BBVA Rising Stars Challenge: Rookies Play Well, Chuck Victorious Again

While we were hoping the game would highlight just the rookies of the league, Kenneth Faried and the rest of the sophomores had a different idea.  Faried led Team Chuck to a 163-135 victory with 40 points and 10 rebounds.

While we were hoping the game would highlight just the rookies of the league, Kenneth Faried and the rest of the sophomores had a different idea. Faried led Team Chuck to a 163-135 victory over Team Shaq with 40 points and 10 rebounds. (nba.com)

Team Shaq is going home sad tonight.  For the second time in as many years, Team Chuck came out on top, overcoming the lack of the first overall draft pick for the second year in a row, and not having the opportunity to have Kyrie Irving play for him again this year.

Regardless of which Team you were rooting for tonight, everyone came out a winner.  Both squads featured the best young talent in the league, and it showed tonight…on the offensive side of the ball.  In terms of statistics, this night was fantastic: Team Chuck 163-Team Shaq 135 with both teams shooting at least 62% from the field.  Numbers aside, it was a great way for the nation to see just how much the League’s rookies have grown in their short time in the season.  Here’s a running commentary/breakdown of tonight’s first-half action that can only make us salivate about what’s to come throughout the rest of this weekend: 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 Rankings: Anthony Davis Drops, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist Rises Again

As we recover from mounds of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and even more turkey, it’s time to check in with our rookies and see how they’ve performed as of late.

Super-rookie Kyle Singler makes his debut in this weeks Rookie Rankings(freep.com)

1) Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, PG

It continues to amaze me how well and how quickly Lillard has adjusted to the professional level.  He leads all rookies in the following categories: points per game (19.5), assists per game (5.8), and steals per game (1.5).  If teams can’t start to slow him down soon, the Rookie of the Year contest will be over by the time everyone’s done with their Black Friday shopping.
Last week’s ranking:1 (No change)

2) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats, SF

The Bobcats somehow keep winning, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist keeps putting up strong numbers across the board.  Correlation?  You bet.  MKG’s energy and ball pressure on the defensive side of the ball has led to easier looks and opportunities for Kidd-Gilchrist on the offensive end.  While the Cats will probably drop off at some point, don’t expect MKG to do so; don’t expect him to fall very far from this list, either, unless someone is outhustling and outperforming him.
Last week’s ranking: 3 (+1)

3)  Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors, C

Valanciunas must have really good ears.  After ranking fourth last week, Toronto’s new big man has posted two straight double-doubles and three consecutive games with at least one block (not factoring all of the other shots he’s altered).  J-Val’s one weakness so far has been his discipline on the defensive side of the ball, or lack thereof.  Valanciunas has fouled out twice in the past week, and has recorded two other games of four or more fouls.
Last week’s ranking: 4 (+1)

4) Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors, SF

After a rather lackluster start to the season for such a high draft pick, Barnes has seemingly put all the pieces together, scoring at a higher clip, playing tougher defense, and taking care of the ball much better.  Barnes’ improved 11.3 ppg now ranks fifth among rookies, and if he continues to score as he has the past week (12, 20, and 9 in 3 games), that number should only climb higher.
Last week’s ranking: 7 (+3)

5) Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets, PF

Anthony Davis has played better than advertised…when he actually plays, that is.  Davis has seemingly caught the injury bug and just can’t seem to shake it.  After dealing with a minor concussion earlier in the season, Davis is now battling an ankle injury (the same ankle that bothered him during the Olympics this summer).  When he’s in the starting line-up, though, teams will soon need to put their best defender on him; he put up 28 points and 11 rebounds in his only game this week, a close 117-113 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Last week’s ranking: 2 (-3)

6) Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons, SF

While fellow Detroit rookie Andre Drummond provided some flash in his game that helped to land him on our Rookie Rankings, Kyle Singler (the super-rookie) is starting to perform at a level that not many anticipated from the former Duke Blue Devil.  Singler recently strung together three straight double-digit point games and, aside from a disappointing 2-point performance against the Magic, looks to keep the numbers up.
Last week’s ranking: N/A

7) Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics, PF

It seemed as though it was only a matter of time before Sullinger started to receive legitimate starters minutes…and the ball.  Sullinger, while being given the nod early in the season to start, has been moved around as Doc Rivers and the rest of the C’s look to find a balance in their offense.  It looks as though more of their offense will need to go through Sullinger now, after posting his first career double-double this week, and shooting an impressive 57% from the field.
Last week’s ranking: N/A

8) Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors, SG

If you give him minutes, he will perform.  Terrence Ross has scored 10 points or more in games in which he’s been given 14 minutes or more; that feat occurred twice this past week, as Ross’s contributions on the offensive end have been efficient and well-needed.  Given more time, Ross can continue to grow as an all-around player; in his most recent game against the Bobcats, the newest Toronto shooter scored 11 points, while also filling the stat sheet with 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, and no turnovers.  Landry Fields should be on his guard, or else he’ll soon be turning over his starting spot to Ross.
Last week’s ranking: N/A

9) Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves, PG

He’s a foreign point guard for the Timberwolves, and yet his game-play has kept others from asking “How soon will the other foreign point guard (Rubio) return?”  Shved only played once this week (L 101-94 to Denver) but still played well enough to earn himself a second week in our rankings.  Should he continue his strong play until Rubio returns, he will have earned himself minutes even after the better-known foreigner hits the floor again.
Last week’s ranking: 6 (-3)

10) Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers, SG

Dion Waiters continues to make the list, but barely.  Waiters shot an abysmal 25% this week, and hasn’t gotten to the free-throw line as often as of late.  With a big game against the difficult Miami Heat tomorrow night, it doesn’t look as though Dion’s percentages will improve anytime soon.  He can only hope to contribute in other ways to help the struggling Cavs.
Last week’s ranking: 5 (-5)

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.

Rookies Thinking Big

Teammates only a year ago, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said he can’t wait to face his former U of K companion Anthony Davis on the big stage. (www.bleacherreport.com)

It’s one thing to come into the league and say you plan on making a difference.

It’s another thing to actually follow through on your word.

Two rookies, 2nd overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Charlotte Bobcats and last year’s 5th overall pick Jonas Valanciunas, both have their sites set on some pretty big competition this year.  The two have already pinpointed who they can’t wait to square off against this season and while the big names coincide with big men, the results shouldn’t surprise anyone.

In the Bobcats live Media Day chat earlier this week, Kidd-Gilchrist said he can’t wait to square off against former Kentucky teammate, and this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Anthony Davis.  Valanciunas, however, has his sights set on someone closer to his size, but with a much larger resume than he; Valanciunas can’t wait to square off against Dwight Howard.

It’s good to see rookies want to step up right away when entering the league and facing off against stiffer competition.  It’s even better when they actually give an answer instead of the usual run-around response of “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, I just want to make sure I’m ready for the next game.”

Here’s to Kidd-Gilchrist and Valanciunas having great first games against those they can’t wait to face off against the most.  With that in mind, the Bobcats and Hornets first meet Tuesday, October 9 in a preseason matchup and officially on Friday, November 9 in New Orleans.  Valanciunas will have plenty of time to prepare for Howard, as the Raptors and Lakers don’t square off until Sunday, January 20.

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.