Rookie Watch: New top 10! (Insider Help)
Can an ESPN Insider please post the "Rookie Watch: New top 10!" article from 5 days ago
First time asking, I'll try not to make a habit of it. Thanks
The league changes daily, like a tide flowing in and out to sea, and players that can stay afloat will ride that wave for a long time. For the first time in months, we have a new No. 1 in our rankings: Anthony Davis. And all of our current top 10 players have found a way to succeed lately. Here's a look at the parts of their game they are getting right.
ROOKIE 50 RANKINGS
We're keeping track of every NBA rook. Here are the latest Top 50 rankings.
Rank Player Stock
1 Anthony Davis
2 Damian Lillard
3 Bradley Beal
4 Andrew Nicholson
5 Andre Drummond
6 Dion Waiters
7 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
8 Brian Roberts
9 Tyler Zeller
10 Kyle Singler
• Click here for the complete rankings »
1. Anthony Davis, Hornets
Davis has not been setting the world on fire to get to this top spot. He just keeps getting better and smarter and continues to produce efficiently. Studying two aspects of his game in particular -- ball screen action and transition offense -- show that even if he never learns to be a strong low-post scoring option, he's going to be an All-Star.
Davis is used a lot at the pinch-post area and often moves the ball to a guard before stepping toward the guard's defender to set the screen. New Orleans smartly uses Davis in these actions inside the 3-point line often, because he then can screen and roll and get to the rim in an instant. He is doing that with a high success rate, as his highlight-reel dunks suggest. Davis has learned that if he commits to the air immediately after the catch, he can get to the rim without much fear of charging, since a defender can't slide in front of him once he is airborne (without being called for the block).
He also looks so much smoother on his jumper, balanced with good arm extension, making him even harder to account for in these actions.
But as good as he is on ball screens, he's better in transition. In fact, he may be the best "big" transition player in the league after Blake Griffin. He gets out quickly once his team secures the rebound. The key is his first two steps, long and quick, helping him to jump out ahead of his man and get to the rim before his opponent does. He avails himself to lobs and regular passes and putbacks of missed layups.
2. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
The grind of the season might be taking a bit of a toll on Lillard, who has played huge minutes while quarterbacking his team all season. Consider that he has played more than 600 minutes more than any other rookie -- the equivalent of more than 12 games in which he played every minute. But he still is playing well and impressing.
Watching him in isolation is particularly vital, because one way to separate point guards, in terms of effectiveness, is by assessing their ability to score without needing screens. Lillard ranks high in this area. Two plays in particular stood out recently. He sized up Boston's Avery Bradley at the top left side of the key, then blew by him with a right-hand dribble for an easy layup. And two games before that, he did the same thing against Phoenix's Goran Dragic, only he beat Dragic going left the whole way. Those two guys are fast defenders, and Lillard was able to beat both with either hand.
Of course, Lillard has plenty of dribble moves and can stop and start on a dime, but that burst of speed allows those other moves to be even more effective. Because defenders know they can be beat by his pure speed, they often race backward and are therefore unable to change directions as well as Lillard does when he makes a move.
3. Bradley Beal, Wizards
Beal, as expected, is coming into his own now that he has a lot of games under his belt and John Wall next to him. Wall is a great partner to any shooter, as he is blazing fast and both a willing and talented passer.
There is something emerging from Beal's game, though, that should really thrill Wizards fans. Late in the shot clock, he reminds me of a less dribble-happy James Harden. Calm, poised and alert to his options, Beal is becoming a dangerous player with less than five seconds on the clock. He not only seems more focused on his perimeter shots, but on drives to the rim, too. His step-through jumper to beat the Thunder was just an extreme example of what he has been doing throughout games for some time now.
The bottom line is he's been one of the most productive and efficient scoring guards late in the clock in the entire league. If March is as good of a month for Beal as February was, he could earn Rookie of the Year votes in April, something that seemed impossible in 2012.
4. Andrew Nicholson, Magic
It's always funny to read comments like, "He's playing well but his team is awful, so he really can't be good." Try telling that to the low-post players who are getting scored on by Nicholson, often during the competitive part of the game. It would be different if Nicholson was shooting a poor percentage, meaning he made shots but took so many of them that he was hurting his team. But the man is becoming a nice go-to option inside and looks an awful lot like Al Jefferson with the way he holds the ball with one hand, away from the defense, and gets off a quick hook with either hand.
