NBA / Jan 3, 2012 / 5:00 pm

Dime’s Rookie Report: The 10 Best Freshmen In The NBA

Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio (photo. Nicky Woo)

I tell people all the time that I didn’t really pay much attention to college basketball last year. March Madness killed me. I hadn’t watched most teams play for longer than one half during the season, and for once I felt like one of those office chicks who were too stupid basketball-wise to do anything other than guess on colors and mascots and hope for the best. Some of it was work – the NBA took up all of my time. But most of it came down to one thing: I didn’t care about that draft class.

Let’s be honest, the NBA Draft might be the best night of the whole year. But this summer, it sucked because the group of players sucked. Sorry, it’s true, at least compared to next year. Comparing the 2011 NBA Draft Class with 2012 will be the difference between real Mexican food and that trash at Taco Bell.

I don’t want to bash anyone too much. In fact, there’s already been a few times this year where rookies have stepped up, probably none more memorable than Norris Cole swagger-jacking all of New England on national TV. And while I think players like Derrick Williams (definitely) and Jimmer Fredette (possibly) could become big-time soon, as of right now they don’t even make this list.

Hopefully, I’ll find the devotion to keep this thing up weekly throughout the season. For now, here’s our first rookie report on the top 10 freshmen in the NBA this season.


10. Greg Stiemsma
Who? Yeah, that’s what I said the first time I saw the George Christopher dude from Bored to Death rocking the green. Maybe part of the reason he doesn’t play like a rookie is because he’s 26 years old. The old man fits in perfectly in Boston for obvious reasons outside of his skin color. Last night, I watched him take out Rashard Lewis like a bowling ball on one of the first possessions of the game. It pissed Flip Saunders out so much the ol’ ball coach got tossed because of it.

Stiemsma isn’t the best rookie, but he has the best story. As ESPN Boston writes, when the big man passed up an open shot in practice in Boston, Doc Rivers stopped the scrimmage, and made him repeat the phrase “”My name is Greg Stiemsma and I’m a shooter” over and over again to his laughing teammates.

As perhaps the best defensive big man in this rookie class (That’s not a joke), if Stiemsma keeps dropping 13/7/2 lines like he did in his first career start last night, he won’t be unknown for long.

9. Kawhi Leonard
You could talk me into putting Jeremy Pargo here, but I’d rather not reward the Grizzlies for turning into a limping version of Winnie the Pooh, because in the third quarter of their destruction in Chicago, I felt like I was watching a D-League team with a very up-and-down Pargo holding the keys. That performance from Memphis was so bad, I wouldn’t have been surprised if even Chicago fans left.

Leonard is averaging 5.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in barely 18 minutes a night, and while he’s probably registered as a blip on maybe two percent of all fantasy leagues out there, the dude has quietly been decent during his time on the floor. With gigantic hands and a massive wingspan, Leonard could outrebound Chewbacca. His rebound rate is third among all rookies, and quite honestly, he might turn out to be the best rebounder amongst this entire rookie class. Popovich, give him more minutes…

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  • yoda

    erm, this is rubio’s short NBA career. kid’s been playing professionally since he was 15-16. true, different level of competition but still, seems kind of bad to say “short career”.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    The Steamer!

  • cesar

    @yoda 14yo, not 15-16 :D

  • McRib

    In the words of Rick James, Cole blooded!!!!

  • matt

    Yeah, Rubio has been playing since he was 14 professionally. And he went up against the world’s best players in ’08, when he was 17, with an injured wrist. Rubio is already better than the most overrated player in the NBA, Jennings :P

  • Celts Fan

    @ap – love the Steimer. We desperately needed someone whose defensive rotations arent measured with a sundial. Pretty cool story too. He averaged 3&3 at Wisconsin and just busted his ass in the D League and now he’s playing a role on a contender as a 26 yr old rookie.

    On Rubio, here’s why ive always been high on him as, at worst, an above-avg nba pg. You cant teach that vision, being able to make a pass most guys wouldnt even see consistently without turning the ball over. You either have it or you dont, which is why the top 5 apg list tends to be the same every yr. Not many guys have that, he does. It doesnt guarantee superstardom (rondo’s got it, he’ll never be a top 10 player) but it guarantees that youve got someone who can set up easy buckets and make guys better.

  • beiber newz

    keep tabs on iman shumpert guys. he has a tyreke evans makeup. he’ll blow

  • Reallydoe

    @beiber newz — pause

  • yoda

    well, thing i like about rubio is that he likes to set up his teammates, to dish out nice assists rather than to shoot the ball every time he catches it ( westbrook for example). i’m not saying rubio will be better than westbrook or some other shoot first pg, it’s just nice to see pure pg from time to time.

  • beiber newz

    i say pause a lot…at that time tho, i didn’t care about how it looked but yea…at 1st i wanted to add the “up” part after blow, but i said ef it.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    Sweeney isn’t kidding about Thompson. The kid is a player. He’s absolutely fearless inside.

  • s.bucketz

    Cmon if ur putting some of tthese bums up ther for having 1 good game…josh harrelson had 1 good game and a decent 1 the next day for ny…and yezzir iman shumpert bout to shit on the whole league

  • Sam

    Dime this season is going to be grueling, Adelman’s smart cap is telling him to use his considerable depth and let his team play limited minutes every game.

    The Wolves are going to be sneaky good.