This season of the NBA is shaping up to quite confounding and entertaining. Certain offseason signings have vastly improved the receiving team and its place in the standings. Some rookies are flourishing in their share for starting minutes. Others look like fishes out of water. I hand-picked some guys out of the rookie class to take a peek at:
Dion Waiters: I had my doubts about Waiters, since Kyrie is such a dynamic PG. Waiters isn’t terrible, but you can tell his IQ isn’t as mature as Irving’s. Watching a few games, this backcourt reminds of Steve Francis/Cuttino Mobley back during the Houston years. Right now, Waiter’s stat line looks pretty underwhelming compared to what he can really do on the court. I like that he isn’t afraid to attack the rim. But with his volume shooting comes disparaging numbers; 36% overall and 33% from the arc. If Waiters becomes a better ball distributor, I think the Cleveland pair will be a really fun watch for a few years to come.
From what I’ve read, it seems like Damian Lillard is a shoo-in for RoY. Having not missed a game yet, Lillard is averaging 18 and 6 as Portland’s starting PG. He’s also shooting 84% from the free throw line. In a short, the kid is damn good! Much like Cleveland, Portland has a fun-to-watch backcourt with Lillard and Wesley Matthews. However, you’d never really know that because the Western Conference is so top heavy.
Jared Sullinger: When you’re the rookie playing behind such a big name at your position, it’s very easy to fade to the background. With Kevin Garnett and a healthy Jeff Green, we haven’t seen much of Sullinger. Among the 1st round picks, Sullinger is towards the bottom statistically. He’s averaging 17 mpg but only 5 ppg. His saving grace might be that with limited minutes, he’s not that much of a liability offensively. Now defensively is another story. After watching 3 of the games he had bulkier minutes, I noticed that he’s slow on rotation. To be completely honest, I’m surprised he hasn’t been sent down to the D-League affiliate yet. What’s unique for Sullinger is that he’s studying under 1 of the greatest at the PF position. If that can helped Brandon Bass, it can certainly help Sully.
We get a great Duke product like once a decade. Kyrie Irving is the most recent 1, which means Austin Rivers will likely have a mediocre career. I for one didn’t understand the draft hype surrounding Rivers. The thing about some Duke players is they look better than they really are. But once they get to the league, especially true for guards, they look aloof and flustered among their peers. Rivers is a classic example of a guard that tries to do too much on every single play. At 6’4 and 200 lbs, he’s starkly unremarkable in match ups. And because he went to Duke, he doesn’t play defense. Now Anthony Davis on the other hand is doing exactly what you’d expect if you watched him play this year in the tourney. In 12 games, he’s averaging 14 ppg, the 2nd highest on the team, and 7 rpg. He’s also shooting 50% and for a big man, he doesn’t turn the ball over a lot. So in the RoY contest, it really comes down to him or Lillard at this point.
Bradley Beal: The Wizards are terrible. Just God awful. Who can you blame for that? Well considering Bradley has a larger responsibility on the team, it would appear that better decisions should come from him. But Beal’s style has adjusted from his role in Florida. Unlike Dion Waiters, Beal is an inefficient volume shooter in Washington because he has to be. So I’ll hold off on fully judging him until we see a healthy John Wall return.
* Dionte Christmas: I’m extremely bias because I saw him and Chris Copeland play in the Vegas summer league. I think it was a mistake for him to sign with the Celtics. Primarily because with the acquisition of Courtney Lee, Christmas’s role became obsolete. He’s now playing overseas in Russia and starting to find a rhythm there. Personally I would love to see him on a D League team because he’s 1 of those hidden gems.
* Chris Copeland: Despite being 28, this is Copeland’s 1st year as a NBA professional. I loved this guy in the summer league. He’s a great passer and a strong, streaky shooter. But more than anything, he plays defense! That can’t be overstated in the turnaround of this Knicks squad. While he hasn’t played much because of Melo, when he is on the floor, the consistency isn’t lost. When the Knicks played the Rockets this week, Copeland got another opportunity to start and he put up 29 points and went 11-19.
Next week, I’m going to talk about the impact of some of the veteran acquisitions and how they’ve affected their respective teams. Happy Holidays!