Rookie Impact: Golden State’s Success Hinges on Barnes, Green, and Ezeli

It’s difficult to ask for a rookie to help carry an NBA team in the postseason. Yet instead of just one rookie, Golden State will need the help of three.

The Warriors' rookies played big the other night; now it's time for them to take over (www.nba.com)

The Warriors’ rookies played big the other night; now it’s time for them to take over (www.nba.com)

Harrison Barnes, the 7th overall draft pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, along with Draymond Green (35th overall) and Festus Ezeli (30th overall) will be expected to contribute beyond their years if the Warriors hope to advance past their Conference Semifinal matchup with the well experienced San Antonio Spurs.

Aside from the Zen-like sorcery-type comeback that the Spurs pulled off in Game 1 (where they came back from a double-digit deficit to win 129-127 in double overtime), the rookies seem more than up for the task at hand.

Barnes finished Game 1 with an impressive Continue reading

Rookie Impact: Barnes Fills Void, Helps Warriors Tie Series

Dubs rookie Harrison Barnes stepped up in David Lee's abscence, but he'll have to keep it going. (cleveland.com)

Dubs rookie Harrison Barnes stepped up in David Lee’s abscence, but he’ll have to keep it going. (cleveland.com)

When Warriors forward David Lee went down with a torn right hip flexor Saturday night in Golden State’s first playoff game of the postseason against the Denver Nuggets, many was unknown about the Dubs immediate future.Would David Lee be able to return? And if not, who would step up to fill the void he left behind?Answers to both of those questions now seem pretty obvious.

Harrison Barnes played a huge role in helping Golden State to Continue reading

Harrison Barnes: In His Own Words

For quite awhile now, we here at NBA Rookie Class have tried to secure an interview with some of your favorite NBA rookies in the hopes of getting them to share some of their early career experiences with you, the readers.

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough pull yet to land ourselves that breakthrough interview.  Thankfully, though, our good friends over at Sound Cloud have!

Harrison Barnes has had an enjoyable start to his career throughout his young rookie season.(goldenstateofmind.com)

Harrison Barnes has had an enjoyable start to his career throughout his young rookie season.
(goldenstateofmind.com)

With that in mind, we bring you a recent interview with Golden State Warriors’ rookie Harrison Barnes.  Barnes has been enjoying a solid start to his career, having already recorded three double-doubles and career highs of 20 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.  Barnes also had himself the posterizing play of the month of November.

In his interview, Barnes talks about his ferocious slam, playing alongside of fellow rookies Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green, and much more.

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 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.

It’s the Final Countdown

We are on the verge of a big breakthrough…not necessarily a medical breakthrough, but a big one nonetheless.

We are just days away from NBA training camps opening in colleges and universities across the country (and in Halifax, Nova Scotia, of course).  This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

Well, not exactly.  Everyone’s still waiting for opening night, but training camp is close enough.  It’s also the perfect time for rookies across the league to begin to integrate their Summer League experience with the rest of their teammates.  It also gives undrafted players an opportunity to find a long term home with an organization.  A few key names to keep an eye on over these next few weeks, for one reason or another, are:

Anthony Davis: The Brow will make his much anticipated NBA “debut”, as he squares off against much stiffer competition than the competition he faced in the Olympics (see: Latvian bench warmers).

Lillard proved his worth in the Summer League. Now he’ll have to prove himself again the rest of the NBA.
(eugenedailynews.com)

Damian Lillard: The prospective point guard of the future in Portland, Lillard had an extremely impressive Summer League, as he showed he could play with all the “big boys” from major collegiate conferences.  Now, he will once again have to prove doubters wrong as he squares off against more than just his incoming rookie class.

Jae Crowder, Draymond Green, Quincy Acy, and Kyle O’Quinn: These four have possibly the most to gain in training camp.  All four play a very blue-collared style game; strong defense and a strong will that results in stuffing stat sheets to no end.  All four were drafted in the second round, yet they all have a decent shot at making their teams rotation based off of their hard work and will power.

Training camp is a time for the incoming rookies to show what they can bring to the table before the season begins.  It’s their final shot.

It’s the final countdown.