NBA Rookie Ratings: Rising Stars edition

February 25, 2012

By Jack Maidment

Straight to the League’s Week 6 and 7 NBA Rookie Ratings. All-Star Rising Star edition.

1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. The Duke man is the best rookie in the NBA this year and he showed it in the RS game last night. He is perhaps the most complete young player in the league and can do a little bit of everything. Leading the charge for Team Chuck, Irving won the game MVP and stuck up 34 points, making all 8 of his three point attempts. He was, is and will continue to be superb.

2. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. Irving may be best in class but Rubio is a close second and his performance in the RS game was an advert for the joy of basketball. More than one big man had his fingers/face slammed by an unexpected pass and Rubio was in his element all night, putting the ball through people’s legs, throwing oops and ball faking the pants off Team Chuck. Everyone of his teammates on Team Shaq would take a pay cut to play with him.

3. Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons. Knight was quiet on Friday night playing on a team with too many guards, relegated to spot up shooter on the wing; hardly his forte. Even so, Knight did some nice things and continues to show why Detroit fans should take their head out of the oven. He is going to be really good. He had 24-5-3 against the Cavs last week and routinely plays more than 35 minutes a game in a backcourt with Rodney Stuckey which actually looks like it could work.

4. Norris Cole, Miami Heat. What a steal for the Heat. Cole has all the poise of a steely veteran and showed it during the RS game in his interview with Craig Sager in which he used the word ‘professionalism’ about 30 times. I’m sure Pat Riley can’t stop smiling. Cole had 18-8 in the game itself, playing 25 minutes and his demeanour was picture perfect.

5. MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets. Brooks may have forgotten where he was Friday night, playing like he does when he is at the Meadowlands which basically means shooting every time he gets the ball. It’s not too often you see a player take 20 dribbles in an all-star game (Kobe) but Brooks seemed happy to disregard his teammates last night. He shot 3-10. Even so, he has been the second option all year for the Nets with no one really to pass to other than Deron Williams so shooting must be a reflex by now. Everyone knows he can score. The question is if the man from Providence will be a two-way guard in the NBA or a rich man’s Nick Young.

Injuries: Iman Shumpert.

Last week:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Iman Shumpert
  3. Brandon Knight
  4. Kemba Walker
  5. Derrick Williams

NBA Rookie Ratings: Two Wolves and a Knight

February 11, 2012

By Jack Maidment

Straight to the League’s Week 5 NBA Rookie Ratings. Let’s get it.

1. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. Rubio returns to the top spot this week in the Rookie Ratings but it was an awfully close call thanks to the strong play of Iman Shumpert. The main reason for Rubio’s rise was his ability to influence games in the past seven days when his shot wasn’t falling.

He only reached double figures scoring once in his last three but he has done other things to help his team. Against Dallas, a loss, he had 10 points but contributed 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 8 assists. Facing Memphis he scored just 4 points (1-6 from the floor) but grabbed 7 rebounds and snatched two steals. Finally, against the Kings in a win he may have only had 6 points but he also had 5 steals and 14 assists.

He brings so much to the table he can be forgiven for his temperamental jump shot.

2. Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks. It seems strange to say given Shump has only been in the league just less than two months, but he went back to basics this week as the Knicks surged under the guidance of Jeremy Lin.

Asking Shumpert to run the show was a big ask but thanks to Lin he is back as a defensive specialist/slasher which is absolutely his game.

He showed how valuable he can be coming off the bench against the Lakers, running the floor and playing stellar defense on Kobe Bryant.

He had 12-2-3-2 in 26 minutes and is playing excellent team basketball. He looks comfortable. Up two.

3. Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons. The Dark Knight Returns. The Piston’s point guard slipped out of the top five last week but back to back strong performances and three wins brings him back in at number three in week 5.

His minutes are fluctuating greatly of late, but when he does play he does well: In his last two games, both against the Nets, he had 13-7-5-1 and 13-2-4-1. Just play him already.

4. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats. Kemba’s back and has my sympathy. No rookie is in a tougher situation than the Uconn point guard. The Bobcats are so bad it has got to be hard to learn a whole lot getting blown out by 30 most nights. Even so, if you are a Cats fan, the reason you still attend home games is strictly Kemba.

