Monday, November 22, 2004

Rookie Report: Volume 1

By Anthony Peretore

With the rising impact rookies have had on the league in recent years, it is important to track the progress of these youngsters every few weeks or so. Though we are only eight to eleven games(depending on teams’ schedules) into the 2004-05 season, it seems appropriate to analyze this year's lottery picks as well as a handful of other first and second-round picks and the impact (if any at all) they are having on their respective teams. I will follow the order in which the players were selected and rank the top ten rookies overall, based upon their impact to date.

Lottery Picks:

1. Dwight Howard #12, PF, Orlando Magic
Frame/Stats: 6-11, 240 lbs. 9 GS, 28.7 mins, 7.2 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 46.3 FG%
Positives: Ranks 5th in the league in rebounds per game, tallying double figures in all 9 games thus far. His shot-blocking ability has also helped solidify Orlando’s front court. The youngster from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy has been a key component to the team's 6-3 start. Should blossom into a star (KG-replica?) by the end of the year.
Negatives: Only averaging 6 FG attempts per game, thus the low scoring average. With Francis, Hill, and Mobley taking the majority of the shots, we may not get to see what Howard can truly bring on the offensive side of the ball. His poor free-throw shooting (44.1%) ought to gradually improve.
Outlook: Should continue to thrive defensively, but scoring numbers may remain on the low side. Still the favorite for Rookie of the Year.
Rookie Rank: 1

2. Emeka Okafor #50, PF, Charlotte Bobcats
Frame/Stats: 6-10, 252 lbs. 9 GS, 32.7 mins, 10.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG
Positives: Ranks 1st among all rookies in minutes, 2nd in RPG, and 3rd in PPG. Along with Primoz Brezec, they are establishing a solid front court in Charlotte. Has shown solid leadership ability, a carry-over from his championship run with UConn. Superior intelligence will allow him to learn from his rookie mistakes at a rapid pace.
Negatives: Stamina. Became worn down when the team played three games in four nights. Should get more accustomed to this as the season progresses.
Outlook: Has shown he can shine on both ends of the floor and will get every opportunity to do so, playing on an expansion team. By playing for the Bobcats, it may push Okafor ahead of Howard for Rookie of the Year.
Rookie Rank: 2

3. Ben Gordon #7, SG, Chicago Bulls
6-3, 200 lbs. 9 games, 3 GS, 19.4 mins, 8.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG. 1.4 APG
Positives: UConn star had his best game of the year last night(11/21) in LA, scoring a career-high 15 points. Has shown flashes of being a solid 2-guard in the league and has been making strides towards adjusting to the pro level of play. Less pressure off the bench.
Negatives: Lost his starting spot after three games. Shooting only 32.5% from the floor and 29.2% from 3. Very little team discipline and veteran leadership to help him adjust.
Outlook: With two other rookies (Deng and Nocioni) fighting for PT and looking sharper than Gordon so far, Ben may have a long, frustrating year in Chi-town.
Rookie Rank: NR

4. Shaun Livington #14, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 175 lbs. 21.2 mins, 5.0 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: When given the minutes, he has shown the potential as the promising young leader the Clippers are counting on him to be. Career-high 15 points on Saturday (11/20), while only turning the ball over twice.
Negatives: Still needs to learn how to be a floor leader. He’s had only two games with four or more assists. Also, must stay out of foul trouble, tallying four or more fouls in five separate games thus far.
Outlook: As expected, the Clips are bringing Livingston along slowly out of high school. Once the team starts sliding (inevitable) looks for the spidery youngster to turn it up when granted 30+ minutes per night.
Rookie Rank: NR

5. Devin Harris #34, PG, Dallas Mavericks
Frame/Stats: 6-3, 185 lbs. 11 GS, 22.8 mins, 9.1 PPG, 2.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 80.0% FT
Positives: Named the starter over Jason Terry to lead this high-octane Dallas offense. Has been solid all year, especially in his last three games earning 30+ minutes per contest while averaging 14 PPG, 4.7 APG, and 3.0 SPG. Has helped lead the team to an 8-3 record thus far.
Negatives: Not too many assists for an offense averaging 102.3 PPG. Also, must learn to take better shots (only 38.0 FG%).
Outlook: If Harris remains the starter, look for him to be the dark horse in the Rookie of the Year voting. However, it doesn’t seem likely for Mark Cuban to leave a rookie running the show all year long.
Rookie Rank: 4

6. Josh Childress #1, GF, Atlanta Hawks
Frame/Stats: 6-8, 210 lbs. 19.8 mins, 7.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 50.0% FG
Positives: While starting off the year slow, he has turned it up in his last three games, averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 2.0 SPG in 28.3 minutes. Also shot 61% FG during this stretch, giving the Hawks a ray of hope in what should be a dismal 2004-05 season.
Negatives: Lanky frame has prevented him from controlling the paint. Needs to bulk up. Needs to show he’s durable and dependable enough to start.
Outlook: On this weak Atlanta team, Childress will have plenty of opportunities to shine as he did at Stanford last season. As he bulks up, so will his statistics.
Rookie Rank: 7

