by Eldon Khorshidi / @eldonadam
In life, and especially in basketball, I have trouble capturing the moment; I typically don’t absorb and understand what’s occurring until the moment is complete. The tendency was once again in effect this year, but for the first time I think it worked to my advantage.
I didn’t view the rookies as rookies; Instead, every first year pro was just a professional basketball player, regardless of age or experience. I’m not naive though. Like any fan, I gave the rookies the benefit of the doubt, understanding they have room to grow and time to flourish, like an eighth grader playing varsity. Instead of forming an impulsive perspective and drawing outrageous conclusions based off single-game (or single-week) performances, I took a years worth of work into account to analyze the rookie class.
It goes without saying that one season isn’t enough to place labels–bust, superstar, etc. Chauncey Billups came into the League in ‘97-98, but didn’t make an impact until 2002. The same applies for numerous others—Chris Mullin, Gerald Wallace, Corey Maggette, Ben Wallace to name a few. With the season winding down, let’s have some fun and redraft the Class of 2010.
Season: 16 ppg, 8.6 apg, 4.5 rpg
Pick in 2010 NBA draft: John Wall
Wall has been the only ray of life for the 18-56 Wizards. He was the consensus No. 1 pick in June, and still holds the throne on the first of April. The Carolina native has the make of a franchise point guard—superb athleticism, ball handling, court awareness, and most importantly leadership. Even without a consistent jumpshot, Wall is a match-up problem on most nights. His ability to fill the stat sheet is reminiscent of a young Jason Kidd.
Season: 9 ppg, 7.3 rpg
Pick in 2010 NBA draft: Evan Turner
Monroe has arguably been the best Eastern Conference rookie since January. After logging 15-20 minutes a game earlier in the season, he’s made his way into the Pistons starting lineup. His numbers have increased every month—with 10 double-doubles in his last 17 games, his development is coming along smoothly. Learning from Elton Brand and playing alongside Andre Iguodala and pass-first point guard Jrue Holiday would make Monroe a good fit in Philadelphia. DeMarcus Cousins could also be considered for this spot, but I see Monroe’s versatility as a better fit for the 76ers.
Season: 6.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Pick in 2010 NBA draft: Derrick Favors
This one is simple: Favors was a trade chip even before he got drafted, and he was finally shipped to Utah at the deadline. I am confident DeMarcus Cousins will have a more successful career than Favors, but the Nets already have a center in Brook Lopez. Plus, many teams would be hesitant to trade for Cousins.
Season: 14.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg
Pick in 2010 NBA draft: Wesley Johnson
If there’s one player to contest Wall as the Draft’s best overall player, it’s Cousins. Cousins is a 6-11, 270 pound immovable object with the shooting touch of a guard. He’s posted a double-double in 14 of his last 28 games, and has scored in double figures in all but one game in March.
If the Wolves drafted Cousins, they could’ve put Mike Beasley at 3, allowing Kevin Love to play his natural 4, and inserting Cousins at the 5. With the double-teams Cousins is already demanding, Love would probably have five 30-30 games this year. It’s sad that the last positive memories of the Target Center lie within the Kevin Garnett days.
Season: 7.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg
2010 NBA draft: DeMarcus Cousins
George is a 6-8 combo guard who’s as raw as sushi. He’s shown flashes of brilliance on both ends of the floor, with a crafty offensive arsenal and the length to contest any shot on defense, even if he lays off his man. Despite shooting only 27 percent from deep, George has trampoline hops and a developing jumpshot. For George to get minutes under the strict tutelage of Jim O’Brien is an indication of some sort. Not saying he’s an All-Star, but George can be a starter in this league for years to come. With Cousins off the board, if Sacramento took the Fresno State swingman they’d have a solid core of Tyreke Evans/Marcus Thornton/George, plus a top-8 pick in this years draft.
Season: 7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1 blkpg
2010 NBA draft: Ekpe Udoh
Davis has been overlooked for most of the season despite being a lottery pick. His skinny frame is deceptive because he can bang down low, scoring efficiently (66 percent in January, 64 percent in February, 53 percent in March) and collect rebounds. He would fit in with Golden States run-n-gun offense, garnering lots of transition buckets. His raw ability is too much to pass up on here.
Season: 7 ppg, 2 apg, 3.9 apg
2010 NBA draft: Greg Monroe
Both Greg Monroe and Paul George are off the board here, but Turner is still a good fit in Detroit. He needs to improve in several categories, but Turner plays at his pace and is comfortable within himself, leading to lots of playmaking opportunities. With some improved shot selection and some work behind the arc, Tuner will be a solid pro. The locker room unrest in Detroit would’ve also allowed Turner to play significant minutes.
Season: 9.9 ppg, 1.9 apg, 6.5 rpg
2010 NBA draft: Al-Farouq Aminu
Fields’ remarkable basketball IQ and veteran poise lifts him from the dumps of the second round to the lottery. Al-Farouq Aminu has made decent contributions, but Fields’ play is way ahead of his experience—he has unpredictable upside, and at this point is a rotation player at the worst. Fields shoots, defends, and rebounds better than Aminu, and would help the Clips immediately.
Season: 9 ppg, 1.9 apg, 3 rpg
Johnson has been erratic at times this season, but so has every other player on this list. Wes could fill in at small forward for Utah, as Andrei Kirilenko’s contract expires at seasons end. Johnson’s put together a few notable performances, but I think he’d do even better in the Jazz’ balanced, structured system. If he can learn to attack the rim with a vengeance and polish his three-point shooting, Johnson will be a force in the league.
Season: 4.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.2 blkpg
2010 NBA draft: Paul George
Sanders hasn’t played too often this season, but his game fascinates me. It’s rare to find a 6-11 forward who can defend positions two through five. On offense, Sanders has a smooth face-up and mid-range game. For an Indiana team that lacks front-court athleticism, Sanders a risky pick, but one that could pay dividends.
Season: 6 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Pick in 2010 NBA draft: Cole Aldrich
It’s easy to be fooled by Patterson’s petty numbers, but his game is meant for game film, not the box score. Patterson can guard without fouling, something the Kings hope DeMarcus Cousins will learn. He has a limited but effective offensive game, but his impact would be especially felt on the defensive end. Patterson could play behind Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins, anchoring the second unit similar to Omer Asik in Chicago.
Season: 10.4 ppg, 2.2 apg, 2.3 rpg
March: 18.2 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.3 rpg
Since being traded from Atlanta to Washington, Crawford has made the most of his opportunities, surprising everyone in the basketball world with his scoring ability. His latest feat—a smooth 39 on the Miami Heat this past Wednesday. Crawford would be an offensive threat off the bench for Memphis, making OJ Mayo even more expendable. The kid from Xavier can create his shot with ease, in a Jamal Crawford-Jason Terry kind of way. He’s also showed more promise than both Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez, Memphis’ two draft picks.