NBA Regular Season Finale Recap: Lillard Leads Surge, Copeland, Henson, and Moultrie All Deliver

For many basketball fans, yesterday seemed most likely seemed like the end of a long and trying journey. Fourteen teams now ready themselves for May 21st, when they hope that they can call themselves winners in one of the wackiest annual games of ping-pong known to mankind; sixteen more will continue to battle for league supremacy and the NBA Championship.

Damian Lillard has impressed the entire year, and didn't let up in the season finale. (bleacherreport.com)

Damian Lillard has impressed the entire year, and didn’t let up in the season finale. (bleacherreport.com)

Meanwhile, here at NBA Rookie Class, our season is neither ending nor our postseason beginning; instead, we’re simply savoring the continued excellence of so much new talent in the league, and the bright future so many individuals have –whether they are playing for a ring or not.Yesterday’s regular season finale offered the average viewer minimal opportunities to watch their team’s stars play, as many squads took the time to let their veterans rest. And while the veterans are away, the rookies will come to play. Continue reading

Reality Check: Thunder’s Jeremy Lamb, Suns’ Kendall Marshall, Hawks’ John Jenkins Demoted

It’s a sad day when reality sets in.  For some of our rookies, that day has already come.

Three rookies from around the league were recently sent down to their organizations’ respective D-League teams in the hopes of getting the players more playing time and experience.

Several first-round draft picks from this years NBA Draft, including 12th overall pick Jeremy Lamb, 13th overall pick Kendall Marshall, and 23rd overall pick John Jenkins, all Continue reading

Shot Clock Violation: 24 Things We Learned on Nov. 25

As we all know, teams have 24 seconds to get a shot off.  Some times, teams are successful; other times, they fail miserably.  Here at NBA Rookie Class, we plan on succeeding time and time again in bringing you the 24 best, worst, and most interesting things that our NBA rookies did from that day’s games, or the night before.

1) Jonas Valanciunas played like a veteran.  22 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists.  He made his other foreign Toronto big man Andrea Bargnani look extremely useless, as Bargnani finished 2-of-19 from the field for a total of 4 points.

2) Valanciunas has now issued at least one block in his last five games.  The big man knows how to play defense.

Andre Drummond really, really, really likes playing defense (probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com)

3) Some other rookie big men also know how to play defense.  Detroit’s Andre Drummond had three blocks including this nice one against Carmelo Anthony.

4) Drummond still doesn’t have a clue on offense, as he went 1-of-6 from the field, finishing the game with two points.  Offensively, he’s just challenged.

5) Drummond’s rookie teammate (or super-rookie) Kyle Singler is far from offensively challenged.  Singler finished the night with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting (2-of-4 3-point, 4-of-5 free-throw) and 3 rebounds.

6) Singler needs to stop fouling.  He had five fouls tonight, the fifth time this season that he’s had 4 or more fouls in a game.  Too many fouls will start to equal too much bench time, and not enough development.

7) Detroit’s Kim English is ineffective in only four minutes of play, but that’s on the coaching staff for not playing him enough.  It’s also difficult to make a difference with only two shot attempts, as well.

8) English should ask the Knicks’ Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland, as the two of them know a thing or two about limited opportunities.  The two Knickerbocker rookies only had 5 attempts between the two of them in 16 combined minutes of action.

9) Evan Fournier of the Nuggets excelled with his few shot attempts.  2-of-2 from the field; however, it took Fournier 11 minutes to get those looks, showing that the team still isn’t that confident in his abilities.

10) The Orlando Magic also didn’t give 15th overall pick Maurice Harkless many looks tonight.  Harkless scored 5 points on 2-of-3 shooting, but the Magic coaching staff must like what they see, as Harkless received the nod to start tonight.  Harkless showed his appreciation by contributing on the defensive end with 3 rebounds, a steal, and a block.

11) Andrew Nicholson came off the bench for the Magic, and was extremely efficient offensively: 4-of-6 shooting from the field.  Nicholson, however, needs to work on his aggressive nature on the defensive side of the ball so that he too can one day start for Orlando.

12) Playing off the opposing bench, Jared Sullinger scored 11 points and pulled down 6 offensive rebounds.  With numbers like that, it seems that Sullinger could be in the starting line-up again very soon.  The personal fouls, though, need to be taken care of (4 fouls in 20 minutes of play).

13) Austin Rivers is trying to work his way back into New Orleans’ starting line-up as well.  He’s not having much success, however: 2-of-10 from the field with 3 turnovers.  Rivers did fill out the stat sheet quite nicely, though: 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and a block.

14) Anthony Davis didn’t play.  Again.  That doesn’t bode well for his future, as injuries this early can never be a good sign.

15) You know you’re good when someone refers to a night during which you scored 13 points and handed out 7 assists as a “bad night”.  Portland’s Damian Lillard did struggle with ball control (4 turnovers) and getting open shots (blocked 3 times), but anytime a rookie point guard can make a heads up play such as this, the turnovers and blocks against become afterthoughts.

16) Lillard also recorded 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.  Even when we try to find faults with his game, he still plays an all-around great game.

17) It’s nice to see Lillard’s rookie partner-in-crime Meyers Leonard getting a few starts.  Leonard scored 12 points and added 3 rebounds and a block.  Given more time to develop as a young big in the league, Leonard could be recording double-double’s in no time.

18) Only time will tell if several Lillard-to-Leonard alley-oops will be highlighted on this site, but it sure would be nice to see some.

19) All rookies combined tonight posted a -72 +/-rating.  Granted, one player can’t be accounted for a whole team, but that number does not look very appealing.

20) At least some rookies played.  Detroit’s Khris Middleton, Boston’s Kris Joseph and Fab Melo, Orlando’s Kyle O’Quinn, Denver’s Quincy Miller, Phoenix’s Kendall Marshall, and Brooklyn’s Tornike Shengelia didn’t get to hit the court at all.  A few of the aforementioned weren’t even allowed to dress.

Arnett Moultrie needs more time to develop, something that Philly hasn’t been giving him (nba.com)

21) Philadelphia’s Arnett Moultrie probably would’ve been better off not playing.  He was only given 7 minutes off the end of Philly’s bench, and wasn’t given many opportunities to do anything.

22) Considering Moultrie lead the SEC in rebounds per game last year (not Anthony Davis, as many assume), it’s surprising Philly isn’t giving him more playing time.

23) It’s still surprising that Anthony Davis is out with an injury; it’s not a good sign for longevity in the league.  Just ask Greg Oden.

24) It’s even more surprising that this list made it to 24 things…even if this one isn’t extremely official.

Thanks for reading.  You can comment about any one of the 24 “things”, or bring up something that we failed to mention.  We’re always looking for opinions and ways to improve.

Also, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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.