7. Luol Deng #9, GF, Chicago Bulls
Frame/Stats: 6-8, 220 lbs. 29.3 mins, 16.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: Duke star has been the leading scoring on the Bulls through nine games, despite coming off the bench. Among rookies, he ranks 1st in PPG, 3rd in minutes played, and 5th in RPG. Has exceeded all expectations the Bulls have had for him thus far.
Negatives: The fact that he’s not starting yet. Coach Skiles starting Eric Piatkowski over Deng is one of the more bizarre coaching moves of the year.
Outlook: If and when Deng cracks the starting lineup, there’s no telling what kind of numbers he can put up. Will have Howard and Okafor looking over their shoulders all year long.
Rookie Rank: 3

8. Rafael Araujo #55, C, Toronto Raptors
Frame/Stats: 6-11, 290 lbs. 7.0 mins, 0.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG.
Positives: Utah graduate has not gotten enough playing time to show the coaching staff or league any sort of promise.
Negatives: Has played 35 minutes all year, scoring only 4 total points. The picture Yahoo! chose to display on his player page is Theo Ratliff throwing down a monster dunk on him. Hopefully, he can get a chance to hang on a rim or two before the year is over.
Outlook: Really makes little sense that Aruajo can’t get minutes playing behind Loren Woods of all people. Should begin to get more PT as the season wears on.
Rookie Rank: NR

9. Andre Iguodala #4, GF, Philadelphia 76ers
6-6, 207 lbs. 10 GS, 8.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.9 SPG
Positives: Beat out Willie Green for starting spot and has proved his worth on Coach Jim O'Briens club. Has been a solid defensive presence thus far, ranking 2nd among rookies in SPG and 3rd in RPG. Further evidence of this came Sunday night (11/21) when the rookie put up a career-high 6 steals and 11 rebounds in Miami.
Negatives: He must step up his offense to help Allen Iverson with the scoring load. Has seemed a bit timid to shoot, breaking double-digit FG attempts only once in ten games. Must learn to use his athleticism more on the offensive end of the floor.
Outlook: Iguodala has gotten better in each game he’s played in and look for this trend to continue. With veterans like Aaron McKie and Iverson as his mentors, look for the Arizona star to make All-Rookie first-team.
Rookie Rank: 6

10. Luke Jackson #33, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 215 lbs. Injured List for all but 1 game.
Positives: Led Oregon in points, rebounds, and assists last season, showing he has what it takes to be a solid NBA player. Stock rose dramatically in pre-draft workouts, prompting the Cavs to take him at 10. Will get more minutes when healthy.
Negatives: Despite playing only 3 minutes all year, there really doesn’t appear to be much PT for Jackson even once he’s healthy. Could be a solid backup to LeBron, when King James sits out his 6 minutes per game.
Outlook: Can’t see Jackson contributing much this season unless someone goes down with an injury. If so, he could be a valuable weapon off the bench.
Rookie Rank: NR

11. Andris Biedrins #15, FC, Golden State Warriors
Frame/Stats: 6-11, 240. 4.0 mins, 1.3 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.3 BPG
Positives: Has excellent inside presence with an impressive vertical leap. Dominated top U.S. high school players this past summer, showing his potential as an NBA prospect. Playing for this weak Warriors team, he should warrant more minutes as the year progresses.
Negatives: Far too raw to have any true impact in his rookie year. Needs to bulk up a bit more to be more effective in the paint (where he feels most comfortable).
Outlook: Could be yet another European star in the league, but right now he must earn his PT in practice, meaning we won’t see this guy shine for a few years.
Rookie Rank: NR

12. Robert Swift #31, C, Seattle Supersonics
7-0, 245 lbs. 4.0 mins, 0.5 PPG, 0.2 BPG.
Positives: Size makes him an ideal center prospect for the Sonics.
Negatives: Should have went to college for at least two years. Needs to bulk up, improve his game around the rim, and dye his hair.
Outlook: Could be a huge bust for the Sonics, taking him as high as 12. However, with lack of a decent centers on the roster, Seattle could give Swift more PT if they begin to fall off from their 9-2 start.
Rookie Rank: NR

13. Sebastian Telfair #31, PG, Portland Trailblazers
6-0, 165 lbs. 5.3 mins, 1.3 PPG, 1.8 APG, 0.3 SPG
Positives: Was probably the best high school point guard behind Livingston last year. Averaged over 30.0 PPG at Lincoln, and showed he has what it takes to become an above-average point guard at the pro-level.
Negatives: Stuck behind Damon Stoudamire and Nick Van Exel for minutes. Still has a lot to learn about the transition from a scoring to a playmaking point guard.
Outlook: He’s either years away in Portland, or weeks away from big minutes in New Jersey if a trade for Jason Kidd goes down (makes the most sense for the Nets).
Rookie Rank: NR

