By Satbir Singh
It’s the time of year where college basketball players begin to confirm that they are entering the NBA Draft in June, or returning back to their respective schools. If you haven’t heard already, the 2013 class is predicted to be a weak one, even weaker than this past draft class.
But the upcoming draft is in the future, and for now it’s time to reflect on this years rookies. The NBA season concluded this past Wednesday night, and many rookies got their time to shine with stars resting late in the season. However, one game doesn’t determine a rookie season. Let’s take a look back at the top rookies of this year through the whole season, and the one’s that failed.
Underachievers or unproven (1 being poorest)
Not-So-Honorable Mentions: Terrence Ross, Kendall Marshall, Royce White
5. Thomas Robinson (5th overall)
The 6-10 forward out of Kansas was predicted to be the second best big man in his draft class. Also expected to be the perfect fit beside Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. However, Robinson began the season with low numbers off the bench, and had trouble getting used to the NBA game. In 51 games with the Kings, Robinson averaged a weak 4.8 points, and 4.7 rebounds per game in 16 minutes.
Obviously it’s not easy for a rookie to play for a team that has ownership issues, and even if the ownership wasn’t a distraction, the Kings don’t really have a set identity with star players lacking leadership.
Robinson saw his career move to Houston on a trade deadline deal. Robinson didn’t get the starting role in Sacramento, nor did he in Houston but, he just needed to be a solid big off the bench, and establish his game. Unfortunately for Robinson his minutes got cut to 13 a game, and he only averaged 4.5 points, and 4.1 rebounds in 19 games with Houston. It was a rough year for Robinson, and that rough start began when he got drafted by the wrong team.
4. Second Round
The 2012 NBA draft had good players, and players with great potential, but it lacked depth. After the first 25 players, the draft became a “take a lucky guess,” for many teams. And sadly there wasn’t even one player who shocked the league.
Jeff Taylor, Jae Crowder, Quincy Acy (all second rounders), and a couple of other guys got a few minutes here and there with their respective teams, but nothing that really made any noise. Everyone in the second round lacked consistent minutes. There wasn’t even that one player that every year shows they’ve got what it takes. The 2011 draft had Isaiah Thomas, 2010 had Landry Fields, and 2009 had Marcus Thornton, Danny Green, Chase Budinger, and a couple other guys who saw role player minutes in their rookie season.
3. Bradley Beal (3rd overall)
Everyone just read Beal’s name, and probably thought, how can a guy who averaged 13.9 points a game, and shot 38.6 percent from beyond the arc be an underachiever? Well it has nothing to do with Beal’s performance. For a guy that had to play through most of the season without his teams star point guard John Wall, the shooting guard out of Florida played great. He easily played his own game, and adapted well to the professional level to an extent.
What holds Beal from being one of the best rookies in the game, and even winning Rookie of the Year is that he just could not stay healthy. Beal battled leg injuries, ankle injuries, and who knows what else. Beal missed 26 games in the regular season due to injuries. For Beal to take the next step in the NBA, he needs to find away to stay healthy, so he can reach his full potential. It’s unclear what the guard has to do, but it could be from anything such as pre-game workouts, or even how strong he is mentally.
Here’s a stat for Beal to end the season with: In games he’s play the Wizards went 21-35 (.375), and in games he didn’t play, they went 8-18 (.308).
2. Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd overall)
For a second overall pick, and the team Kidd-Gilchrist played on, this was a fail season. The Charlotte Bobcats finished the season with a record of 21-61. And just like previous second overall picks (Derrick Williams, Evan Turner, Hasheem Thabeet, Michael Beasley), Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t put up great numbers. The 6-7 forward from Kentucky averaged 9 points, and 5.8 rebound. Obviously that isn’t bad, but it’s not great. Especially on a bad team that needed scoring help.
Kidd-Gilchrist only had seven games in which he scored more than 15 points. And it’s time for Kidd-Gilchrist to end the bad luck that comes with the second overall pick. He couldn’t do it this year, but he’s got next year to improve his game.
