Conclusion of NBA Regular Season Provides Opportunities for Rookies

Houston's Terrence Jones drives against Detroit's Greg Monroe.  Jones has played well as of late, which could lead to more playing time in the postseason (kentuckysportsradio.com)

Houston’s Terrence Jones drives against Detroit’s Greg Monroe. Jones has played well as of late, which could lead to more playing time in the postseason (kentuckysportsradio.com)

The National Basketball Association is days away from concluding its regular season in fine fashion, with plenty still left to play for in these final hours. Teams are still jockeying for position in the postseason field, the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz are still both desperately trying to make the postseason, and the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats will be duking it out (in separate games) to see who claims the title of Most Futile Franchise for the 2012-2013 season.

With so much taking place in the seasons’ final days, it’s easy to forget that there is still plenty more at stake for the NBA’s rookies. Continue reading

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Rookie Rankings: Pistons’ Rookies Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond Impress

Now that everyone has successfully recoverd from the stuffing, turkey, and grandma’s green bean cassarole, it’s time for another week’s Rookie Rankings, leading us right into the most wonderful time of the year.  It’s been a wonderful year for some rookies, but not others.  Did your favorite have what it takes to stay on the list this week?

Pistons rookie Andre Drummond has plenty to be happy about this week, as he worked his way back into our Rookie Rankings (mlive.com)

Pistons rookie Andre Drummond has plenty to be happy about this week, as he worked his way back into our Rookie Rankings (mlive.com)

1) Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, PG

It’s getting harder and harder to find faults with Lillard’s performances.  Game after game and week after week, it seems as though no one will be able to unseat Lillard from this top spot on our Rankings.  Lillard averaged 18.3 ppg and 6.8 apg over four games this week; unfortunately, Damian’s offense couldn’t help the Trail Blazers in all aspects, as the team went 1-3 during this weeks games.
Last week’s ranking: 1 (no change)

2) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats, SF

Kidd-Gilchrist has cooled off ever so slightly, as noticed in his offensive numbers lately (11, 10, 8, 6 points respectively last four games), yet his effort on the defensive side of the ball is still noticed and very much appreciated by the Bobcats.  MKG is still averaging 1.2 spg and 1.4 bpg, very impressive numbers for any SF not named LeBron James and/or Kevin Durant.
Last week’s ranking: 2 (no change)

3) Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors, C

Valanciunas is starting to look like the steal of the Draft…the 2011 Draft, that is.  While Cleveland got a sure-fire All-Star in Kyrie Irving, Minnesota, Utah, and Cleveland are all kicking themselves for passing up on the big man from Lithuania.  J-Val had another impressive week, shooting 54.5% from the field and 75% from the free-throw line, a very impressive number for a 7-footer.  Valanciunas also shot the ball 33 times from the field and 12 times from the free-throw line, so you know those numbers are battle tested.
Last week’s ranking: 3 (no change)

4) Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors, SF

Barnes had himself a solid week of work, including one double-double and one dunk that shocked the NBA world.  While his other numbers may show a still-timid Barnes who is still trying to figure out his role on an ever-evolving Warriors team, plays like the aforementioned show as to why Barnes was drafted 7th overall, and that once he puts everything together, he could be posterizing people like that for years to come.
Last week’s ranking: 4 (no change)

5) Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons, SF

Singler has shot up our rankings in the last few weeks, moving from an unranked-afterthought to someone who could find themselves still moving up if he continues to perform at this level.  Singler scored in double-digits in three of his four games this week, and also recorded his first career double-double with a 16 point, 10 rebound performance in a 108-101 win over Portland.
Last week’s ranking: 6 (+1)

6) Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers, SG

Waiters must have heard what we had to say about his performance last week.  Waiters immediately began scoring with a higher rate of efficiency, and getting to the free-throw line more, something that he had been doing a poor job of last week.  He’s also helped in other ways during Kyrie Irving absence, including dishing out 4.3 apg, an improvement over his season average of 2.9.
Last week’s ranking: 10 (+4)

7) Jeff Taylor, Charlotte Bobcats, SF

Taylor has been turning heads as of late, and it’s not simply because of his defense.  A solid all-around four-year player out of Vanderbilt, Taylor makes our list due to his increased contributions on the offensive end for the Bobcats; Taylor scored in double-figures in five straight games before only posting 6 points in a loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.  However, Taylor’s confidence has improved greatly, and he’s much more inclined to take a shot now than he was at the beginning of the season.
Last week’s ranking: N/A

8) Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, C

Drummond fell out of our rankings last week due to some inconsistencies, and because he was out-performed by his fellow rookies.  This week, however, Drummond returns with a mission in mind: defense wins championships…and gets you on NBA Rookie Class’ Rookie Rankings.  Drummond, while horrible offensively this week, has contributed on the defensive side of the ball, averaging 9.8 rpg and 1.8 bpg.  Drummond also recorded his first career double-double with a 13 point, 13 rebound effort in a close 91-90 win over Toronto.
Last week’s ranking: N/A

9) Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves, PG

Shved’s playing time may quickly dwindle due to Ricky Rubio’s impending return, but Shved surely won’t go down without a fight.  The upstart Russian has averaged 9.8 ppg, 1 spg, and 2.5 apg this week, primarily off the bench.  While it’s Rubio’s job once he returns, Shved still has the opportunity to make his presence known off the bench for the T’Wolves.
Last week’s ranking: 9 (no change)

10) Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets, PF

It’s difficult to see a player with so much promise and potential plummet this far in our Rookie Rankings; however, it’s also very difficult to rank Davis much higher than 10th, considering that he hasn’t played in almost two full weeks now, due to a nagging ankle injury.  Should Davis return soon, he could easily find himself ranked much higher.  Should Davis not return soon, he could easily find himself off of this list.
Last week’s ranking: 5 (-5)

Don’t agree with our rankings?  Leave a comment below letting us know who deserves to be where on this list.  Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

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.

Media Day Has Arrived

Well, it’s about time!  Media Day is finally here!

If you’ve visited twitter in the past couple of hours to try to follow your favorite team and incoming players, you’ve most likely seen an influx of tweets flying your way.  Yet trying to follow the incoming personal posts, it may be just as easy to tune into each teams live online Media Day news conference.  Here are a few teams that are holding theirs now:

Charlotte Bobcats: After a dismal season last year, the Cats will have plenty of questions flying their way about how they plan on improving this season.  Help will most definitely come in the form of incoming rookies SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and SF Jeffrey Taylor.

Washington Wizards: John Wall is out for the first eight weeks of the season, which may give rookie PG Tomas Satoransky some time off the bench, or at least a guarenteed roster spot.  Also, much will be expected from SG Bradley Beal to provide plenty of scoring in Wall’s absence.  With the expanded workload, Beal could easily falter, or boost his ROY stock to start the season.

Toronto Raptors: The Raptors have quite a lot of new blood within the organization.  Super-rookie C Jonas Valanciunas will finally be making his league debut, and should flourish in Dwane Casey’s defensive system.  SG Terrence Ross has also looked impressive throughout the summer, and F Quincy Acy is sure to provide a spark either in the starting line-up or off the bench.  However, those are crucial roster spots to try and blend together in the preseason, and the Raptors may face difficulties putting everything in place.

For more live video coverage throughout the day, NBA.com will be providing live feeds for teams throughout the afternoon.

The calendar has turned; the leaves will turn soon, too.  And the long summer break from NBA action has now turned; Media Day has arrived.