NBA Rookie Ratings: Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings are Untouchable.

December 18, 2009

by Jack Maidment

Barring a succession of spectaculars from Blake Griffin when he returns from injury in the new year, the Rookie of the Year award would appear to be a firm two horse race.

After a quarter of the season Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans sit comfortably atop the Rookie mountain, separated from their peers by their consistently superior performances.

No one else is even close to the level of these two first year point guards, both of whom have become the faces of their respective franchises.

1. Tyreke Evans

To install a sense of hope in the fans for the future of the Sacramento Kings is a very special achievement for the #4 pick. When he was chosen not even the most smiling of optimists could have predicted a 11-13 record.

Last year’s NBA worst are now sat just below .500 and they have Tyreke to thank for it. His stat line of 20, 5 and 5 with 1.6 steals has carried a Kings team that has little experience but much promise.

Gilbert Arenas said that as one of the League’s bigger guards he felt small going up against Evans and it is this size and physicality that make him such a tough opponent: if fellow rooks Stephon Curry and Brandon Jennings struggle with their shot they are usually in big trouble, but Evans’ body allows him to switch straight into attack mode.

It is his consistency that has him above Jennings and it will in all probability lead him to the ROY award.

2. Brandon Jennings

Missing out on the #1 spot by a whisker, there is no rookie more fun to watch than Jennings who has put the Bucks on his back, propelling them to a surprising 11-12 record.

When Jennings is hot he is simply un-guardable. His shot, which was scrutinised heavily leading up to the Draft, has proven more reliable than forecast and his quickness, if anything, was under rated, allowing him to attack the rim with ease and with little regard for his slight frame.

At this point, there is no better scorer than Jennings; he leads all rookies with an average of 21.1 ppg while also disproving the pre-Draft notion that he was a selfish player, with a rookie best 6 dimes a game.

When Jennings plays well the Bucks win and it is his occassional tendency to go missing in games that has him second.

Evans’ is consistently good while Brandon is inconsistently great.

3. Jonas Jerebko

The Detroit Piston’s #39 pick is this weeks best of the rest and the fluctuating performances of everyone outside the top 2 makes it entirely possible that he will not be here next time.

8.2 points and 5.5 rebounds hardly scream ‘deserved of recognition’ but Sweden’s first ever NBA player finds himself at #3 not for his stats but for what he has brought to his team.

In the absence of Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, Jerebko has been the personification of hustle, making plays and helping the Pistons win games.

He works so damn hard on the floor that he is a guaranteed fan favourite at The Palace: what he lacks in skill he more than makes up for in determination.

4. Johnny Flynn

Flynn is gradually getting to grips with the triangle offense implemented by Kurt Rambis and as he does so his numbers are steadily increasing.

Playing in a new and utterly unfamiliar system left the Syracuse man looking a little lost and turnover prone but his game winning performance against the Utah Jazz has seen his stock rise.

His 14.2 ppg and 4.3 apg may not quite be enough to banish all thoughts of longing for Ricky Rubio from the Minnesota fans, but they are a good place to start.

Kevin Love’s recent return to the Wolves’ front court alongside Al Jefferson should allow Flynn to get even better, running with a big man tailor made for the triangle, passing skills and all.

5. Taj Gibson

In limited minutes Gibson is finding major ways to contribute to a Chicago Bulls team struggling for production from their starting 5.

He leads all rookies in rebounding with 6.1 a game in just over 20 minutes of playing time.

Throw in 8.3 points and just over a block a game and the 6’9 forward out of USC is doing everything he can to show he deserved to go higher than #26 overall.

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NBA Rookie Ratings: Tyreke Evans, The Next Derrick Rose?

October 11, 2009

rekeby Jack Maidment

Whose the best? This guy is.

Or at least that is what countless General Managers around the League would have you believe. As far as guards go, Tyreke Evans is the most highly regarded and highly rated in this years’ rookie class.

Sure Johnny Flynn is nice and what he did at Syracuse last year, especially in their major 6 overtime win over Connecticut, was as close to heroism as you are ever likely to see. And sure, Ricky Rubio may be The Next Big Thing out of Europe and the best young player not playing in the NBA. And nobody in this draft can score like Stephen Curry from the guard spots, who has many a coach purring over the abilities that made him the 7th overall pick coming out of Davidson College. James Harden may well be the player who can contribute to his team the most in the back court.

But. Before an NBA regular season game is played, with the exception of Sam Presti of the Thunder, 99% of the other teams would almost certainly elect to take Evans on board and into their back court given the chance.

So what makes the West Chester, Philadelphia native such an attractive proposition. It probably isn’t the fact that the man apparently running the point in Sacramento this coming season has never really played the position full time before or that his jump shot needs some work before it can be classed as at least passable.

Despite his perceived deficiencies, the upside of Tyreke Evans is enough to make those in charge of NBA franchises across the land sit up and listen.

A year in college at Memphis will have given Evans a taste for big time basketball but the leap to the pros should hurt nobody more than the next member of the ‘one and done’ club. Or at least you would have though that, especially for a point guard, if Derrick Rose hadn’t poured gasoline all over the League last season before igniting in the Playoffs.

Before Rose, the rule book was fairly sturdy and solid: playing point in the world’s best basketball league is not easy and learning it’s ins and outs takes dedication and patience. After Rose? Anything is possible. If you are an immensely talented guard who has the strength and drive to decimate any defense, preferably out of Memphis, the League beware.

Fortunately for Evans, Sacramento isn’t going anywhere fast with just about the worst roster in the NBA, at least in terms of competing this coming year. That should mean that the 20 year old has the opportunity to grow into the League and the position along with his other young ( and promising) team mates.

The lottery may be beckoning the Kings once again before even a whistle has been blown in anger but with Evans and his, whisper it, potential, they can at least ring their cow bells safe in the knowledge that their will be a future for their team.

That is unless the franchise decides to move.

I guess some things are never certain.


NBA Draft 2009: Top 10 Largely Picks Itself

May 26, 2009
Stephen Curry fits the Knicks

Stephen Curry fits the Knicks

by Jack Maidment

Why would you pick Blake Griffin with the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft?

The answers are two fold:

1. You get the only player ‘guaranteed’ to make an impact straight away a player destined for All-Star status sooner rather than later.

2. As a struggling franchise you draft the player that will sell the most season tickets through sheer weight of interest.

Now, both of these reasons are obvious and self explanatory. Yet it is with no surprise that we hear that the Clippers are listening to offers for their pick.

Such a rumour has started to grow pace as a result of one man’s actions: Ricky Rubio.

It could be argued that the DNA of this Draft class rests heavily on how the man from Spain decides to handle himself as the Big Night draws closer.

Rumours are rumours and their one constant is that they don’t have to hold an ounce of truth: they will still grow larger and gain more talk time. Whether Rubio will commit to the draft regardless of location could dictate the specifics for, at least, the other players in the top 10.

It is difficult to isolate Rubio because his decision will affect everyone making the first 10 picks largely difficult to predict. However, some should be sure things. Observe:

Barring trades and Clipper Madness, Blake Griffin will go first to Los Angeles. As Ron Burgundy would say, ‘that’s a given’.

If Rubio plays hard ball the Grizzlies will likely take Hasheem Thabeet for two reasons. Firstly, he should compliment Marc Gasol’s post game.

Secondly, Memphis couldn’t accommodate another perimeter player who needs the ball to be successful. They already have OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay to demand the rock and it can only be shared so much.

Ricky Rubio may well look attractive to the Thunder, but the bottom line is: could he play in the same backcourt as Russell Westbrook? No. Westbrook can play at the 2, but both want the ball in their hand. Conflict? Yep.

So who do Oklahoma take? James Harden, the best SG in this class would provide them with a perimeter threat who can go to the hoop and finish. A perfect compliment to Westbrook, Durant and Jeff Green.

The Sacramento Kings could be a viable alternative for Rubio who would get the reigns to the team and would sell tickets. But, whether he would mesh with Kevin Martin, the franchise’s main scorer and ball demander, is a tough question to resolve.

The Washington Wizards will likely take Jordan Hill who will bring toughness and heart to a front line which lacks fire. His offensive game may be far from polished, but the fact that the Wiz will have Arenas, Butler and Jamison, Hill wont be relied on for production anyway. Just clean the glass and hustle.

Hill seems like a lock for Wahington. He just makes sense. The same can not be said for the next two picks.

It would appear that the T-Wolves and the Warriors will take Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings, but which way round does not scream out.

Nellie Ball would suit Jennings more but Monta Ellis might not be too keen. But, to be fair, he might not like the other option any better.

Tyreke is probably a better fit for the Wolves who can persist with Randy Foye at the 1.

It’s a tough call.

If he is still there, the New York Knicks will take the best shooter in the draft, Stephen Curry who should fit perfectly into Mike D’Antoni’s offense. That will be nice.

Toronto picks 9th and they will need to address their lack of backcourt power, probably by taking Demar DeRozan. A real slasher, he should fit nicely with Calderon and compliment the Raptors frontline perfectly.

Ramon Sessions’ contract demands will likely lead the Bucks to draft a PG in the shape of Jonny Flynn.

If Rubio pulls out then everything will change, with Jennings the one to benefit.

If he stays in the draft and Memphis or Oklahoma call his bluff, the landscape will change all over again.

It’s all on Rubio.