By Jack Maidment
Now that the NBA’s rookies have ten games in their rearview mirror, and a body of work to examine, here are STTL’s first set of Rookie Ratings.
1. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. The Spanish point guard is averaging 10 points and 8 assists a game and chipping in 4 rebounds and almost 2 steals too. He has played 11 games in the NBA so far and started for the first time against New Orleans on January 13, going 6-6 from the line and dishing out 9 assists in a Wolves win.
His stats are strong, just 3 turnovers a game, but even more impressive are the ways he has reinvigorated a perennially terrible team and won the respect of his team mates. He has made his team must-see despite a losing record and banished any worries about how his game would transfer to the NBA. There is not a better rookie in the league right now.
2. Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks. I hate the Knicks right now, mainly because every trip down the floor looks like they need three balls; one for Carmelo, one for Amare and one for everyone else. The lone bright spot for them is the play of the rookie out of Georgia Tech. I love Shump. He is averaging a shade below 13 points a game despite the offensive blackholes surrounding him, as well as almost 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
He has played just 7 games due to injury, but of those he has started 4, causing havoc on defence and exuding infectious confidence not normally associated with a rookie playing on a team with big time aspirations. He probably deserves some criticism for shooting too much (he had 20 shots in a loss to Memphis, January 12) but then again if you didn’t know the next time you would see the ball you would probably shoot it too.
3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. Don’t tell anyone, but the Cavs are currently 8th in the Eastern Conference one game below .500, winning games with an alarming regularity which must seem positively alien to anyone who watched them last year. The reason for their success is the #1 pick who has been great.
He is averaging 17-3-5 almost 90% shooting from the free throw line and 40% from three, probably doing more than people expected he would. Consider expectations met and exceeded.
4. MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets. Okay, he plays on a truly awful team, but you can’t hold that against Brooks who is playing great. He is scoring more than 14 points a game, shooting 40% from three, and there have been occasions when he has shown he can be a very good NBA player, particularly a 19-10 game against the Hawks last week. He is clearly a gunner; the question is will he ever be anything more. Rich man’s Nick Young or poor man’s James Harden?
5. Norris Cole, Miami Heat. He has played in all 12 of the Heat’s games, averaging just over 22 minutes a game. You don’t get minutes like that on a team that went to the Finals last year unless you are a) really good and b) trustworthy. That Miami trusts the back up PG is not in doubt (already) and why should it be? He averages about 10 points and almost 4 assists a game and does very little wrong when he is on the court.
Sneakers and Creepers: Markieff Morris (Phoenix), Jon Leuer (Milwaukee).