With players such as Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez and Marc Gasol crashing the party, the strength of this year's rookie class is one of the best ever. The NBA's one-year draft rule may not please everyone, but the effect seems to be working with rookies far more productive than in the past. Here's a look at the top rookies plus key stats thus far through the season.
Rose has pushed past the pressure of being dubbed the “savior” of his hometown Bulls to put up stellar numbers and helped Chicago to a respectable 5-6 record despite injuries to Larry Hughes and Kirk Hinrich and inconsistent play from his veteran teammates. Among rookies, he’s 1st in assists and 2nd in scoring, and became the only Bulls rookie besides #23 to reach double digits in his first ten games. The troubles of one-and-done point guards have been widely publicized, but Rose has ignored the doubters and is playing like a #1 pick. The early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year.
Before the draft, Mayo was billed as a top-notch scorer, but who expected it this soon? He leads all rookies in scoring and is second on the Grizzlies behind Rudy Gay. The most impressive thing about him early on isn’t that he’s putting up points; it’s how efficiently he’s doing it. Noted for taking bad shots in college, he is shooting 45% from the field and 40% from three, both solid for someone still getting acclimated to NBA defense. His assist numbers are low, but expect them to go up as Coach Marc Iavaroni has asked his stars to shoot less and get others involved.
It’s no surprise that Beasley has overtaken Shawn Marion as the Heat’s second option. He’s reached double digits in every game but three. That said, Beasley has not been as efficient as expected, shooting only 40% (low for a PF) and 30% from 3. Even worse, he’s averaging less than six rebounds per game, unacceptable for someone who dominated the boards in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball. He needs to become more efficient on both sides of the ball or he’ll find himself out of the race for ROY, a race that many expected him to lead from start to finish.
Rudy came out of the gate very strong and has since cooled off a bit. However, there’s no denying that he’s been one of the most impressive and surprising rookies thus far this season. His combination of deadly outside shooting and highlight reel plays has made him a fan favorite, not just in Portland. Prior to the season, no one would have expected Rudy to be the 1st Blazer on this list (and he might not be there for long), but his professional experience has made his transition to the League almost seamless.
Who? You didn’t know his name because it wasn’t called on draft day, but Anthony Morrow is making fans and GMs alike regret that they didn’t know it sooner. In five games with the Warriors, Morrow has averaged 17 points per game (third among rookies), including a monster 37-point, 11-rebound performance in his first start. Showing it was no fluke, he dropped 25 next game in a win against Portland. He’s shooting 63% from the field and 64% from 3, and his lightnight quick release and deadly accuracy from deep is the key to his success. Those numbers will obviously come down, but he’s done enough to warrant a place in the Top 5. Although he's sure to see decreased playing time once Monta returns, Morrow has leapfrogged Marco Belinelli on the depth chart and appears to be the biggest sleeper from this year's draft class.
Oden is proving all the doubters wrong with his play after returning from his latest injury. It’s got to be difficult for a 20-year-old to play under such intense scrutiny after missing an entire year to injury, but Oden has been great when healthy. He’s had three double-doubles in his last four games, the last one coming in only 17 minutes of play. As he plays his way into shape and his minutes increase, Oden’s numbers (and place on this list) will only get better.
Perceived to be taken too high. Dominated an inferior conference. Playing behind a group that includes veterans Brad Miller and Mikki Moore and former lottery pick Spencer Hawes. The deck seemed stacked against him, but Thompson has overcome all odds to surprise a lot of people. At the four in place of the injured Miller early on, Thompson jumped onto the scene as one of the best rookie contributors. With Brad’s return, everyone predicted Thompson’s minutes would decline, but his versatility has enabled him to play at the three in Kevin Martin’s absence where he has thrived as well. The critics have been silenced, and Thompson could end up better than a number of players taken before him.
Mayo gets all the attention, but Marc Gasol has been extremely impressive for the Memphis Grizzlies. Aside from his scoring, he provides the rebounding and toughness in the paint that the Grizz have lacked since his brother left town. And as surprising as his scoring has been early on, look for his averages to go up as Mayo looks to get his teammates involved more. Gasol should be blocking more shots, but if that’s his only problem as he continues to get used to the NBA game, the Grizzlies and their fans should be ecstatic.
Richard Mbah a Moute
Picked as a project in the 2nd round after getting buried on a talented UCLA squad, Mbah a Moute has worked his way past lottery pick Joe Alexander and has earned minutes (and even starts) for Scott Skiles’ Bucks. His defense is already at an NBA lock down level, he's also averaging more than 7 rebounds per game, but his offense has been the biggest surprise. He’s averaged 10 points per game while shooting 45% from the field and 75% from the free throw line. With his team getting healthier, there’s a chance his current level of production will not be sustained. Then again, no one expected him to get the minutes he’s getting now, so you never know.
McGee was drafted as a project, the Wizards not expecting much of a payoff for a few years or so. But Brendan Haywood’s injury has sped up the process, and McGee showed enough early on in limited minutes to earn a start at center in Washington’s last game. In just over 20 minutes per game, McGee’s shown the ability to score inside with good efficiency. His free throw shooting and rebounding have a long way to go, but he’s been one of the few positives for the 1-7 Wizards.
On the Radar:
- Russell Westbrook: 11.8 points per game isn’t bad but his percentages are.
- DJ Augustin: His shooting hasn’t been there, but his 3.5 APG is 3rd among rookies.
- Darrell Arthur: 7.4 rebounds per gives the Grizz the top 2 rookie rebounders.
- Mario Chalmers: Leads all rookies in steals, 2nd in assists.
- George Hill: Has done a good job contributing for the depleted Spurs.
No love for Mareese Speights?? My man dominates when in the game at least throw him on the radar... sick article though
don't worry, i got my eye on him.
brook lopez has been pretty good for the nets
His stats are not great of course (still top 14 among rookies in Hollinger's PER), but his adaptation to the NBA is really impressive (remember his summer league?).
You're right, JDub. Lopez has come on strong lately and has definitely put himself in position to be on this list next time. He's played really well in 4 of his last 5.
I do like Batum a lot - I think he's got a chance to become a very good player, but he needs to play well and be efficient in more than 15 minutes per game. If he can stay in the starting lineup and get more minutes, we'll see what happens.
The injury to Kirk Hinrich has been a silver lining for Rose to play big minutes without having to look over his shoulder. Its a shame that chicago has no post play or the kids numbers would be better. he is the real deal. good stuff
what you think bout Anthony Randolph. hes still raw but he looks like hes gonna be legit a matchup problem for any 3 in the league especially lining up next to wright and beidrins in the future
Mike, what are your thoughts on this being one of the strongest rookie crops in a while? It has some potential superstars in Beasley, Rose and Mayo (you could include Oden too, but he was drafted last year). It also has a lot of solid players. When you can mention 15 great rookies and not mention Love that is pretty impressive.
Agreed, I think a lot of people (myself included) have high hopes and expectations for this bunch. It definitely has the superstar potential. I think comparing this class to some of the better ones is better suited for an article rather than a comment, so check back for that.