In the final weeks before the All-Star break, the midseason mark is almost upon us. While every rookie under the sun has struggled at some point this season, Damian Lillard has remained invincible. Anthony Davis wasn’t able to shake injury. Bradley Beal has let the injury bug catch up with him as well, and Dion Waiters lost his starting spot at times. It’s never easy in the world of an NBA rookie, but Damian Lillard really couldn’t make it look anymore easy.
With the Rising Star Challenge at All-Star Weeekend right around the corner, we’ve heard which rookies will make the cut. But if I had to pick today, these would’ve been my guys:
With Jared Sullinger out for the remainder of the season with a back injury, I had to go a different direction. Sure, it would’ve been nice to see Austin Rivers or Terrence Ross in the game, but with the other eight guys being locks for me, I had to give the last spot to Kyle Singler.
With that, here are our rankings for the NBA Rookie of the Year in the sixth volume of the Dime Rookie Ladder.
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10. TERRENCE ROSS – Last week: 5.0 ppg, 1.7 apg, 2.0rpg, 18.2 mpg
Vol. 5 rank: UR
With the recent blockbuster trade that brought Rudy Gay to Toronto, it’s clear to see that the Raptors are shaping up for a nice future. Ross will be a big part of that. Although they had to part ways with a promising young forward in Ed Davis, they received a great piece to build around with Gay. While DeMar DeRozan and Gay will likely be the starting wings for the Raptors for the foreseeable future, Ross could grow into one of those J.R. Smith-type roles.
Although his numbers don’t necessarily jump out at you, Ross has shown flashes of his potential this season. He’s an athletic guard who can shoot the ball well. His offensive game is very raw, but once he comes into his own, Terrence Ross will be a familiar name when this rookie class gets brought up down the road.
9. TYLER ZELLER – Last week: 8.3 ppg, 2.0 apg, 4.3 rpg, 25.6 mpg
Vol. 5 rank: UR
Tyler Zeller has done a great job holding it down for the Cavaliers in the absence of Anderson Varejao who was certainly on pace for an All-Star year had he stayed healthy. Although filling that void isn’t exactly an easy task, Zeller has done a pretty decent job. He averaged 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in January, and even had a pair of double-doubles. Although he has a ways to go offensively in terms of expanding his game with post moves and extending his range, he has the ability to finish well around the basket with his tremendous touch.
The only issue with Zeller is he isn’t physical enough down low. At 7-0 and 250 pounds, Zeller should really be averaging more than 6.1 rebounds a game. Although he has the size, he lacks the athleticism and it definitely doesn’t help that he often positions himself poorly under the basket. He’s getting starters minutes now, and at that size he should be producing at a higher clip than he’s been performing at. An impressive 16-point performance against David Lee and the Warriors allows Zeller to climb onto this Ladder this time around, but unless he can pick up those rebounding numbers, he won’t be sticking around for much longer.