All the way back on October 18, 2010, we produced a list of eleven rookies who we though worthy of keeping an eye on this season. A few of them were no-brainer picks. Now that half the season is over it would be a good time to take a glance at how they are doing for their respective franchises.
DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
Cousins was making an early, self promoted, push for Rookie of the Year. However, his season has been plagued with inconsistency spending time both as a starter and as a reserve. Recently, he has been playing better. He needs to become a better rebounder though. Cousins has only recorded double figure rebounds in nine of the games he has played in and only has seven double doubles. Considering the company he keeps on this list he needs to improve if he even wants an outside chance for ROY. Averages of 13 points and five rebounds while shooting 42.3 percent are not going to cut it when he is listed at 6’11” and 270 pounds. It would also behoove him to stay out of foul trouble.
Derrick Favors – New Jersey Nets
Favors has found himself in and out of favor with Avery Johnson. Who could have guessed that Johnson would treat a rookie in such a manner? On top of that, he was one of the key features of the now defunct trade attempt for Carmelo Anthony. That has to have done wonders for his confidence. Favors has found himself back in favor of late and has started the Nets’ previous 11 games. During this time his scoring average has been a tidy 7.4 points which is an improvement over his season average of 6.6 points per game. However, Favors was held scoreless in two of the contests in which he started. That does not bode well for Johnson’s blood pressure. The Only player who has spent more time in Johnson’s doghouse this season than Favors is Troy Murphy.
Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers
If you have seen any basketball dunk highlights this season then you have seen the power that Griffin wields. Then there is this number: 27. That is the number of consecutive double-doubles he had this season. Only Kevin Love had more this season (he is currently at 30). Griffin is averaging 22.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per contest while also dishing out 3.5 assists. To top that he gets 20.1 percent of the total rebounds available while he is on the court. He is a shoe in for Rookie of the Year. No question.
Timofey Mozgov – New York Knicks
Mozgov is a complete nonfactor in Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. He began the year in the starting lineup but has since found himself relegated to the bench with limited minutes. Maybe he should reach out to fellow countryman Mikhail Prokhorov and ask for asylum on the Nets. Mozgov’s most notable moment of the season was having Blake Griffin scale him for a monstrous slam.
Jeremy Lin – Golden State Warriors/Reno Bighorns
Lin has spent some time in the D-League this season as the Warriors try to figure out what kind of a team they have outside of Monta Ellis. He has had two stints with the Reno Bighorns. Lin has played well in the D-League where he has averaged 18.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Here’s hoping that the Warriors’ hometown favorite can return to the NBA and stay there.
Larry Sanders – Milwaukee Bucks
Sanders can best be described as an offensively limited block machine. He is tied for second overall in blocks per 40 minutes with 3.8. Considering that he only plays an average of 14.5 minutes per game and has only appeared in 30 games that is a rather impressive statistic. He recorded eight blocks against Denver on December 1, 2010 in 33:30 minutes of playing time. Clearly, Sanders, is poised to grow into a defensive presence at the power forward. His defensive rating for the season is a 98. However, for a big man he needs to improve his post game and become more efficient around the rim.
Tiago Splitter – San Antonio Spurs
Much like Mozgov, Splitter is not a rookie in the traditional sense because he has overseas experience. In fact, Splitter had a rather successful career in the Euroleague. With the Spurs? Well, not so much. He has only appeared in 34 games for San Antonio this season and has just not found a way to work himself into Greg Popovich’s rotation and is seeing an average of just 11.4 minutes of action in the games he plays in. What is holding him back is that when he does play significant minutes in a game his production is far from consistent as he has only scored in double figures five times this season and has not recorded a double-double. He did come close once on December 22, 2010 when he had 12 points and nine rebounds but close does not cut it. It is very likely that Splitters role with the team will not change any time in the near future as San Antonio continues to breeze through the league on a pace to win 69 games.
Evan Turner – Philadelphia 76ers
Turner was drafted second overall in last summer’s draft. As of right now, that is the highlight of his short career. He was supposed to help turn around a struggling 76ers organization and has been nothing but below mediocre. When a player is drafted second overall it is expected that they are going to make an immediate impact and be in the starting lineup. Turner has only started in 12 games and only surpassed the 20 point plateau once this season. His averages for the season are 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. Yuck. That is like Derrick Favors on a good day. What this goes to show is that no player, no matter how good they were in college, is a lock to be a solid NBA player (or maybe players from Ohio State just suck at in the pros). But, hey, he is a rookie and has his career ahead of him. Maybe he will turn in around. Until then the focus of the 76ers will be the development of Jrue Holiday.
Ekpe Udoh – Golden State Warriors
Much of the first half of the season was marred by injury for Udoh. Now that he is healthy he is proving that even when he does get minutes he produces little if anything. He played almost 23 minutes against the Kings on December 21, 2010 and did not even take a shot! Not even a free throw. Enough said, moving on…
Greivis Vasquez – Memphis Grizzlies
My counterpart at the Beef had high hopes for Vasquez when the Grizzlies drafted him. Now, with half an NBA season under his belt, all expectations should be tempered. He has scored ten points just once this season and has never scored more than that and has never recorded more than seven assists. Seven assists is not a bad number but he has only recorded more than five assists five times in 39 games. Memphis is overloaded at the swing position so it is going to be a while before Vasquez finds his niche.
John Wall – Washington Wizards
The biggest concern for Wall during the first half of the season was his turnovers. (His health was also a major concern.) They were out of control and that is not a good thing, to say the least, for a point guard, especially a young one. He has not completely managed to keep them in check but has done a far better job of holding onto the ball while increasing his assists. For the season, Wall is averaging 9.2 assists. In the month of January, he has averaged 10.6 assists per game with only 4.3 turnovers during that same stretch. For the season is Wall is averaging 15.2 points but only shooting 40 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from long range. He needs to improve his shooting percentage. But, using Derrick Rose as a model, this will likely happen. If Wall can lead the Wizards to a road victory this season he should consider it a consolation prize to not winning the NBA Finals.
Clearly, rookies cannot be judged on an equal basis. Systems and coaches dictate a lot in the development of young players. Each of the players above has a whole career ahead of them. Who is to say that any of the players who are not named Blake Griffin or John Wall on this list will not become an NBA All Star one day? It is not like all of them are going to turn out to be Hasheem Thabeet.
There is a player that must be added to this list who was not under consideration when it was originally written…
Landry Fields – New York Knickerbockers.
He has simply been brilliant in the short rotation that D’Antoni loves to employ. He has started all 44 games for the Knicks thus far and has been solid in nearly every single one. His averages of 9.8 points and 7.1 rebounds have been some of the most consistent of any rookie on a team that will more than likely make the playoffs. What certainly does not hurt is that Fields is shooting at a clip of 52.1 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from deep. In any system, he would be a major contributor.
Images via NBA.com