Friday, January 07, 2005

Rookie Report: Volume 2

January 7, 2005

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. In this blog, we will 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. We 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
Stats:
30 G, 30 GS, 31.6 min, 10.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 51.7 FG%
Positives: Ranks 12th in the league and second among rookies in rebounds per game, including a career-high 20 against Toronto on December 1. His shot-blocking ability has also helped solidify Orlando’s front court, currently ranking 14th in the league (1st among rookies) with 1.72 per game. The youngster from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy is also the only Magic player besides Steve Francis to start all 29 games.
Negatives: Howard has not been able to be a consistent force. For example, he followed up his 20 rebound performance with just 3 two nights later. He also tends to be rather timid with his shot, only totaling double-digit attempts in 6 games this season.
Outlook: With Kelvin Cato back in the lineup (?) there will be less pressure on Howard to carry the load of the Orlando frontcourt. His numbers should gradually continue to climb.
Rookie Rank: 2


2. Emeka Okafor #50, PF, Charlotte Bobcats
Stats:
29 G, 29 GS, 36.6 min, 15.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 46.1 FG%
Positives: Has emerged as the centerpiece of Charlotte’s future. The two-time Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month recently put together a string of 19 straight double-doubles. He is also 3rd in the NBA in RPG and ranks first in this category amongst all rookies, as well as in PPG. His PPG and RPG avergaes shot up 4.6 and 3.2 respectively, from November to December. Has shown steady improvement in almost every game he’s played in.
Negatives: The fact that his streak of 19 straight double-doubles is over is really his only negative.
Outlook: Okafor has shown he can shine on both ends of the floor and will get every opportunity to do so playing on an expansion team. Has gradually pushed ahead of #1 pick Howard as the consensus NBA Rookie of the year.
Rookie Rank: 1


3. Ben Gordon #7, SG, Chicago Bulls
Stats:
29 G, 3 GS, 23.5 min, 13.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG. 1.8 APG, 44.9 FG%
Positives: Gordon wasn’t even rated on last month’s Rookie Report, but his play in the month of December and two games of January (15.3 PPG, 50.0 FG%) has bumped him into the top 5. He has been Chicago’s most consistent contributor off the bench and one has to believe he’s on his way to regaining his short-lived starting position. Ranks 2nd overall among rookies in PPG, but has received 13 minutes less per game than the overall leader, Okafor. Goes to showing you the scoring clip this kid is on.
Negatives: Gordon does very little for the Bulls besides score. He has not had more than 5 rebounds or assists in a game thus far. Needs to contribute more on defense.
Outlook: Gordon should be inserted into the starting lineup sometime this month. When this happens, look for his scoring numbers, but not much else, to continue to rise.
Rookie Rank: 5


4. Shaun Livingston #14, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Stats:
11 games, 21.2 min, 5.0 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: When given the minutes earlier this year, Livingston showed flashes of being the promising young leader the Clippers are counting on him to be. Career-high 13 points against the Rockets in November, while only turning the ball over twice. Best Afro in the league.
Negatives: Broke his kneecap in practice in late-November and is out at least another 2-4 weeks. At only 19 years of age, should be extremely rusty upon returning to the court.
Outlook: With starter Marko Jaric out with a stress fracture in his foot and Rick Brunson currently carrying the point guard load, Livingston could see big minutes when he returns. Still, no one should be looking for him to shine for at least a few more years.
Rookie Rank: NR


5. Devin Harris #34, PG, Dallas Mavericks
Stats:
28 G, 19 GS, 18.1 min, 6.7 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG
Positives: Showed promise in the first month of the season as the Mavericks’ starting point. Could get shipped to another team (and receive big minutes) if Mark Cuban decides to go after an All-Star PG.
Negatives: Since being stripped of his starting spot, Harris has received 3 DNP-CD’s and has averaged just 11.6 minutes per contest. Should be a backup up for the remainder of the season (unless traded).
Outlook: With Jason Terry playing well of late, it doesn’t look like Harris will be much of a factor in the second half.
Rookie Rank: 6