His high point this week was a 22-3-4-1 effort against the Suns. Get yours and wait for Anthony Davis to arrive.

5. Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves. Williams had the chance to start for the Wolves this week in the absence of Kevin Love and he took advantage of the opportunity. Sort of.

He had strong games against Memphis and Sacramento, almost putting up double doubles in each (13-9 and 14-8). Maybe it’s because he is so athletic you want more, but Williams is getting there, gradually figuring out how to get his shot off in the NBA and learning where he can be most effective. Hint: not from behind the arc.

Sneakers and Creepers: Kawhi Leonard

Dropouts: Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler.

Injuries: Kyrie Irving (concussion)

Last week:

  1. Kyrie Irving
  2. Ricky Rubio
  3. Isaiah Thomas
  4. Iman Shumpert
  5. Jimmy Butler

Sneakers and Creepers: None. It was tough last week

Dropouts: Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Derrick Williams.

Injuries: MarShon Brooks.


NBA Rookie Ratings: Rubio ousted, Kyrie climbs

February 4, 2012

By Jack Maidment

Straight to the League’s Week 4 NBA Rookie Ratings. Here we go.

1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. No other rookie in the NBA has been asked to shoulder as much responsibility as Kyrie Irving. Not many #1 picks are asked to be The Man from day one, but that’s what has happened in Cleveland and he has responded admirably. The young point guard is the player the Cavs look to for leadership, scoring, playmaking; just about everything a basketball team needs to be successful and he has been delivering, perhaps more than anyone thought he would.

He’s been in the ratings since the start but his strong play this week has him jumping to the top spot for the first time. His Cavs have lost two (BOS, ORL) and won one this week (BOS) and its his performance in the win against the Celtics that warrants the most attention and praise.

His stats were impressive (23-4-6) but more than that he got it done in the fourth powering his team to a one point win. It’s a nice start for a rebuilding Cavliers team.

2. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. The Spaniard has continued his strong play of late, but the combination of the Cavaliers’ reliance on Irving and the Duke man’s positive response this week warrants a slight drop for Rubio in the Rookie Ratings. But make no mistake Rubio has been his usual self in a three game stretch in which Minnesota has won two (NJN, HOU) and lost one (IND).

He had a double double against the Nets (10-10) and almost a triple double against the Rockets (18-11-8).

He leads all rookies in steals, minutes played and assists.

3. Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings. Most people would probably have picked a certain other small guard to represent the Kings for the first time in the Rookie Ratings, but the diminutive Thomas deserves his spot.

He doesn’t play a huge amount (about 17 a game) but that’s likely to change on the strength of his recent performances in which he has rewarded the faith shown in him by his coaches by taking care of his teammates while he is on the floor.

His statistics in the last three are not especially flashy (13, 11, 4, points a game and about 3 assists each night) but it’s his decision making that makes him stand out. He rarely makes a bad play, and that’s invaluable in a rookie point guard.

4. Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks. Yes, the Knicks do suck. Yes, some of Shumpert’s stats are down. Yes, he does deserve a return to the Rookie Ratings. The reason? Passing. In the absence of a point guard/true playmaker on the Knicks everyone has to contribute on the facilitating end and Shump has been doing a great job of that this week. The Knicks continue to lose, but Shumpert is setting the tone for improvement.

He averages 3.6 assists a game for his short career, but this week he has had games of 5, 8 and 6 to go along with a handful of key steals and rebounds. He contributes in a less than ideal situation and I am very confident Shumpert is going to be a very good NBA player.

5. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls. Everyone knows Butler’s story so I’m not going to rehash it. The reason he makes his first appearance in the Rookie Ratings comes down to trust: The coach of the Eastern Conference’s leading team with title aspirations trusts him in big games down the stretch. What more can you say?

His coming out party was against the Knicks this week when he played 21 minutes of solid defence, guarding Stoudemire and Anthony in the fourth quarter with absolutely no fuss. He was solid and played each of them tough as well as chipping in 7 points and 2 steals.

There is no way Butler will play 20 minutes each night, not with Chicago’s depth, but while the injuries heal the man from Marquette is more than capable of helping his team.

Sneakers and Creeper: None. It’s been a tough few days for the NBA’s rookie class.