Best of the Rest:

15. Al Jefferson #8, PF, Boston Celtics
6-10, 265. 12.8 mins, 6.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 56.4% FG
Positives: Steal for the Celtics at fifteen. Team has the luxery of bringing him along slowly now that Raef LaFrentz is healthy. Coach Rivers has shown a growing confidence in the youngster as of late. Had career-highs in minutes (23), points (13) and rebounds (6) on Friday (11/19) versus the Spurs.
Negatives: Still must adjust to the jump from high school to the pros. Very weak defensively, but getting better. Poor free-throw shooter (56.4%) as well.
Outlook: Should average around 20 minutes per game, but won’t see starters minutes until next year. Danny Ainge will be very happy he gambled on this high school phenom rather that Robert Swift.
Rookie Rank: 8

20. Jameer Nelson #14, PG, Orlando Magic
Frame/Stats: 6-0, 190 lbs. 10.4 min, 3.2 PPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 SPG
Positives Last year’s consensus college Player of the Year is getting a chance to learn from one of the league’s best point guards in Steve Francis. Despite a lack of PT, he has had some solid spurts, highlighted by his 6-point, 7-assist performance against Charlotte on 11/6. Nelson’s four years of college experience will allow him to quickly gain the confidence of his teammates and coaching staff as the year progresses (if he hasn't already).
Negatives: Seems reluctant to take over a game like he did at Saint Joseph’s. Needs to realize he isn’t going to always be the quickest guy on the court anymore. Stuck behind Stevie Franchise on the depth chart, it will be very difficult for Jameer to gain enough valuable minutes to prove his worth in his rookie campaign.
Outlook: Unfortunately, several teams passed on Nelson that could have made him their starting point guard. Now he’s stuck behind arguably the best point in the league right now; so don’t look for his minutes to climb too dramtically.
Rookie Rank: NR

29. David Harrison #13, C, Indiana Pacers
7-0, 250 lbs. 17.8 mins, 4.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.6% FG
Positives: Young center out of Colorado will be looked upon to mature quickly after the unexpected suspension of Jermaine O’Neal. Had 19 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks in the Pacers’ first game since the incident in Detroit. Has the chance to shine with O’Neal missing 25 games.
Negatives: Tends to lose focus and go into defensive lapses. Also, his free throw percentage (59.1) must improve.
Outlook: Will get starters minutes for at least 25 games and could permanently take over the starting center position if he excels during this stretch.
Rookie Rank: NR, yet

38. Chris Duhon #21, PG, Chicago Bulls

Frame/Stats: 6-1, 185 lbs. 22.0 mins, 3.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.13 SPG
Positives: Leads all rookies in APG, despite playing behind Kirk Hinrich. Four years at Duke have given him invaluable leadership skills, which will be counted on heavily to help develop the abundance of youth on the team.
Negatives: Stuck behind Hinrich. Also, has a horrid shooting percentage (25.6%) thus far.
Outlook: Will be counted on to spell Hinrich and hopefully instill some of his leadership ability into his teammates. Assist totals should stay steady all year.
Rookie Rank: 10

43. Trevor Ariza #21, SF, New York Knicks
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 194 lbs. 16.4 mins, 6.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.22 SPG
Positives: Was not counted on to even make the roster this summer, but surprised everyone by becoming a valuable piece in Lenny Wilkens' rotation. A stable defender, Ariza ranks 3rd among rookies in SPG. He had a career-high 14 points and 8 rebounds against Philadelphia on 11/9 showing he can be a steady contributor in New York.
Negatives: Logjam of players ahead of him on the depth chart. With Crawford playing well and Houston due back at some point, his minutes might actually decline.
Outlook: The Knicks want all they can get out of this kid without harming the PT of their more dependable players. The more time Houston misses, the more minutes Ariza will be granted.
Rookie Rank: 9

Not Drafted:

Andres Nocioni #5, F, Chicago Bulls
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 225 lbs. 28.1 mins, 11.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: Has stepped up as a leader on this young Bulls team. Ranks third on the team in PPG as well as RPG. He is second among all rookies in PPG, and ranks fourth in RPG and APG. The Argentinean star's play has kept first-round picks Gordon and Deng from starting.
Negatives: Shooting only 40.0% FG for the year including a 2-8 performance Sunday night in LA. Also, he's too inconsistant. Chicago needs him to step up like the guy who had 17 points and 14 boards on opening night.
Outlook: Looks to have solidfied the starting small forward position and if that's the case, his numbers should climb. However, with Gordon and Deng behind him, he will be challenged all year long.
Rookie Rank: 5

Tune in every other week for the updated Rookie Report...


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