By: Ben Silmser
Twenty games into the 2011-2012 NBA season, I think it is time to take a look at which rookies are making a statement early on. At Randall St. Sports Wire, we take a different approach to our rankings. With this ranking, I chose to evaluate each player from the General Manager’s chair…
Having watched twenty plus games in the NBA season, who would I have chosen in last June’s draft if I had the top pick?
1. Kyrie Irving
Having only played 11 career games for Duke due to a serious case of turf toe, it was worth questioning if the young point guard had had enough experience at the college level to be ready for what was about to come his way. Being handed the keys to LeBron’s kingdom cannot have been easy for the Cavaliers rookie PG.
Playing alongside fellow rookie and Canadian power forward, Tristan Thompson (selected fourth overall in 2011 NBA entry draft) they appear to be making positive strides in the second season of the post Lebron era. Putting up 17.4 points per game and 4.8 dimes as well, Kyrie is leading his team well with the ball in his hands. One thing Kyrie is going to need to improve on is his defensive game. Coach Byron Scott is less than impressed with his inability to stop the the ball at the top of the defence. Explaining to the media, “things have to change now” with respect to Irving’s defensive play. Even though he is struggling on the defensive side of the game, he is still young and brings some much needed energy and creativity to the Cavs offensive break. Through the first twenty, I like what I’ve seen from Kyrie. He is scoring. Spreading the floor. Pushing the basketball. But most importantly showing he can handle the mental pressure of being a first overall selection, which is a tremendous sign for this young franchise looking for a new leader. Keep an eye on his health in this shortened season though. It has been along time since Kyrie has had too push his body this hard.
2. Ricky Rubio
The young, talented Spanish point guard has recently taken over as the Minnesota Timberwolves starting point guard. Selected 5th overall in the 2009 draft, Rubio made the controversial decision to stay in his native Spain and play for FC Barcelona. Making the jump to the NBA this season, Ricky is turning heads. He has tremendous creativity and vision averaging over 8.5 assists per game. Adding over 11 ppg and contributing off the glass with 4.5 rebounds Rubio has earned the starters role for the T-wolves and has made the transition from the European game seem like a walk in the park. Having recently locked up Kevin Love to a four year 62 million dollar deal, this could be a team to watch out for…especially if Rubio continues at the pace and effort level. Look out Kyrie, because Ricky is right behind you!
3. MarShon Brooks
Originally drafted 25th overall by the Boston Celtics, Brooks was sent to play in his home state for the New Jersey Nets under coach Avery Johnson in exchange for fellow first rounder JaJuan Johnson and a future 2nd round pick. The 6”5 200 pound Brooks is a versatile player, splitting his minutes at shooting guard and small forward. MarShon has no trouble scoring, averaging 14.8 per game, and scoring double digit points in 14 of his 17 regular season games. A decent rebounder and a three point shooter. But he is going to need to improve his defensive game if he plans to jump ahead of Ricky and Kyrie. A few dominant offensive performances wouldn’t hurt either. Overall, a solid rookie this far in, lets see how the former Providence Friar does down the stretch.
4. Iman Shumpert
The young guard out of Georgia Tech is an absolute thrill to watch. A well-rounded, athletic player with a commitment to defensive pressure, Shumpert is a change of pace from Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks. Last years ACC steal leader (7th nationwide); Shumpert has brought that intensity to Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately it has been Shumpert’s inability to remain consistent that has brought his value down. Going 5-13 in 28 minutes while only adding 2 rebounds and 1 steal against Houston on Saturday is simply not good enough if Shumpert wants to play over 30 minutes a game. I would like to see him picking up a minimum of 2-3 steals a game while adding some offensive production and a handful of rebounds as well. It is his balanced production and contagious energy that makes him special. He just needs to stay focused and embrace his strengths.
5. Kemba Walker
It didnt take long for Kemba Walker to take over as the starting point guard for the Charlotte Bobcats. The former UConn Huskie star dropped to 9th in the 2011 draft last June. He isn’t letting that get into his head. Way off my radar only a few weeks ago, it seems Kemba is looking to make a statement climbing to 5th in the Rookie report. Averaging well over 30 minutes per game through his last ten appearances Walker has been impressive. On Saturday he recorded his first career triple double in a losing effort to Washington. 20 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal. If he can find a way to maintain that pace, he could be something special. Kemba is a little more unpolished and inconsistent then Kyrie and Ricky at this point but he clearly has the ability to put up all star type numbers when given the reins to the team. With the playing time he is earning in Charlotte, he may surpass anyone in this class of rookies. Not quite yet though …
Keep an eye out for the second edition of the NBA Rookie Report in another 20 games. Should only be a month or so. Lets enjoy this constant NBA entertainment while it lasts… this shortened season isn’t so bad after all.