by Eldon Khorshidi
Week 12 (Jan.13 – Jan. 19)
Welcome to the Rookie Report, a weekly analysis of the NBA’s Young Gunz.
On an individual scale, the success of this rookie rookie class has been a spectrum. We have a monster rookie, a ‘what could be’ rookie, a pleasant surprise, and some dissapointments; but the majority of first-year pros have been solid, but unreliable.
Blake Griffin (the monster) has made the Clippers an anomaly: a 16-25 team that’s ‘must watch’ TV. John Wall has shown flashes of greatness, leaving us to ponder ‘what could be,’ and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the play of Landry Fields.
Surprising, to some, are the numerous lottery picks that have been MIA (Gordon Hayward, Pat Patterson, Xavier Henry, etc). If you have serious doubt or are in panic mode about a rookie, let time take its course; if history repeats itself, everything will be good money.
The natural rookie progression is one of early struggle and late improvement. Sometimes rookies even improve exponentially during the last-third of their first NBA season. Take Marcus Thornton, for example. After an inconsistent start to his rookie campaign, from Feb. 1st onward (22 games) he recorded 16 games of 20 points or more, including outings of 28 (three times), 30, 36, and 37.
Exhibit B: Thornton’s former teammate, Darren Collison. From Feb. 1st onward, the CP3 fill-in scored in double-figures in all but two games the rest of the season, and posted double-doubles in 9 of the 22 games. He even had a 16 point, 20 assists showing.
Season: 22.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg
Week 12: 30.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg
The bad: Griffin’s streak of double-doubles ended last night at 27 games. The good: the Clippers keep winning.
Don’t be fooled. Despite his streak ending, Griffin poured in 29 points and eight rebounds against the Wolves. Even more impressive (at least to me), he helped keep rebounding machine Kevin Love to 0 first-half boards. Griffin continues to dominate, and the Clippers have quietly won 11 of 15.
Before we move forward, let’s rewind to last Friday, the first game of BG’s week (according to the ‘Rookie Report’ calender). Blake had 28 and 13 in a loss to the Warriors, then dropped 18 and 15 in a victory over the Lakers. For one night, and for many more once Kobe retires, L.A. witnessed the [B]lakeshow.
The next day, specifically MLK day, Griffin made 19 of 24 fields goals, en route to a career-high and NBA season-high 47 points. 19-24!! That’s 79.2 percent. Are you serious? According to Elias Sports Bureau, that was the highest field-goal percentage by a rookie who took at least 20 shots in an NBA game since Dec. 6, 1984, when Hakeem Olajuwon made 18 of 22 (81.8 percent) for the Rockets. Not bad company.
Griffin’s 47 points were also the second-most ever on MLK day. Gilbert Arenas dropped 51 on the Jazz in ’07. Blake now has a better career-high then Monta Ellis (46), DRose (39), and Dwight Howard (45), to name a few. Get ya buckets up fellas.
At the end of last season, I was convinced no rookie would match ‘Reke’s 20, 5, and 5 campaign, but obviously I was mistaken. Griffin has been so good so early that I frequently find myself desensitized to his highlights, which is terrible because he’s only 41 games into his career. His violation of the league should be a felony. Sorry LeBron, I’ve found someone new to witness.
Season: 15.3 ppg, 9.3 apg, 1.8 spg
Week 12: 12.75 ppg, 11.75 apg, 1.8 spg
Just because Griffin is the main course on this years rookie menu, we shouldn’t ignore the delicious appetizer that Sir Johnathan Wall has given us.
Wall is averaging 13.8 points and 11 assists in January, and his steady play is showing in the win column. The Wizards are still winless on the road this season, but are a decent (by Washington standards) 4-5 during the first month of ’11.
The Wiz, led by Wall, got their first win against a team with a winning record when they defeated the Jazz on Monday. Wall had 19 points and tied a career-high with 15 assists, but more importantly got a win against Deron Williams, arguably the best point guard in the league.
Consistency, both individually and in the win column, will be the ultimate factor to judge John Wall. Double-figure points in 10 of the last 12 and double-figure assists in 7 of the last 12 is a good start.
Season: 13 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Week 12: 13.75 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Cousins had a strong week in my book. In only 23 minutes vs. the Knicks, he posted 16 points and 10 rebounds (six offensive), albeit on 7-20 shooting. He then went toe-to-toe with fellow lottery pick Greg Monroe in a four-point loss at Detroit. Cousins has shown glimpses of dominance, but he’s been inconsistent as well. He shot an abysmal 2-11 in last night’s loss to Portland. If you look past the tolerable rookie struggles, Cousins has been one of the few bright spots on the 9-31 Sacramento Kings.
Season: 6.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg
January: 10.7 pp, 5.1 rpg
Earning a shade under half-a-million dollars this season, Harris is heavily impressing in Cleveland. The undrafted, 6-5 shooting guard from Michigan posted 16 points and 10 rebounds on Jan. 7th vs. Golden State, and followed up two nights later to the tune of 27 points and eight rebounds. Harris, along with Spurs rookie Gary Neal, may claim the title for the best undrafted rookies this year.
-Late shout-out to two Boston rookie big-men. Luke Harangody pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds on Jan. 7th and Semih Erden led Boston with 9 rebounds a few nights later. If the inuries on the Celtics’ frontline persist, one of these two could see an increased role.
-Ed Davis is averaging 10.3 rebounds over his past three games. Davis is progressing smoothy after starting the year on the DL. You think Toronto is regretting Amir Johnson’s lofty contract yet?
-Starting in place of the injured Ben Wallace, Greg Monroe has scored in double-figures in eight straight games, a stretch that includes four double-doubles. Monroe is slowly silencing his critics, and making a strong case for Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.
-Paul George had a career-high 16 points last Wednesday during Indiana’s win vs. Dallas. George is averaging nearly 14 minutes per game in January. Many fans (myself included) are still waiting for fellow Pacer Lance Stephenson to grace the hardwood. But don’t panic ‘Born Ready’ fans, here’s some promising news: ‘Coach Jim O’Brien said guard Lance Stephenson has developed enough in the first half of the season that he would be confident if he needed to play this season. The rookie from Cincinnati has yet to play in a regular season game, but O’Brien said he expected Stephenson to be a “very, very” big part of the team’s future.’
-Evan Turner grabbed 11 rebounds in Philly’s overtime win vs. Charlotte on Monday. He out-rebounded rebounding machines Gerald Wallace (6) and fellow Sixer Andre Iguodala (10).
That’s it for now. Have a great weekend everyone, one love.
Highlights of the week: