Thursday, April 14, 2011


I learned a lot in my first year covering the NBA.

I was way too cocky when I started HBIQ.

Not only did I want to tell you which rookies would be great in the NBA, I wanted to tell you which ones would be terrible as well.

And Derrick Favors, Cole Aldrich and Ed Davis were pegged as the three rookies who would do nothing in the NBA.

Right or wrong, it should have never been written.

Anyone can do almost anything they put their mind to, and I should have never written these guys off without giving them a chance to make it in the association.

Since that time, I've been able to put together a full view of what it takes to succeed in the NBA (which goes far beyond what can be learned from viewing college highlights, games and statistics) and follow it up with a look at some late bloomers to stop fans from freaking out when their prized rookies don't look to be panning out early on.

Needless to say, we've come a long way. So let's take a look at some rookies and how they did in their first year on the NBA stage.

John Wall, Washington: Wall has a long way to go.

He plays bad defense, can't run a team, can't shoot and is more out of control than Russell Westbrook.

Like many young point guards, you wonder if he'll ever get it. And right when you think he never will you look up, and he's there.

Evan Turner, Philadelphia: Turner is ahead of almost all of the rookies because he is contributing to a playoff team.

He got off to a slow start but was able to turn the corner mid-way through the season and show the all-around skills which made him the second pick.

His jumper has to get better going into next season.

Wes Johnson, Minnesota: He shot Minnesota out of as many games as he shot them into with his questionable shot selection.

Johnson has the same issue now that he had coming in, the inability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim for easy dunks and layups. Without any dribble-penetration moves, he was forced to rely only on his outside shot, which was streaky at best.

Otherwise, he showed a good floor game with lots of versatility.

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento: You could say that Cousins lived up to everything people who said he was the top player in the draft thought he would.

His remarkable passing ability was a sight to behold, and his jumper rained down on opponents from coast to coast.

He was a tough-guy who led Sacramento to big wins over some the league's top teams and gave the team hope for the future as a key building block.

Cousins had a nice rookie season.

Ekpe Udoh, Golden State: Udoh had his breakout game in a home win over Chicago, where his defense on Carlos Boozer helped turn the game in Golden State's favor.

He missed the start of the season with a wrist injury but came on as the season went along. He learned to pass the ball without turning it over and is getting more and more comfortable with his outside shot and making moves in the post.

Udoh is turning out to be a nice pick.

Greg Monroe, Detroit: Monroe showed no signs of being soft in his first season in Detroit, one of the concerns about him coming in.

And his motor looked fine.

As he got more comfortable and more playing time, he started making the shots around the rim that he used to miss and developed into a consistent big man.

There are still more aspects of his game which haven't been shown which should come out in due time.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Los Angeles: The best thing you can say about Aminu is that he no longer looks lost.

Some time in March, things just started to click for him; and you could start to see the No. 8 pick coming out.

At one point it was looking like the Clippers were going to have a hole to fill at small forward in the off-season, but he (or Jamario Moon) may be the one to fill it.

Gordon Hayward, Utah: G-Time saved his best for last, scoring a career-high 34 points on the last day of the season.

But it was his game against Kobe Bryant in a win at Los Angeles a week earlier which signaled his official arrival to the NBA.

His official HBIQ arrival came in a blowout loss at New Orleans in mid-December. That was where he showed he could play NBA defense and showed flashes of the game that became more consistent late in the season.

Hayward has serious game and skills and knows what he has to work on to get better.

Paul George, Indiana: George is another guy who is well ahead of the other rookies due to him contributing to a winning team, or at least a playoff team.

Indiana has been a winning team since he recently moved into the starting lineup.

Sometimes, a rookie is going to be a rookie. But you can see that Indiana has something in Paul George.

Ed Davis, Toronto: Oops!

It looks like this guy can play after all. He has a knack for hitting the offensive glass and for scoring in general, even without many post moves.

His defense leaves a lot to be desired and should be the thing looked to improve on heading into next season.

Larry Sanders, Milwaukee: Sanders is another guy who is as green as his uniform.

But when you tune in to Milwaukee games, you hear phrases like "unlimited potential" thrown around quite often when Sanders is mentioned by the team broadcasters, the words reported back from the coaches.

Sanders is a legit 6-11 and with Andrew Bogut can provide the scary type of interior defense which wins a lot of important games.

He has a good offensive game too, with much more versatility than you would expect from a guy his size.

Luke Babbitt, Portland: Like Anthony Randolph, Babbitt is another highly-talented player wasting away at the end of someone's bench for no good reason.

Portland had plenty of opportunity to work him in early in the season when the team was struggling to find something which worked.

The only reasons I'm not absolutely killing Nate McMillan for this poor coaching decision are because the team is winning and because the guys ahead of Babbitt played relatively well in the end.

Still, there is no excuse for limited amount of playing time Babbitt averaged.

Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles: With Blake Griffin getting all of the headlines, it's hard for many other Clippers to get any love.

Bledsoe had a strong start to his rookie season but fizzled out at the end.

He has tremendous speed and can do a lot of things, but his defense needs work.

The rookie wall may be the best way to explain what happened.

Trevor Booker, Washington: This was part of my learning experience, tweeners.

At 6-7, Booker is just going to have a hard time matching up against some power forwards.

But he can play and more than hold his own against them all.

With powerful, high-flying dunks and a well-rounded game, Booker was a bright spot for Washington before he got injured.

He is one of the many pieces Washington now has in place for what looks like a bright future.

Landry Fields, New York: The final draftee putting in work for a playoff team.

Fields was rolling before New York traded for Carmelo Anthony. Since then he has sort of gotten lost.

He can beat you in many different ways and is a nice complement to a cast of stars.

New York had a lot of big games this year, and Fields showed up for most of them, contributing in ways which don't usually generate a lot of headlines but are no less important to winning.

Jeremy Lin, Golden State: Lin had early trouble stepping up to the big stage of the NBA but eventually settled in offensively.

His defense was there all along, and he should have received more playing time for his defense alone.

In the season finale against Portland, Lin showed every aspect of his game; and there are plenty of them.

More than anything, he is a playmaker. And he is a point guard.

His jumper has to be improved along with his ability to finish with his left hand.

But Lin is a baller.

I've learned the secret of some NBA coaches: wait until the last game of the season and see what the rookies can do.

It's a shame because these guys can play and should have gotten minutes a long time ago.

Comment or e-mail:

No comments:

Post a Comment