his play rather than the critics.

Andre Drummond had a productive preseason coming off the bench for Greg Monroe.  While not expected to do much, Drummond had an exciting month of putback dunks and alley-oops.  Yet his defense was the most exciting part, as he had multiple games where dunks and rebounding looked as second nature to the man as breathing.  Drummond’s role probably won’t expand much in his rookie campaign, but if he can consistently deliever 8 to 10 points and 7 to 9 rebounds off the bench, Detroit could have found themselves a solid big-man in the making.

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Rookie Impact: Davis Continues to Shine, Fab Melo Rides the Pine

How’d the rookies perform last night?  Here’s a recap of the best and worst from October 18th.

Rookie Impact: Davis makes his debut, Beal shines amid loss

Yesterday was the first taste of many for the incoming rookie class.  The top three draft picks all saw playing time, and faced much more serious competition than they’ve previously seen in college and the Summer League.  Here’s a breakdown of the rookies’ performances from yesterday’s games:

Boston Celtics 105 — Emporio Armani Milano 75
Washington Wizards 88 — Charlotte Bobcats 100
Miami Heat 79 — Atlanta Hawks 92
Orlando Magic 80 — New Orleans Hornets 85
Golden State Warriors 110 — Los Angeles Lakers 83

Boston Celtics 105 — Emporio Armani Milano 75

All four Celtics rookies saw action against their European opponent yesterday.  Jared Sullinger, who got the start, led the way with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block in 18 minutes of play, as he tries to work his way into a permanent role as a starter.  Kris Joseph and Fab Melo only scored a combined 2 points in 12 minutes, as the starters and other bench players ahead of them on the depth chart (i.e., Jeff Green and Darko Milicic) had much more productive afternoons, giving the rooks little time to show their stuff.  Also, super-rookie Dionte Christmas saw some solid action coming off of the end of the C’s very deep bench; he recorded 9 points and 4 rebounds in only nine minutes of play.

Washington Wizards 88 — Charlotte Bobcats 100

Charlotte’s second overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist squared off against third overall pick Bradley Beal’s Wizards, with the upstart Cats getting the win, thanks in part to MKG’s effort on the defensive end.  This steal led to an easy two points, en route to Kidd-Gilchrist finishing the day with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals.  Fellow rookie Jeffrey Taylor scored a single point in a mere two minutes of action.  Beal, however, had the most impressive numbers on the day, as he led all scorers with 18 points off of the bench.

Miami Heat 79 — Atlanta Hawks 92

The returning champion Heat feature no incoming rookies on this years roster, and all those on the Hawks roster were healthy scratches in yesterday’s lineup.  First round pick John Jenkins, second round pick Mike Scott, and super-rookie Keith Benson all observed yesterdays matchup, in what one assumes is a ploy by head coach Larry Drew to have the players watch and learn before hitting the hardwood.

Orlando Magic 80 — New Orleans Hornets 85

First overall pick Anthony Davis made his preseason debut with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in 23 minutes as a starter as he and fellow rookie Austin Rivers (10 points, 1 assist) helped contribute to a late comback by NO.  Darius Miller also added 5 efficient points off the bench in a quick eight minutes of work.  The Magic’s incoming rookies Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn didn’t experience as much success, as the two combined for 4 points off the bench in 24 minutes of work.  Fifteenth overall pick Maurice Harkless (received in the Dwight Howard trade) is recovering from a sports hernia and did not play.

Golden State Warriors 110 — Los Angeles Lakers 83

Two of Golden State’s three rookies played high-efficiency games in the teams win over the Dwight-less Lakers.  Festus Ezeli recorded 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block and a plus/minus of (+20) on the day, while Harrison Barnes scored 13 points off the bench and finished with a plus/minus of (+22).  The Warriors’ other rookie Draymond Green sat out the game with left knee inflamation.  In Dwight’s place, the 2012 Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant Robert Sacre got the start in Superman’s place and finished the day with 6 points and 4 rebounds, but also 4 fouls in only 18 minutes.  Sacre did, however, score off a beautiful highlight reel pass from Steve Nash.  Other Lakers rookie Darius Johnson-Odom played a brief six minutes, recording only 2 points.

Boston’s Newest Big Three

This new Boston Three Party may seem to be a bit out of place.  In all fairness, two-thirds of the group most recently played in New York, and mentioning sports teams from New York and Boston in the same sentence is a cause for concern.

Yet none of these gentlemen and former New Yorkers have ever called Madison Square Garden home, and they certainly haven’t bored us to death by saying “Hello” all summer either.  Rather, this new trio is comprised of three new rookie Celtics: No. 21 overall pick Jared Sullinger, No. 51 overall pick Kris Joseph, and super-rookie Dionte Christmas, who signed with the Celtics this summer.

With this combination of former ‘Cuse standouts and one stellar former Ohio State Buckeye, the Celtics have plenty of incoming talent, and should be excited about what the future holds for the organization.  Even more exciting were the slew of tweets sent by the three new Beantown Ballers this afternoon:

If this is any indication of how these three will act as professionals in the future, than the Celtics have nothing to worry about.  These young adults took their time to help read to the youth of Boston, and spend some time with them on a good, old-fashioned Duck Tour boat in Boston’s Back Bay.  Now if they can get No. 23 overall pick Fab Melo to join them the next time out, we may be looking at our early front runners for the season’s first recipient(s) of the Kia Community Assist Award.