1. Austin Rivers (10th overall)
A guy who many thought should have gone earlier in the draft, his rookie season didn’t show that. His season may have shown us that some players should spend an extra year in college, but that’s an argument for another time.
Rivers may have got selected further down then he thought he would, so maybe he lost confidence, but he got his fair chance to shine. The guard broke his right hand that ended his season, but he got many minutes at the start of the season, but got outplayed by two different point guards on the Hornets roster. Rivers had multiple poor shooting performances, and eventually got moved to a bench role, and slowly his minutes disappeared.
Out of all the guys that got selected in the top 10, Rivers who went 10th was the worse of them all. And a season ending injury doesn’t really help his rookie season rank.
Achievers, and Household Names
Honorable Mentions: Andre Drummond, John Henson, Moe Harkless, Tyler Zeller, Andrew Nicholson, Chris Copeland, Alexey Shved, Brian Roberts
5. Dion Waiters (4th overall)
Waiters, just like Beal missed multiple games throughout the season, 21 to be exact. The rookie out of Syracuse did battle injuries, but what makes him different between Beal is Waiters had dealt with background drama like a mature veteran.
The Cleveland Cavaliers knew there was tension between former Head Coach Byron Scott, and star Kyrie Irving, but with so many rookies on the team everyone had to grow together. Waiters was one of the guys who got off to a great start to begin the season. Waiters had a season average of 14.7 points, which if healthy could have been way better.
Waiters was also able to understand when he needed to score, and when he needed to step aside and let his teammates make plays. Playing on a young team allowed Waiters to grow, and have a successful season.
4. Harrison Barnes (7th overall)
For a kid to play on a team that already has top scoring options, and is playoff bound, it is tough to grow. Barnes knew Golden State had Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and David Lee as scorers, and that he wouldn’t touch the ball much, but it didn’t stop him from growing. Barnes didn’t struggle as much as most rookies did this season, as he understood his role, and when the team needed him.
If you want to talk about mature rookies, Barnes falls into that category. He’ll get his time to shine, but right now for his rookie year it’s about helping his team win. And he’s the only player to be in the playoffs this year, not including the honourable mentions. Next year could be different, as he could step up, and make the Warriors a 4-headed monster.
3. Anthony Davis (1st overall)
It’s tough to say if a first overall pick had a good rookie season if he missed 18 games due to injury. Davis was still able to put up quality numbers as he battled the consistency of his health. With starts in 60 games this season, Davis averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks through the season.
Davis’ numbers are the worse of any rookie since 2007 first overall pick Greg Oden, who missed his rookie season with an injury. But unlike Oden, Davis still grew as a player and became popular around the league. Don’t forget the center out of Kentucky played for team USA this past summer. He gets his credit where due.
2. Jonas Valanciunas (2011 5th overall)
Valanciunas had a hard time getting playing time during the season, but when he did get on the court, he looked dangerous. A center that could grow into a dominant all-star. Valanciunas spent the 2011-2012 season in Lithuania, and made his way to the NBA this year as the Raptors bought him out of his contract overseas. Now Valanciunas is someone the Raptors play to build a team around along with others.
His season averages may not show much, but in the final 19 games he played in, the 7-foot center averaged 13.9 points, along with 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. This just shows how fast Valanciunas grew as the season progressed, and people have the right to argue that if he got more minutes earlier, he could have been up there with the number one rookie of the season… Who is?
1. Damien Lillard (6th overall)
Ladies and Gents, here is your 2012-2013 Rookie of the Year. Yes, he hasn’t been awarded the award yet, but he’s got no competition. No one expected Lillard to play as well as he did this season, but he has put his name among the top point guards such as, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving.
Lillard did something no one mentioned in this list did all season, and that’s play a full 82 games in his rookie season. Lillard didn’t miss a game, and averaged close to 40 minutes a game. Averaging 19 points, and 6.5 assists, Lillard became a fan favorite He also won the NBA Skills Challenge during the all-star weekend.
His team, the Portland Trail Blazers struggled to a 33-49 record, but Lillard has become a household name, and a franchise player for Portland. Lillard could have one of the best careers out of everyone in this draft class.