by Eldon Khorshidi

Week 9 (Dec. 23 – Dec. 29)

Welcome to the Rookie Report, a weekly judgment and analysis of the NBA’s Young Gunz.

This time last week, I was as hyped as I’d been in a long, long time to watch NBA basketball. The slate of games on Christmas was insane. Ray Felton, Amar’e and supporting cast conquered DRose, Boozer, and supporting cast for the second time this year, proving the Knicks could be a legitimate 5 seed in the East. Orlando made a statement by snapping Boston’s 14-game winning streak. The absence of Rajon Rondo didn’t hold much weight for me because this was a statement made by the Magic to the Magic. They can do it.

If Orlando acquires a decent big-man (i.e. Boris Diaw, Troy Murphy, Joel Przybilla), they will compete with anyone in May. They have a lot to improve on, given Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas combined for 11 points on 3-13 shooting Christmas day. But once they find their groove, Orlando will make a run at a third consecutive Eastern Conference finals appearance. Two nights prior to beating Boston, the Magic smacked San Antonio, ending the Spurs’ double-digit winning streak as well. Respect is earned in May and June, but we should still give props to Otis Smith for playing the odds and going all-in.

The Heat abused the Lakers. I’m not giving my opinion because there’s no point. Media are in no position to critique Kobe Bryant in December. When natural order gets interrupted and disturbed, it’s human nature to freak out. But we tend to forget that Kobe has more rings than LeBron, DWade, Carmelo, Amar’e, Dirk, CP3, KG, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Dwight Howard… combined. I’m not calling another Lakers title, but if Bryant does go down this year, it won’t be in a 16-point defeat, you can bet that.

The last two games on Christmas day reinforced what we already knew: 85% of the teams in the NBA are limited to the point that they can’t compete with the top-tier teams. I also realized Dwight Howard should strongly consider signing with Oklahoma City in 2012. If things don’t work out in Orlando, that could be his best chance at winning a ring.

Okay, now that I just splurged out my brain, let’s get back on point.

Rookies. Dissecting the ROY race has no substance; Blake Griffin is in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in my book. But many rooks are putting in work, marinating in their respective systems, and appear (at the moment) to have bright futures.

Blake Griffin

Season: 21.5 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 53% field-goal percentage

Week 9: 27.3 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 66% field-goal percentage

BG continued his monster streak of double-doubles, earning his 20th straight in last night’s loss to Utah. He now holds the Clippers’ rookie record and the longest streak by any NBA rookie in the last 40 years. Griffin now has 26 double-doubles on the season (in 33 games). Furthermore, the only two players in the past 10 years to have a longer streak are Kevin Garnett (37) and David Lee (24). Blake is currently second in the league in double-doubles, two behind Kevin Love’s 28.

I’m confused. Isn’t he supposed to be a rookie? You know, inconsistent play, mistakes, off-nights, any type of typical struggles? Apparently not.

I know all of you realize what’s going on, but any notion of him being overrated is absurd. He’s the truth. He’s realness. A ruthless, savage-like franchise big-man who the Clippers should and will build around. For all the naysayers, consider this: As Chris Broussard notes, on any given night, LA puts out a starting lineup without anyone over the age of 22. Patience and practice will help mold this team towards it’s potential. We’ve seen slight improvement already—props to the Clips for winning five of their past seven games.

John Wall

Season: 15.4 ppg, 8.6 apg, 2 spg

Week 9: 9 ppg, 7.3 apg, 6 rpg

After missing five games, Wall had a rusty return in San Antonio. He shot 2-9 with four turnovers in only 19 minutes, but he got back into his rhythm the next night in Houston, posting 13 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. In last night’s win against Indiana, he was three rebounds shy of a triple-double. Wall’s flirted with both peaks and valleys this year, but he’s learning on the fly. With Gilbert Arenas gone, it’s time for Wall to step up as a leader and help construct some wins for the Wizards.

Landry Fields

Numbers aren’t important

But for the sake of being consistent, here are some stats: Fields leads all shooting guards in field-goal percentage (52%) and rebounds (7.6).

His impact lies within the intangibles, not statistical production. Fields sets solid screens, makes well-timed cuts, and sacrifices his body for the much-needed offensive foul, rebound, or steal. In my opinion, Landry Fields has been more instrumental in his team’s success than any other rookie. The Knicks are a team that plays 75% by street rules and 25% by fundamentals and textbook play. It’s cool with me, in fact I love it. But when Wilson Chandler, Tony Douglas, or even Amar’e Stoudemire get carried away, Fields is the glue that keeps the cracked frame together.

Notes:

-Wesley Johnson had a career-high 24 points in the T-Wolves’ win over the Hornets on Monday. Johnson has been consistent all year, and is averaging approximately 13 points per contest over his last four games. Coming into the league, his jump-shot was a concern, but we should note he’s tied with Gary Neal for the rookie lead with 46 3-pointers made.

-DeMarcus Cousins went on a hot streak earlier this month, when he averaged 17 points and 16 rebounds. Cousins cooled down over his next three games, but made a statement last night. He contributed 21 points, 16 rebounds, and 2 steals in last night’s win vs. Memphis.

-Evan Turner had a career-high 23 points last night on an extremely efficient 9-12 shooting. Statement game or was it the Suns’ non-existent defense?

-Ed Davis had a career-high 17 points and 12 rebounds in Toronto’s surprising road victory in Dallas on Tuesday.

-Gordon Hayward also had a career-high 17 points (5-8 from deep) and 6 rebounds in last night’s win vs. LA.

That’s it for now. Have a great weekend everyone, one love.

Highlights of the week: