Mid-Season Rookie Awards

by January 27, 2011

by Eldon Khorshidi / @EldonAdam

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

First, let’s break down this past week, then we’ll get to the fun stuff.

Week 13 (Jan. 20 – Jan. 26)

Blake Griffin

Season: 22.8 ppg, 12.9 rpg

Week 13: 21.5 ppg, 14.5 rpg

Griffin is a budding superstar with a ‘TBA’ future. How good is this kid? How good will he be in three years? Eight years? 12 years? His future is so bright that he should wear sunglasses during games.

BG ranks third in both scoring and rebounding among power forwards. After his streak of consecutive double-doubles expired at 27 games, Griffin went off for 50 points and 36 rebounds over his next two. He had 20 and 18 on LaMarcus Aldridge, and a smooth 30 and 18 on David Lee. The last rookie to reach 30 and 18 in one game was Elton Brand in 2000, when he was on the Chicago Bulls.

This leads me back to my original question, which has been the reoccurring theme all year: how good will Blake Griffin be?

Let’s start here. Back in late November, when he was averaging 19 and 11, I had BG as the 10th best power forward in the league. Today, at 23 points and 13 rebounds, here’s how I see it.

Definitely beter than Griffin right now: Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire

Probably better than Griffin right now: Kevin love, Chris Bosh

In the mix with Griffin: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph

In my book, he’s no higher than 6th but no worse than 9th. I’d take him at 6, ahead of all the ‘in the mix’ guys. Yes, even Tim Duncan.

Griffin closed out his week on a strong note, posting 22 points and 11 boards vs. Dallas and 14/11 vs. Houston. Despite his monster numbers, the Clippers lost three of four this week. Still, they’re 7-5 in January.

John Wall

Season: 15.1 ppg, 9.3 apg, 1.8 spg

Week 13: 13.8 ppg, 10 apg, 2 spg

It seems that Wall is finally hitting his stride. He’s played in all 13 games this month, which is a big relief for Wizards fans. Last Friday, Wall had a great matchup with Steve Nash. The rookie had 11 points and 14 assists, while the veteran had 17 and 14, and earned an 18-point win. The Wizards are numb to losing at this point, for they’re still winless on the road. They dropped three of four this week as well.

But the one game they did win was vs. the Boston Celtics, another great matchup for Wall. It wasn’t an ordinary win either. Wall led a strong Wizards rally, in which they overcame a 16-point first quarter deficit and escaped with the victory. With the shot clock running down in the games final minute, Wall banked in a 3-pointer that gave his team the lead for good. The Wiz are having trouble in the win column, but Wall is beginning to take center stage.


DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists in last Friday’s loss to Golden State. Cousins has had at least 20 points five times this month. You may be hearing about his ‘attitude problems’ (which I don’t buy), but if you take a closer look, Cousins is a monster on the court, not off it.

Evan Turner had 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists off the bench in Monday’s win over Phoenix. Turner is the first rookie Sixer to post these numbers off the bench since Allen Iverson did so in 1997.

Midseason Awards

Most Outstanding Rookie: Blake Griffin, Clippers

This is a unanimous decision. Griffin is only the third rookie in the last 20 years to average 22 points and 12 rebounds. The other two guys were David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal.

Biggest Upside: John Wall, Wizards

When healthy, Wall’s shown flashes of greatness. He had a triple-double in his 6th career game, and currently ranks 5th in assists. Don’t be concerned by the lack of wins, as Wall is still figuring this NBA thing out. After all, Peyton Manning was 3-13 his rookie year.

Biggest Surprise: Landry Fields, Knicks

‘Critics,’ ‘experts,’ writers, reporters, and even NBA GMs had no idea Landry Fields could play in the NBA, let alone be this good. Seven rebounds per game for a rookie shooting guard is borderline phenomenal. Fields possesses the intangibles you can’t teach, and has been one of Donnie Walsh’s better finds.

M.I.A. (Missing in Action): Xavier Henry, Grizzlies

Henry took O.J. Mayo’s starting spot in mid-November and has totaled 16 starts for the Griz. But the rookie from Kansas hasn’t played in over a month. Where you at Xavier?

Best Performance: Blake Griffin, Jan. 17

Griffin had 47 points and 19 rebounds on 19 of 24 shooting. That’s 79.2 percent. As I noted last week, 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.

His 47 points are an NBA season-high (KD tied him last night). Blake had many games that are in the running, but I think he out-did himself here.

Honorable Mention: John Wall, Nov. 10

In only his 6th career game, Wall was 4 steals short of a quadruple-double. His 19 point, 13 assist, 10 rebound, 6 steal, 1 turnover game was one for the ages.

Best Performance by a Rookie Not Named Wall or Griffin: Landry Fields, Nov. 16

Fields had 21 points and 17 rebounds on 67 percent shooting in a two-point loss to the Nuggets. People, he’s a shooting guard! Why is he getting 17 rebounds? I’m confused.

Honorable Mention #1: Larry Sanders, Dec. 1

Sanders had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 blocks in a loss to the Nuggets. Two blocks short of a triple-double is impressive.

Honorable Mention #2: DeMarcus Cousins, Jan. 2

Cousins had one of his best games of the year, with 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. He was also 6-6 from the stripe, and shot 65 percent from the field.

Best Undrafted Rookie: Gary Neal, Spurs

Neal has made his impact from 3-point range. He’s made 73 threes in 46 games. He has a decent chance to beat Steph Curry’s 166 3-pointers from last year.

P.O.W. (Prisoner of War): Lance Stephenson, Pacers

Stephenson hasn’t played one minute this season, for a mirage of reasons: depth at his position, off-the-court issues, lack of defensive ability, etc…

I have to admit I’m a little biased because I’m one of Lance’s biggest supporters, but regardless of what you think of him as a person, Stephenson has a lot of talent and heart. He’s been under the microscope since the 8th grade, and people have made their name by going up against him.

But now the roles are reversed. Once the target, Lance is now the predator. Just because he hasn’t played, don’t label him a ‘bust’ or think he’s garbage just yet. Below are some quotes:

Jan. 25: “The Pacers are trying to move Ford now that they feel comfortable with Price and rookie Lance Stephenson as the second and third point guards.” – Mike Wells, Indy Star

Jan. 14: “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.” – John Oehser, NBA.com

Dec. 3: “We do a lot of stuff in practice that he needs to learn, Jimmy stays on him pretty tough. I’m very high on the kid. I want him to be part of the team whether he’s dressing or not.” – Larry Bird, Pacer’s President

With Lance expected to be activated for almost every game going forward, he could have his time during the second half of the season. On the defensive end, he needs to improve his lateral quickness, off-ball skills, and hand checking.

But when he has the ball, I don’t see how most point-guards are going to guard him. He’s 6-6, 220 pounds, with an improving jump-shot. If you’re not Rondo, Russ Wess, CP3, or DRose, he has a good chance of getting into the paint consistently on you, ala Tyreke Evans.

I’m not calling a monster second half, but don’t count out Lance just yet.

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