Links: Year of the Rookie

by April 08, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

Big night tonight for Atlanta Hawks fans all around the world — OK, for me, Myung and Coco. The Hawks and Pacers square off tonight at 7:00 with the 8th spot in the East on the line. Well, it’s not really on the line, but the Pacers are on their last gasp, and the Hawks can make the magic number 1 with four games left. I’m wearing my Hawks hoodie today in celebration…you know, the one I had to buy last weekend in Atlanta at Philips Arena because you can’t buy Hawks gear anywhere else.

Also, before we get to today’s topic, one link I enjoyed this morning: I have a new favorite soccer team. They could probably take Arsenal, at least.

Anyway, I wanted to talk today about the Rookie Of The Year award. My ballot is due in a little over a week, and I haven’t really decided who I’m voting for in any of the categories, so I’ll get to more of the awards later this week. But Rookie of the Year is particularly vexing to me.

Before the season started, everyone seemed certain that Kevin Durant would be the ROY. After all, the Sonics were in the midst of dismantling their team and screwing over their fans and the city that has supported them, so Durant was going to be their main offensive option. As it turned out, Durant was their best offensive player, and through 75 games he’s averaged 20 points per game.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Al Horford quickly worked his way into the starting lineup and has done the dirty work all season long. Through 76 games, Horford has averaged almost exactly half as many points per game as Durant (on almost exactly half as many shots per game), but he’s also averaging 9.7 rebounds per game, including 3 offensive boards per night.

I’ve enjoyed watching several rookies this season, from Luis Scola to Jamario Moon to my man Yi. But in my mind, Durant and Horford are the two best rookies out there. It’s deciding between them that’s so tough.

Durant has been excellent offensively, but his team is terrible. Horford isn’t as important to the Hawks as Durant is to the Sonics, but the Hawks are about (fingers crossed) to make the Playoffs for the first time in about 200 years. Horford continues to crank out double-doubles, while Durant leads the Sonics in points, blocks, steals and free throws (makes and percentage). Durant had his own cool NBA commercial…

While Al made one himself that’s pretty cool, too…

Durant is the more polished player, but Horford is the more productive player, even though he’s played out of position most of the season. By the way, does anyone care about Durant’s bench press anymore?

The toughest thing for me in deciding how to vote is that I’m obviously biased toward Horford, because I’ve watched about 50 more Hawks games than Sonics games this season. Plus I get money from the Hawks. (Although you’ll notice I had to buy my own Hawks sweatshirt.) And the last thing I want to do is be a Swirsky on this. If I vote for Horford, it’s going to be because he deserves it, not because he plays for the Hawks.

The question it, who deserves it? The guy who has put fans in the seats or the guy who has helped put Ws in the win column?

So, I’m turning to you guys to help me make up my mind. Who do you think deserves the award? Who has been the Rookie of the Year?