6. Josh Childress #1, GF, Atlanta Hawks
Stats:
29 G, 6 GS, 20.6 min, 6.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 12.5% 3-pt FG
Positives: On this lowly Hawks team, Childress has been given every opportunity to shine. Will continue to receive big chunks of minutes and may even be given his starting spot back. He is being counted on as one of the key components to Atlanta’s future (along with 10 other guys).
Negatives: Coach Mike Woodson (um, yeah) gave JC 6 starts in late-November and early-December, but the rook just couldn’t make the most of it, averaging just 5.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 1.0 SPG in 23.3 min.
Outlook: Fellow rookie Josh Smith has emerged as the coach’s favorite of late pushing Childress even further down the depth chart. By the way, he has to be related to Jared Jefferies, right?
Rookie Rank: 10


7. Luol Deng #9, GF, Chicago Bulls
Stats:
29 G, 20 GS, 28.9 min, 12.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.9 SPG
Positives: Maybe the most consistent Bull all season besides PG Kirk Hinrich. Deng was inserted into the starting lineup in late-November and has not missed a beat ever since. With more pressure on fellow rookie Ben Gordon, Deng has gotten to play his game without having the spotlight constantly on top of him.
Negatives: Needs to work on his shooting. Stroking the rock at only 42.1%, it’s not wonder Deng has not been mentioned more when discussing impact rookies.
Outlook: If he keeps up this pace, he may be looking at All-Rookie First Team.
Rookie Rank: 4


8. Rafael Araujo #55, C, Toronto Raptors
Stats:
15 G, 5 GS, 10.4 min, 2.9 PPG and 3.6 RPG.
Positives: Recently gotten the chance to start in place of Loren Woods after coming off the injured list late last month. Pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds on Wednesday in a win over Sacramento. With the team now rebuilding after the Vince Carter trade, Araujo should get 20+ minutes every night for the rest of the season.
Negatives: His shooting has been atrocious all year, stroking the ball at just 38.5% from the floor. Last night, despite his solid rebounding performance, shot 2-9 from the field, without any trips to the foul line. He must learn to use his 290-lb. frame more to his advantage.
Outlook: His fine defensive showing last night should warrant him solid minutes in his next few starts. It is uncertain what to expect from this guy, but he could thrive after four years in college.
Rookie Rank: NR


9. Andre Iguodala #4, GF, Philadelphia 76ers
Stats:
31 G, 31 GS, 32.4 min, 8.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.7 SPG
Positives: He is the only player to start every game for the Sixers this season. Has played excellent team defense and currently ranks 10th in the NBA in SPG. Coach Jim O’Brien loves defense, which should keep A.I 2 in the starting lineup all season. Had a career-night on December 27th scoring 22 points to go along with 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Iguodala appears to be a steal at number 10.
Negatives: On that same December night, Iggy shot 10-18 from the floor, marking only his fourth time with double-digit attempts all season. With the Sixers having such offensive inconsistencies, Iguodala must step up and provide a solid scoring complement to Allen Iverson.
Outlook: Most definitely a member of the First Team All-Rookie Team. If he steps up his offense, he could (and should) finish 3rd behind Okafor and Howard for ROY.
Rookie Rank: 3


10. Luke Jackson #33, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Stats:
10 G, 4.3 min, 2.9 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 66.7 3-pt FG%
Positives: The good news is that Luke is averaging a gaudy 32.4 PPG per 48 minutes.
Negatives: The bad news is that he’s received 43 minutes all season due to injuries, including his latest, ‘back spasms,’ which has landed him back on the IL. Jackson has never eclipsed more than 9 minutes at a time and on this up-an-coming Cavs team, he may continue to be the odd-man-out in the near future.
Outlook: Unless Luke gets traded, don’t expect much more from what you’ve seen thus far. For a guy whose value skyrocketed during pre-draft camps, we’re have not yet gotten a chance to see what he can really do.
Rookie Rank: NR


