Rookie Rankings, Week 21: Gorgui Dieng’s Late-Season Surge

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Gorgui DiengWe have reached the point of the season where teams that are out of the playoff race start giving more playing time to their younger players to see what they may have.

One of those teams is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who may have something in rookie big man Gorgui Dieng.

New Timberwolves GM Flip Saunders spent the offseason loading his roster with veterans such as Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf in hope of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. While Minnesota (35-35) already has surpassed last season’s win total, break-even ball doesn’t get it done in the Western Conference.

While the veterans got most of the minutes, Dieng and fellow rookie Shabazz Muhammad – both acquired in a draff day swap that sent Trey Burke to Utah – mostly sat and watched. Through the first 64 games, Dieng accumulated 22 DNPs as Turiaf backed up Nikola Pekovic in the middle.

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Rookie Rankings, Week 19: The Philly Factor

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First, the good news. Among rookies, the top four scorers behind Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams all got a hinkierecent chance to pad their stats against the sickening 76ers.

Now, the bad news. Only one gets another chance this season.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Sixers have lost 18 straight games. The last time they won, Time Warner and Comcast hadn’t announced their merger, the Super Bowl hadn’t been played and the greatest single-take shot in television history hadn’t yet aired. 

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Rookie Rankings, Week 18: An Otto Porter Sighting

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The best thing about top overall pick Anthony Bennett’s tremendously disappointing rookie season is that it OttoPorterhas provided cover for some tremendously disappointing seasons by other rookies.

Namely, Otto Porter.

Porter was taken third in the 2013 draft by the Washington Wizards and has been worse than Bennett. Much worse.

Bennett is averaging 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds while shooting just 35 percent from the floor. Pedestrian numbers, for sure, and unacceptable for a top pick who is expected to contribute right away.

But Bennett looks like Wilt Chamberlain compared to Porter, who is averaging 1.7 points and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 30 percent. Through February, he had 37 points in 215 minutes.

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Rookie Rankings, Week 17: Can the Best Rookie Come From the Worst Team?

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We asked this question in our last edition of the Rookie Rankings: Can a player from a 65-loss team win Rookie of Elton Brand and Metta World Peacethe Year?

The answer: One already has.

In the 1999-2000 season, the Chicago Bulls were continuing their rebuilding following the second retirement of Michael Jordan and went 17-65. One of their few bright spots was a young power forward named Elton Brand, who averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds and shared Rookie of the Year honors with Houston’s Steve Francis.

But Brand is not an outlier. In the draft lottery era, he is among five players who have won Rookie of the Year playing for 60-loss teams, and there are another two winners whose squads went 23-59.

For example, Kevin Durant was the 2008 Rookie of the Year – and led the Seattle SuperSonics to a sterling 20-62 mark. In 2005, Emeka Okafor outpolled both Dwight Howard and Sixth Man Award winner Ben Gordon despite an 18-64 record by his Charlotte Bobcats.

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Rookie Rankings, Week 15: Bennett’s Big Game No Surprise

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Anthony BennettMany people were surprised by Anthony Bennett’s first career double-double on Tuesday.

Bennett’s struggles as the top overall pick in the draft have been well-documented. So when he broke out for 19 points and 10 rebounds in Cleveland’s home win over Sacramento, there was somewhat of a collective gasp across the NBA.

Yes, Bennett established season highs in both points and rebounds in the same game. And yes, it appeared to come out of nowhere. But the truth is that Bennett has been playing much better for about two weeks.

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