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.

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: Drummond Records Four Blocks, Henson Injured

Yesterday was a great day to be big.  Young bigs all around the league found themselves contributing to their teams in preseason action yesterday, as we creep steadily closer towards the regular season opener on October 30th.  With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of some of the rookies’ performances from yesterday:

Player(s) of the Game:

This award goes to three rookies who played well yesterday in the limited time they saw: 28th overall pick Perry Jones III of the Oklahoma City Thunder, 54th overall pick Tornike Shengelia of the Brooklyn Nets, and 9th overall pick Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons.  Jones III had 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting with 5 assists of the bench for OKC.  Shengelia led the way with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go along with 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in 26 minutes of play.  Drummond also played well off the bench, scoring 9 points in 17 minutes off the bench.  Drummond’s most impressive stat of the night, however, might have been his 4 blocks; Drummond was also foul free for the evening.

Jones III has increased his scoring output in all three games with an improved shooting percentage each game.  Jones III also flashed a bit of his all-around game yesterday with the assists, to go along with 4 rebounds, a steal and a block.  Jones, who was sometimes criticized going into the Draft for not putting in the effort at the collegiate level, has been pleasantly surprising this preseason.  Much of his work, however, has been during the abscence of key players, meaning that his minutes (and, therefore, his numbers) will probably drop when certain players return.

Very little has been said about Shengelia this offseason, as the Nets clearly have a set starting rotation with several key backups (MarShon Brooks, Andray Blatche) already in place.  Yet Shengelia showed as to why he should be left on the roster as a possible 11th or 12th man to provide depth and a scoring spark at multiple forward positions.

Drummond’s impressive night has also helped to quiet doubters who have said he’s not ready for the next level.  Drummond’s plus-minus on the night was +24, a sign that he worked well with everyone he stepped on the court with last night, and that his 4 blocks truly made a difference.

End of the Bench, Rook:

Charlotte rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a rough outing last night with only 3 points on 0-of-4 shooting in 18 minutes of starter’s play last night.  While Kidd-Gilchrist grabbed 5 rebounds, it was all-for-naught in helping Charlotte’s cause, as they fell hard to the Oklahoma City Thunder.  MKG will continue to get the starts as he is the best available option for the Bobcats, but it seems he’s now reaching the inevitable “struggle-bus” of being a rookie.

Keep an Eye On:

Robert Sacre of the Los Angeles Lakers recorded another start for the Purple and Gold.  With Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill both out with injuries, Sacre is gaining valuable experience with some of the best in the league, including Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Paul Gasol.  Sacre was also a very efficient 2-of-3 from the floor last night with 4 rebounds and a block.

Kyle O’Quinn showed off his skills as a big man, recording four blocks and eight rebounds last night.
(bigstory.ap.org)

Kyle O’Quinn of the Orlando Magic also showed off his intangibles side last night.  While O’Quinn struggled from the floor shooting only 2-of-7, he did record 8 rebounds and 4 blocks, further cementing his value to the team, even as the 49th overall draft pick.Also, John Henson of the Milwaukee Bucks suffered a knee injury during yesterday’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls, when he collided with teammate Mike Dunleavy going for a rebound at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The terms of the injury were undisclosed, but Henson did not return to the game.

A big day for the big men.  What will they do next?