Sheridan Hoops Rookie Rankings: Week Seven

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Given his precocious play and the piles of praise he is receiving, Damian Lillard appears to have a stronghold on this season’s Rookie of the Year. And the calendar hasn’t even changed.

Some of that recognition came recently from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who along with a national TV audience watched the point guard light up his squad for 29 points last week.

“I think he’s a wonderful player,” said Popovich, who normally isn’t prone to effusive praise. “His skills are obvious, but I like his demeanor as much as I like his skills. He really plays within himself, he’s not afraid of contact and he really understands how to take advantage of situations.”

So is the race over? Not by a long shot.

Yes, Lillard has the inside track and a substantial lead. Unlike many rookies, he plays on a team that can talk about making the playoffs with a straight face. He tops all first-year players in minutes, scoring, assists and 3-pointers. And he has had a handful of “Wow!” moments.

But handing him the award right now as a fait accompli would be a mistake.

History shows that plenty of rookies have gotten off to quick starts and flamed out before the end of their first seasons. It also shows that playing on a bad team is not a detriment to winning the award. Even an injury doesn’t necessarily kill your chances.

In 1986, Patrick Ewing won despite playing just 50 games due to injury. Second was Xavier McDaniel, who had comparable numbers over 82 games. Third was Karl Malone, who averaged 15 points and nine boards for a playoff team.

In 1997, Allen Iverson won the award by leading Philadelphia to a 22-60 season while Stephon Marbury finished second as the starting point guard for playoff participant Minnesota.

In 1999, Sacramento’s Jason Williams had everyone believing he was the second coming of “Pistol” Pete Maravich. By season’s end, he was an afterthought to Toronto’s Vince Carter, who won the award even though the Kings made the playoffs and the Raptors didn’t.

In 2004, Carmelo Anthony averaged more points and rebounds per game than LeBron James and helped Denver make the postseason while Cleveland watched the playoffs. But James won the award.

In 2008, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings got off to a terrific start that included a 55-point game and piloted the Bucks to a playoff berth. He finished third in the voting behind Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans and Golden State’s Stephen Curry, both of whom played for lottery teams.

Yes, Lillard has the lead. But there’s a lot of season left to impress the voters.

On to the rankings.

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  1. john steppling says:

    RIVERS min fg% 3pt%
    12-13 NOH 24 15 28.2 0.361 0.375 0.618 0.2 2.0 2.2 2.8 0.6 0.2 1.5 2.2 7.9

    ending with pts per game. So in 28 min a game he is averaging 2.8 assists. And 1.5 turnovers. Taylor in about the same min is averaging 39%, 1 ass and.50 turnovers. Or tyler zeller…also about the same minutes per game…a tad fewer….averaging 46%…..no threes, and five boards…..one and change turnovers. Now zeller is a center, ok. But 47% compared to 36% is pretty significant when rivers does nothing else. Zeller does a lot else. Play defense for openers. Even jonas valuncianus……23 min. a game…roughly the same….averaging 8 pts….shooting FIFTY TWO percent and five and a half boards. Where is big Val on this list?? I mean you have to defend this sort of absurdity. Im a big fan of sheridan hoops and this column. But man, you are so wrong here. (sorry this was posted on the other article comment thread): Rivers at 36% is pathetic when you add poor defense….and as i said, I would have zeller and big Val and drummond on here ahead of barnes and rivers-

  2. john steppling says:

    one other note. Ross is a GOOD defender.

  3. john steppling says:

    I like these rankings EXCEPT for chyin’ out loud, what is it with you sports writers and austin rivers. HE IS A BUST. He is awful. The guy had ONE good game,…and even a blind squirrel gathers some nuts. Rivers is a shockingly bad defender…..so how can he be there ahead of ross, drummond, tyler zeller, or draymond green…jeff taylor or Nicholson??? HOW????? Come on, this loses all credibility when he appears in here. I dont get it. Honestly. I cant even write about the rest…………..this is just an absurdity. ALL SEASON he has played not just bad, but TERRIBLE ball. Is it his father’s name? I mean compare zeller……a kid who gets fewer minutes, slugs away on a bad team, but is clearly learning and sets nice screens, works at the little things. And for that matter, Drummond at least makes his presence felt. Or even ben Hansbrough………..in a tough situation, plays with energy and toughness. Give him some props. Barnes has been terrible and shouldnt be here either…but i said that last week. Ross should go higher. <but rivers…………..RIVERS??? Come on….

  4. These rankings are curious, to say the least. I’ll just speak to what I’m most familiar with — the Detroit Pistons. First, the fact that Andre Drummond doesn’t crack the top 10 is crazy. He is outproducing just about every rookie in the league on a per-minute basis. The Pistons, rightly or wrongly, are limiting his minutes in the early going.

    But even accounting for his limited minutes he’s still had a much bigger impact on the floor than the likes of Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes, Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross and Dion Waiters.

    And speaking of minutes, I don’t understand the comment that Kyle Singler should be getting more minutes. Since being inserted into the starting lineup in game No. 9 he is averaging more than 31 minutes per game, which would be good for third among rookies this season.

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