Although Damian Lillard has had our Rookie Ladder on lock for the first three weeks, there are several other players who make strong cases for themselves. Both Dion Waiters and Anthony Davis have been having Rookie of the Year type of seasons, but lucky for Lillard, they’ve both caught the injury bug early. Depending on how they bounce back, the race could really get closer than we expected in the upcoming weeks. Bradley Beal has finally showed up, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is still capable of having those big games that make you wonder if he could get hot and make a run at this thing as well.
On the bottom half of the ladder it’s been a constant race to see who can make the most out of their minutes. While guys like Andre Drummond and Alexey Shved have made the most of their time on the court, guys like Kyle Singler and Harrison Barnes haven’t been able to do the same. Many are capable of having big nights every once in a while, but it’s all about who can maintain that level of consistency and become a real factor on helping their team win games. Austin Rivers and Barnes both had some of their best games of the season last week, but then turned right around and looked really average in their following games. In the Rookie of the Year race, you’re only as good as how consistent you can be.
So far this year, it’s been all about scoring for this rookie class. If you look at the Ladder, it’s almost a mirror image of the top rookie scorers. What can really help one of these guys separate themselves from the pack is doing what’s extra. Lillard, Davis and Waiters could all end up averaging around 18 points a game by the end of the season, but who’s going separate themselves by helping their team in other ways? That could be the dealbreaker when it’s all said and done. In terms of team wins, the players all get the benefit of the doubt for now, considering that all of these guys are struggling in that aspect for the most part. But wins will also become a major factor on the ladder in the upcoming weeks as we really get into the thick of the season.
Here are our top 10 rookies in the third installment of Dime’s official NBA Rookie Ladder.
*** *** ***
10. Austin Rivers: Last week – 12.5ppg/2.0apg/0.7rpg/MPG: 30.7 — Vol. 2 rank: 10
Austin Rivers finally had a breakout game last week. On Friday night he lit up the Timberwolves for 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting, hitting five out of six from long range. He had just reached a new career high earlier this month, scoring 15 points against the Memphis Grizzlies. Sometimes, a breakout game like that is all a rookie needs to get going. Hopefully he can build on some of that rhythm and finally start playing with some consistency. He’s been getting the consistent minutes all season but hasn’t done much with them so far. The Hornets have only won two of their last 20 games, so if there were ever a time for Austin to become more aggressive and contribute more offensively, it’s right now.
9.Harrison Barnes: Last week – 7.0ppg/1.0apg/2.0rpg/MPG:20.7 — Vol. 2 rank: 8
Last week was one of highs and lows for Barnes. On Saturday, he had one of his best games as a pro against the Hawks in Atlanta. He scored 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, hitting three of four from three-point range. He’s been in a real funk lately and for a second he seemed to be back on track, however the very next game against New Orleans on Tuesday he had 0 points on 0-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. Barnes has had double-figures in every game he’s taken 10 or more attempts this season. Every ball player knows that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so the key to success is no secret for Barnes, he just simply needs to play more aggressively.
8.Kyle Singler: Last week – 8.7ppg/1.0apg/5.5rpg/MPG: 33.0 — Vol. 2 rank: 7
Singler has been getting a ton of run for Detroit. After playing 27 minutes a game last month he’s up to an average of 32 this month. You would think the increase in burn would mean an increase in production, but that hasn’t been the case for Singler. He’s struggled to find a rhythm this month, shooting 37 percent from the field compared to the 50 percent he shot from the field in November. Currently, he sits No. 7 in rookie scoring behind each of the seven guys above him on the ladder. Singler will ultimately rise or fall on the ladder depending on his scoring numbers. If he can pick it up and get back to those double-digit scoring games, he’ll edge closer to the top five, but if he continues his poor shooting he could end up slipping, especially if guys like Rivers and Barnes start playing the way they’re capable of.
7.Andre Drummond: Last week – 8.0ppg/8.0rpg/2.5bpg/MPG:21.7 — Vol. 2 rank: 9
Drummond is slowly establishing his role in Detroit. He’s providing an extra spark for the Pistons coming off the bench and is giving them some real high-energy minutes. He’s made a habit out of playing with a high motor and doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. His hard work has been paying off for him and he’s proven that he can respond when given an opportunity. In the past few weeks he’s shown just as much improvement as any other rookie. So far this month he’s lead all rookies in blocks & is behind only Davis in rebounding. Not to mention he leads all rookies in field goal percentage at nearly 57 percent. It’s clear that he’s been making the most of his minutes. He’s found a lane for himself as a real blue-collar player and has an intriguing high ceiling of potential.
6.Alexey Shved: Last week – 9.6ppg/7.8apg/2.4rpg/MPG:34.2 — Vol. 2 rank: 6
If you’ve been keeping up with our Rookie Ladder this season then you know that Shved has been one of the biggest surprises this season. Last week we told you that he’d be seeing some extra minutes and that’s exactly what’s happened for him this week. Against Dallas on Saturday he played a season high 44 minutes and responded accordingly, dropping a career high 18 points. Shved has been one of the more consistent rookies in terms of scoring this season. He’s also been one of the more versatile players, showing the ability to impact the game in different ways. Guys who really want to make a case for themselves in the Rookie of the Year race have to do what’s extra. Shved has proven that he can score, rebound and most importantly distribute the basketball. Last night he had his first career double-double, scoring 12 points and dishing out a career high 12 assists in a win over the Leagues best team the Oklahoma City Thunder. If Shved continues to stand out in other ways besides scoring, he’ll crack the top five in no time.