Many pundits predicted that there wouldn’t be many immediate impact players in this year’s rookie class outside of NCAA POY Anthony Davis.
While Davis has impressed as predicted, there have been several other first year players that have stepped right in and surprised like Damian Lillard, Dion Waiters, and Alexey Shved.
Lillard has been the surprise of the season so far when it comes to rookies as he has burst on the scene and ran the Portland franchise like a seasoned vet. Before the injuries, Davis had begun to show the promise he only touched on at Kentucky.
A few players just missing our 1st cut include Jeff Taylor, Jared Sullinger, and Tyler Zeller. Let’s take a look at our initial Rookie Rankings…
10.8 ppg, 3.8 ast, 2.6 reb, .338 3PT%
Surely no one thought that we would be talking about Alexey Shved this early in the season but because of injuries to a number of Minnesota backcourt players, most namely Brandon Roy, the former Russian National Team star has been pressed in to duty with impressive results. Once Ricky Rubio returns, the Wolves may have their backcourt of the future set with an all international flare including Shved. He’s especially hot lately, averaging 16+ppg and making 11 of 19 from behind the arc.
#9 Pick in 2012 NBA Draft
6.3 ppg, 6.5 reb, 1.3 blk, .567 FG%
The pairing of Greg Monroe and Drummond as the Pistons’ frontcourt of the future appears to be working out rather well. Monroe is one of the best passing bigs in the league and prefers the high block while Drummond seems content in his role as rebounder and rim protector. Andre has some amazing athleticism in a monsterous 270lb frame. It could be scary if he ever reaches his full potential. He’s been red hot over his last 2 games averaging 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 2,5 blocks.
#33 Pick in 2011 Draft
9.9 ppg, 3.5 reb, .490 FG%, .451 3PT%
Apparently it was worth the extra year of seasoning while the former Duke standout honed his skills in Europe as he has become one of the Pistons go-to-guys in the early going. On a vastly young an inexperienced team, Singler provides stability as a jack of all trades that can literally score from anywhere on the floor. Kyle has been especially sensational behind the arc. connecting on 5 of 11.
#5 Pick in 2011 Draft
8.7 ppg, 5.5 reb, 1.3 blk, 1.3 ast, .516 FG%
On a bad Toronto Raptors squad, the 20 year old big man from Lithuania has been one of the bright spots. He made Toronto wait an extra year to have full use of his services but it appears like they may have gotten a franchise cornerstone. Valanciunas has been solid, if not spectacular at times, as he still needs to learn to pace himself and play with some consistency but probably puts his hand up and begs for the ball in the post more than any other big in the league.
Golden State Warriors
#7 Pick in 2012 Draft
9.8 ppg, 4.8 reb, 1.4 ast, .460 FG%, .353 3PT%
In his short stint in the Association, Barnes has been better than initially expected coming out od North Carolina. As a Tarheel, many thought Barnes was a bit too tentative and settled on shooting the 3 too much. Playing heavy minutes early on in his NBA career, Barnes has been more aggressive taking the ball to the rack in addition to being an above average perimeter threat. He’s also been impressive as a defender, using his length against opposing 2’s and 3’s. Curry, Barnes, and Klay Thompson is a great core coming together in Golden State.
#4 Pick in 2012 Draft
10.9 ppg, 3.2 reb, 1.8 ast, .323 3PT%
After getting out to a blazing start in his young NBA career, the former University of Florida standout has cooled some but remains a double figure scorer for the Wizards. Beal has helped fill the offensive void from the scoring standpoint with star PG John Wall still rehabbing. Many compare Beal to Ray Allen but he has a long way to go to reach Jesus Shuttlesworth status. Beal ranks 4th among rookies in scoring.
#2 Pick in 2012 NBA Draft
10.8 ppg, 6.1 reb, 1.6 ast, 1.4 blk, 1.1 stl, .473 FG%, .500 3PT%
The former Kentucky product has been one of the major reasons why the Bobcats already have as many wins as they had the entire last season as more than anything else he brought a much needed winning attitude to Charlotte. While he’ll probably never be a 20ppg scorer, he’s a lightning rod and has been feeding off of the much improved play of PG Kemba Walker, scoring, rebounding, and playing the passing lanes like a seasoned veteran. His production ahs slipped a bit during the Bobcats’ 4 game losing streak but look for MKG to do nothing but improve the rest of the season.
#3 Pick in 2012 NBA Draft
15.2 ppg, 3.4 ast, 2.3 reb, 1.2 stl, ..355 3PT%
Many questioned the Cavaliers choice of Waiter over both Beal and Barnes with the #3 pick but they have to be ecstatic with what they’ve seen so far. Despite a recent ankle sprain limiting his playing time, Waiters has filled in nicely as both scoring guard and facilitator in absence of the injured Kyrie Irving. While his shooting percentage(.332%) leaves something to be desired, he has potential as one of the league’s elite scoring guards.
New Orleans Hornets
#1 Pick in 2012 Draft
16 ppg, 8.3 reb, 2.2 blk, 1.1 stl, .493 FG%
Depite playing in only 6 games so far due to injuries, Davis has shown that he deserved to be taken 1st overall in last year’s Draft. With Robin Lopez filling the void at Center, Davis has been able to show a bit more offensive skills than we saw at Kentucky, ranking 2nd among all rookies. He still could stand to add some weight but he uses his elite athleticism to be a plus rebounder and outstanding help defender. While fellow Hornets rookie Austin Rivers looks lost, Davis obviously thrived early because of playing against some of the NBA’s biggest stars on Team USA this Summer.
#6 Pick in 2012 Draft
19.3 ppg, 6.3 ast, 3.3 reb, 1.3 stl, .436 FG%, .381 3PT%
It’s taken only 19 games but Damian is already the 3rd best player on his team behind Aldridge and Batum. The Trailblazers get kudos for doing their homework and taking Lillard a bit higher than some teams would have as they have plucked a diamond in the rough. He has scored in double figures in all but 1 game all season including topping 20 or more points 11 times. In addition to leading all rookies in scoring and assists, he has played with some amazing poise we usually don’t see from a rookie.