In addition to his unwavering play at the game’s toughest position, the point guard of the Portland Trail Blazers has yet to miss a game this season, which many of his fellow classmates have been unable to say lately.
Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who won the first monthly award for the Eastern Conference, is out until he passes the concussion baseline tests after a scary collision where he was taken off the court on a stretcher while wearing a neck brace.
Washington’s Bradley Beal, who has won the last two monthly awards for the Eastern Conference, has been out with a wrist injury.
Detroit’s Andre Drummond, who may be the best rookie in the East, could be headed to the sidelines with a bad back.
Boston’s Jared Sullinger, who was just getting comfortable as the starting power forward, needs back surgery and is out for the season.
Minnesota’s Alexey Shved recently returned from a sprained ankle. Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas came back this week after missing 18 games with a finger injury. Even the previously durable Harrison Barnes of Golden State sat out a recent game with a knee problem.
In the cases of Beal, Drummond, Shved and Barnes, you have to wonder if the relentless NBA schedule is
taking its toll. College and international players have nothing in their previous experience that can prepare them for the rigors of the NBA.
Unless college players are in an early season tournament, they almost never play back-to-back games, and those are always in the same city. They travel by bus as much as they do by plane, with most conference games no more than a couple of hundred miles away.
International players usually have one game per week in their league, most of which are in countries much smaller than the United States. They may also play in Euroleague, but that only adds one game per week with somewhat longer travel.
Last season, Drummond was on the University of Connecticut, which played 34 games, a total he reached on Jan. 1. Shved was on CSKA Moscow and the Russian Olympic team, playing 46 combined games, a total his team reached Wednesday night.
Given what they were facing as rookies, the fact that Drummond, Shved et al have somewhat broken down is not unexpected. While this does not in any way classify them as soft players, missing games can and does work against them when grading them among their classmates.
We hope Drummond works out the kinks in his back, Shved builds strength in his ankle and Beal gets his wrist to heal. It would certainly make for a more interesting rookie race.
On to the rankings.