Dropouts: Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Derrick Williams.

Injuries: MarShon Brooks.

Last week:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Brandon Knight
  3. Kemba Walker
  4. Derrick Williams
  5. Kyrie Irving

Sneakers and Creepers: Chandler Parsons.

Drop Outs: Iman Shumpert.

Injuries: MarShon Brooks.

NBA Rookie Ratings: Williams joins Rubio

January 28, 2012

By Jack Maidment

Straight to the League’s Week 3 NBA Rookie Ratings. Let’s get it.

1. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. As of next week these rankings will probably be renamed the Ricky Rubio Ratings. Or something similar but a bit snappier. Third week, third top spot, and the scary thing for all the other rookies in the league is that he is statistically better and visibly more comfortable than last week. The Wolves have won their last two since resigning Kevin Love and Rubio was instrumental in both.

Against the Dallas Mavericks Rubio played 46 minutes and poured in 17 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists (!) and 4 steals. Two nights later against the San Antonio Spurs he had 18-10. He is really good. What more can you say.

2. Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons. I have to confess I didn’t think I would be writing about Knight in this column. No knock on the Kentucky man, more about how I feel about the Pistons and their surplus of guards – hardly a great situation for a rookie point guard.

But Knight has pushed his way to the top of the rotation, playing at least 33 minutes in each of his last three and Knight has made the most of the court time with some excellent performances in three Piston losses this week. His best showing was a 42 minute effort against the Atlanta Hawks where he had 20-5-8 and zero turnovers.

He deserves the number two spot in the ratings. (MarShon Brooks who was second last week injured his Achilles’ this week, hence the no show).

3. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte are probably the least watchable team in the NBA right now but Kemba Walker is doing his best to make their play more palatable. His minutes are gradually going up and he is trying to make the best of the situation. The problem for Walker is the lack of talent that surrounds him.

That’s why his assist numbers are low and his field goal % isn’t exactly swell. But still. Considering where he is and who he is with and the fact he’s not going to be on the winning team too often this year, he is doing a sterling job. Up two.

4. Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves. To clarify: I am not a Timberwolves fan. I just think Rubio is great and Williams has had a good week. Ok? Good. Now stop rolling your eyes. Truth be told Williams doesn’t get too many minutes because of all the wings in Minnesota but when he has got in this week he has done well.

He has at least 10 points in his last three games with a handful of rebounds and he does a great job off the bench. What I will say is there is no way Williams is a small forward. No way. Which raises questions down the road what with Kevin Love now locked up. Even so, fourth in the ratings is a good start. Let’s Go Wolves. Wait. What?

5. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie dropped to fourth last week and he slips a little more after a tough stretch for his Cavaliers. He is in a similar situation to Kemba Walker in that if he doesn’t do it for his team it isn’t getting done. Irving had a typical atypical week. Typical in that he has been inconsistent, as many rookies are prone to be, but atypical in the huge difference between his best game and his worst.

The best: 32-6-2 with one turnover against New Jersey. The worst: a 1-7 shooting night against the Knicks. Boom and bust. I wrote last week I don’t see Kyrie dropping out of the top 5 and despite a tough week for him, I stand by that.

Sneakers and Creepers: Chandler Parsons.

Drop Outs: Iman Shumpert. New York’s poor play finally caught up with their versatile rookie.

Last week:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. MarShon Brooks
  3. Iman Shumpert
  4. Kyrie Irving
  5. Kemba Walker

Sneakers and Creepers: Kahwi Leonard.

NBA Rookie Ratings: Rubio remains, Brooks rises

January 21, 2012

By Jack Maidment

Straight to the League’s Week 2 NBA Rookie Ratings. Enjoy.

1. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. On Friday against the Clippers Rubio missed his first 10 shots before hitting a game tying three pointer to set up Kevin Love’s buzzer beater for a Wolves’ win.

He shot the corner three in front of the LA bench without any hesitation, despite his struggles from the floor. He still had 9-6-6 in 32 minutes as well as three steals and a block. The game proved that even when the Spaniard’s shot isn’t falling he can contribute and get it done in other ways.

As a result of his versatility Minnesota is enjoying a three game winning streak and escaping the NBA’s basement for the first time in what seems like an age. He was on top of the Rookie Ratings last week and he deserves to stay there.