By the time Jefferson was 23, he was averaging 21 points per 36 minutes. Nicholson is currently checking in at 17 points per 36 minutes as a rook. Nicholson has a sweet fake and step through, just like Jefferson, and is patient inside as well. Should the Magic win the lottery this June, it is very possible they will look for a dynamic guard to pair with their big rookie, who could be good enough to draw double-teams by next season.
5. Andre Drummond, Pistons
Drummond falls to this spot only because of his back injury. He has been superb much of the season and clearly deserved to be drafted higher. The Pistons hope Drummond will be back this season, but there has been no date set for his return.
6. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers
Waiters is almost too talented for his own good. Consider Lamar Odom, Tyrus Thomas, J.R. Smith and Earl Clark -- all guys who are deeply talented as athletes, full of skill and craft, but struggled to fine-tune their game as young players because they could do so much. Waiters belongs in this group, in danger of not having a game tight enough to produce efficiently.
But something is emerging that can change all that for him -- he is finding success by spotting up and shooting, or attacking quickly off the catch for a one-dribble shot. This is an important development, because even though he is capable of pounding his dribble in search of a good shot, that is not a recipe for efficient production. Letting the game come to him and then decisively shooting or attacking -- but doing so in just one dribble -- keeps the game simple, and this is helping Waiters improve his numbers. He had his best month yet in February despite poor 3-point shooting thanks to this "less is more" frame of mind.
7. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats
He may be the most likeable athlete in this class, hard working and humble. But there is no denying that he has an awful lot of holes in his game, especially for the No. 2 overall pick. There is one part of his game, though, that is already excellent. MKG is good filling the lanes on a fast break and great at pushing the ball as the leader of the break. He does the latter under control, often rebounding the ball and taking a slow dribble upcourt before recognizing that there is an opportunity to get an easy basket as he races up.
This is where having strong dribbling skills greatly helps a big wing, and MKG can deftly maneuver through or around defenders as he weaves to the rim.
8. Brian Roberts, Hornets
If one rookie had to be chosen to do a basketball clinic for college players, it would have to be Roberts. His subject would be: "How to be the primary ball handler in ball screen actions." He is constantly stopping and starting, using and refusing the screen, and using two or even three different screens on a single possession.
Ever probing, Roberts reads the defenders near him but also near the rim, seeing if there is an angle to exploit that will get him to the basket. Absent one, he'll calmly rise up and shoot an open jumper or 3-pointer. He is one of the best in the NBA at this, undoubtedly helped by strong European tutoring the past few years.
9. Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers
There is no getting around the fact that Zeller has a lot of ugly in his game right now, on each side of the court. But Zeller is doing strong work on the offensive glass, and that works as a great starting point for him going forward.
Yes, he gets some boards because he is tall. Watch him closely, though, and you will also see excellent effort, good technique and a nose for the ball. He'll swim-move past an opponent, or fake one way and go another, or bully a smaller guy to the rim. Other times he'll float to the middle, in hopes of a long rebound bouncing out to him. He is doing as much as he can considering he is still weaker and slower than most of his opponents. As he matures physically, this can be an even bigger part of his game.
10. Kyle Singler, Pistons
Singler has one of the best shooting motions in the entire NBA. It's a lot like Kevin Love's shot -- little to no downward arm motion on the catch, just pure right elbow elevation as the ball settles into his hands. This quick and efficient shooting motion also allows him to utilize quick attacks as defenders know they have very little time to close him out. He's one of the best 3-point shooters in this class, but with his stroke and overall shooting talent, he can be one of the top distance shooters in the entire NBA.
Brian Roberts is a rookie? He graduated in 2008. I remember watching him in summer league games so many years that it's just shocking that this is his rookie year in the league.
As a Hornets fan it's good to see Davis get credit, but Brian Roberts is terrible. Just do a search for his name on the main Hornets board and you will see how much Hornets fans like him.
Dion Waiters should be ranked #4. Hard to believe that people are still doubting whether he deserved to be chosen in top 5, he's shown me that he has the makings of becoming a 20PPG scorer in this league.