Back in October, I predicted who I thought would be the leading candidates for this season’s Rookie of the Year award. This first half of the NBA season has seen some quite underwhelming rookies and some rookies that came out of nowhere to shock us. The world is slowly starting to fall in love with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tim Hardaway Jr. is finding a way to be productive in a tumultuous situation in New York… while other rookies, like Anthony Bennett and Otto Porter, can’t even get on the court and when they have, it’s been underwhelming.
The 2013 NBA rookie class was considered to be one of the less talented draft class in recent history, especially with the expectations of the incoming 2014 NBA Draft class. Regardless, there have been some picks that have risen to the challenge. Players like Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams are potential franchise players. I can’t believe the NBA season is halfway over and the All-Star break is creeping up on us, but it’s time to look at some of the legitimate candidates for Rookie of the Year.
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10. Mason Plumlee
Mason, along with his brother, Miles, have decided to take the 2013-2014 NBA season to prove they can ball. Much more intriguing is the fact that Mason has been able to have a standout rookie season on the Brooklyn Nets, a team riddled with future Hall of Famers. He won’t be in the main ROY discussions, but he still deserves to be mentioned. He’s been one of the most consistent parts on a Brooklyn Nets squad that has suffered through some tough times.
In 15.2 minutes per game, Plumlee is averaging 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds. Among all rookies, Mason Plumlee holds the fourth highest PER at 16.1, which shows how effective he has been when he has received minutes. In Brooklyn, his minutes have fluctuated depending on the rash of injuries to the lineup, including totaling 11 minutes in the Nets past five games, but he’s proved he’s more than a bench player.
Maybe the most impressive part about Plumlee’s game is his field goal percentage, which stands at 63 percent, which is second amongst all rookies that have played at least 20 games. Plumlee is only averaging 7.4 minutes per game in January, so he’s a fringe candidate in a top 10 list for Rookie of the Year, but that’s not due to his play. He has been productive when given minutes, including a 15-point, 13-rebound performance in 38 minutes against the Spurs on December 31. Plumlee also has a 19-point, six-rebound performance under his belt earlier this season.
Much like his brother during his rookie campaign, Plumlee is struggling to receive minutes on a team that is structured to win right now. However, one would have to imagine that Plumlee is in a great situation under the tutelage of Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. Mason Plumlee has proved he’s way more than just a roster filler for the future, which makes him a necessary on this list.
9. Pero Antic
Pero Antic came out of nowhere this season. My introduction to Antic was his one-legged, off-balance three-pointer against the Bobcats to force OT in December. The European big man has taken advantage of the minutes available in Atlanta due to the injury to Al Horford. Unfortunately, Antic will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a stress fracture in his right ankle, but his impact has already been felt in Atlanta. This season, Antic is averaging 5.8 points and 3.4 rebounds on 43 percent shooting and 37 percent from deep. The 6-11 powerhouse has shown the ability to stroke it from deep, making him even more valuable. His jumper is smooth and looks clean, which doesn’t look right on a 6-11, 260-pound center. But, he is a European big man, so his ability to shoot makes sense. Antic is 31 years old, playing most of his professional career in Greece, but he’s still classified as a rookie.
When Antic arrived in Atlanta, he was nothing more than a fourth-string center. He didn’t figure to play much, with the frontcourt minutes going to Al Horford, Elton Brand and Gustavo Ayon. Antic is only averaging 15.3 minutes per game this season, but has seen 22 minutes per game in the last five games he’s appeared in. In his past three games, Antic is averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 boards, shooting 54 percent from the field. His play is improving as his minutes are increasing, and with the Hawks being one of five teams with records above .500 in the East, Antic will need to keep up his stellar performance to give the Hawks a chance in the East. I mentioned his injury will keep him sidelined for a couple weeks and hopefully he can return to full strength.
It’s weird thinking of a 31-year-old as a Rookie of the Year candidate, but Antic’s performance has earned him a spot on this list.