2. MarShon Brooks. New Jersey Nets. Brooks continues to shoot the ball well for a truly awful Nets team. Last week he was 4th in the Ratings but his play has warranted a two spot jump.

He is averaging 15 points a game as well as four rebounds and a couple of assists but he has upped his performance on the glass this past week grabbing about 8 boards a game in his last three. In a win over the Golden State Warriors Brooks had 22-8-6, a glimpse of what he should become. He looks to be one of the steals of the draft.

3. Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks. It’s not Shumpert’s fault he plays for a schizophrenic Knicks team. One week they are ripping off a five game winning streak then they lose their next five. Iman is down one in the Ratings this week due to a little inconsistency; his play has mirrored that of his up and down team. It will be interesting to see how the rookie’s production changes when Baron Davis returns.

4. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers. Down one this week after a monumental beat down by the Chicago Bulls who played without Derrick Rose on Friday night. Even so, the #1 pick has continued to figure the NBA out and his leadership and on floor production this week are testament to that.

Aside from the débâcle in Chicago where things got ugly early (not Irving’s fault) he played two solid games against the Warriors (a loss, but 18-5-8) and the Bobcats (a win, 25-4-7). He is going to be in the mix in the NBA Rookie Ratings all year. I don’t see him dropping out.

5. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats. Man the Bobcats suck, but at least they have started giving Kemba some serious minutes. As a result the Uconn guard has cracked the top five of the Ratings for the first time, as well as injecting some life and excitement into a moribund franchise. He has scored at least 14 in his last three, including 23 in a win over the Warriors.

Sneakers and Creepers: Kahwi Leonard.

Last week:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Iman Shumpert
  3. Kyrie Irving
  4. MarShon Brooks
  5. Norris Cole

Sneakers and Creepers: Markieff Morris, Jon Leuer.


NBA Rookie Ratings: Ricky Rubio on top

January 14, 2012

Rubio on top

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.

Week #1

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).

NBA Rookie Fun-Name-Good-Player Extravaganza!

January 11, 2012

Do The Shump Shump

By Jack Maidment

Something about rookies that makes me giddy. Maybe it’s the excitement of the unknown mixed with the hope of what could be. Or maybe it’s just having a cool new name to scream at the TV.

Iman Shumpert ticks all three of those boxes.

The 6’5 guard out of Georgia Tech is not going to save the Knicks by any stretch of the imagination but god damn can he play. And he can play right now.

Best thing about him, apart from his cool nickname – Shump Shump – is his scowl (pretty sure The Shump Shump should be a dance – I’m going to work on it right now). He has a Kendrick Perkins scowl which darkens The Garden in a good way. He is nasty.

He averages 13 a game which is pretty good for an unheralded rookie who was booed by the hometown fans when he was drafted and who plays on a team with a truly horrible offense that involves a lot of standing around and waiting for Carmelo to do something. Anything.

I liked his name when he was drafted and now I like his game.

And Shump is not alone on the good name good game rookie team.

If anyone told me two years ago after David Khan picked two point guards in the top 10 of the draft while his team wallowed in a pool of dirty losses that the Timberwolves would be the first team I want to watch on League Pass I would have packed up and moved to Peru.

One man and his ridiculously fun to elongate name is responsible, Ricky Ruuuuuubio, to whom I say thank you. It is impossible to root against that team. And what he is doing in 4th quarters is madnes: His plus/minus is about +4000 at the moment. KAAAAAHHHHHHNNNNNN! Timberwolves will make the playoffs. Maybe. I hope. The more games I hear Rrrrrrricky Ruuuuuubio the better.

To round out the rookie-fun-name-good-player-extravaganza: The Jimmer.

I don’t care that the Kings are pretty terrible or that The Jimmer’s shot selection has been…. sketchy. I don’t care that he isn’t starting (he will be soon). I don’t care that opposing guards are queuing round the block to score on him.

As long as he scampers about and hits all manner of inflatable filth, I am a happy man.

To round out the starting five I pick Bismack Biyombo who makes the team on strength of name alone. And the (starting) cenrre for the Boston Celtics would too if I could spell his name.

Shump Shump.