11. Andris Biedrins #15, FC, Golden State Warriors
Stats:
3 G, 4.0 min, 1.3 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.3 BPG
Positives: Biedrins came off the injured list on Wednesday for the first time in six weeks. Great news.
Negatives: Latvian Lightning has seen time in only three games all season, the most being a 7 minute spurt in early November against the Jazz.
Outlook: With the Warriors struggling yet again and Head Coach Mike Montgomery not getting much production from his frontline (except for Troy Murphy), Biedrins may see some limited playing time in the near future.
Rookie Rank: NR


12. Robert Swift #31, C, Seattle Supersonics
Stats:
8 G, 3.5 min, 0.4 PPG, 0.6 PF
Positives: Some idiot decided to waste the 12th pick and gave this guy over a million dollars.
Negatives: Ugliest guy in the league hands down. No legitimate reason to think this guy will ever materialize. He is currently on the injured list with a strained right hip and he isn’t 87 years old. And did I mention he might be the ugliest player in the history of Planet Earth?
Outlook: Could be a huge bust for the Sonics, taking him as high as 12. However, with the lack of a decent center on the roster, Seattle could give Swift more PT if they begin to fall off from their hot start. Very doubtful.
Rookie Rank: NR


13. Sebastian Telfair #31, PG, Portland Trailblazers
Stats:
18 G, 9.9 min, 4.4 PPG, 1.6 APG, 0.2 SPG
Positives: The Blazers are not happy with their current point guard situation, and Telfair has shown signs of why the team gambled on him with such a high pick. The Lincoln High grad put together his best all-around game of the season on New Year’s Day totaling 14 points to go along with 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Also, that game was win (not a blow out) over Golden State, showing Coach Mo Cheeks’ confidence in his youngster.
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: If this team continues to fade (currently 14-16, 11th West), Telfair should get big minutes down the stretch. Until this happens though, his time should continue to fluctuate.
Rookie Rank: NR

Best of the Rest:

15. Al Jefferson #8, PF, Boston Celtics
Stats:
32 G, 1 GS, 15.6 min, 6.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 54.1% FG
Positives and Negatives: No reason for me to repeat what the god said: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/cowbell/050105
Outlook: Should average around 20 minutes per game, but won’t see starters minutes until next year unless the team trades Raef LaFrentz. GM Danny Ainge should be very happy he gambled on this high school phenom rather that Robert Swift.
Rookie Rank: 7


17. Josh Smith #5, SF, Atlanta Hawks
Stats:
27 G, 12 GS, 20.2 min, 7.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.6 BPG
Postives: Can absolutely jump through the roof. At just 6-9, Smith is blocking shots at an incredible rate, ranking 12th in the league in blocks per 48 minutes at 3.69. Andrei Kirilenko is the only other SF in this top 12. Smith cracked the starting lineup at the beginning of December and has put up satisfactory numbers ever since. Since his promotion, Smith has averaged 9.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 2.1 BPG, not too shabby for a 19-year old rookie.
Negatives: Ball control; has very little of it. Paul sat down for a recent Hawks’ game and had this to say: “Smith just dribbled the ball off his knee. Do you know how hard that is to do?” Just out of high school, he will have to adjust to stricter defenses.
Outlook: Should be starting for the rest of the season since right now he’s probably the third best player on this Hawks team. Too bad a handful of other players play his same position.
Rookie Rank: 8


38. Chris Duhon #21, PG, Chicago Bulls
Stats:
29 G, 20 GS, 23.3 min, 3.8 PPG, 4.7 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: Leads all rookies in APG, despite playing in limited minutes. Has been starting for two months now, but never seems to get more than 25 minutes a night. His pass-first mentality is why Coach Skiles is keeping him in the starting rotation.
Negatives: Can’t shoot for his life (27.5 FG% and 27.9 3-pt FG%).
Outlook: Gordon is stealing his minutes already and now the only thing left to grab is his starting spot. Should happen within the next few weeks.
Rookie Rank: 9


Keep an Eye On:

  • Tony Allen, G Boston Celtics
  • Trevor Ariza, SF New York Knicks
  • Jameer Nelson, PG Orlando Magic
  • J.R Smith, SG New Orleans Hornets

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