Back in October, our editor-in-chief asked the staff to make 10 fearless predictions for the 2013-14 season. One of the predictions I made was that Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke would win Rookie of the Year.
Just as Damian Lillard was a season ago, Burke was ideally positioned to win the award. The Jazz acquired him with the express purpose of giving him the keys to the offense. They didn’t care how many times he wrecked it.
But it’s kind of hard to drive with a broken finger, which Burke suffered less than a week later during the exhibition season. And when our editor-in-chief then asked for predictions for season-ending awards, it seemed like Burke was giving the rest of the rookie class too much of a headstart by beginning the season with an injury.
So I joined the herd and changed my prediction to Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo.
I’m not proud of this late lane change. If someone did this to me on the highway, they would get the finger. But I’m sure the folks who tabbed Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis as potential Rookies of the Year in recent seasons can understand the reasoning.
On Wednesday night, Burke and Oladipo faced each other for the first time as NBA players. They already had met a handful of times as Big Ten Conference star guards – Burke with Michigan and Oladipo with Indiana. But this was their first showdown at the game’s highest level.
Given Wednesday’s Pacers-Heat matchup, we understand if you skipped Jazz-Magic on League Pass. We did the same. But if you’re like us and have no problem reading the bottom line while watching a game, you began to notice that Burke was having the best outing of his brief career.
Burke scored 30 points – the most by any rookie this season – and added eight assists and seven rebounds, leading the Jazz to a rare road win over the Magic.
Oladipo? Well, let’s just say that this wasn’t similar to the duel he had with Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams a couple of weeks ago. While Burke was going for a rookie season high, Little O had a season-low three points on 1-of-12 shooting.
And that’s why we have a new No. 1 in our Rookie Rankings.
There have been questions about Burke’s size and durability. Like much of this year’s rookie class, he isn’t a great shooter. And he certainly has an advantage over Oladipo in that he is not being asked to learn a new position on the fly.
But the Jazz were awful without Burke and have become somewhat respectable with him.
Oladipo isn’t out of the discussion by any means. Nor is Carter-Williams, for that matter. But right now, neither is playing as well as Burke, which we predicted long ago.
Well, kind of.
On to the rankings.
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