Rookie Rankings, Week 13: A Brief History of the Rising Stars

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shaqtntx-largeIt has taken a generation, but the NBA has finally figured out the format for the All-Star Rookie Game.

Now known as the Rising Stars Challenge, the league’s midseason showcase for young players didn’t always look this way. And it wasn’t always a good game, either.

When the game debuted in 1994, it featured only rookies playing against each other. The teams were called the Phenoms and the Sensations. The following year, the teams were simply called White and Green. Now there’s some smart jersey marketing, huh? 

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Sheridan Hoops Rookie Rankings: Week 16

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Thomas Robinson just caught a huge break.

With the possible exception of Austin Rivers, Robinson had been the most disappointing 2012 lottery pick this season. An All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year, he went fifth overall to the Sacramento Kings, who weren’t exactly loaded in the frontcourt.

There appeared to be an opportunity for Robinson to make an impact as a rookie, but he did not. He has averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in just under 16 minutes. He has scored in double digits a mere seven times. He has three double-doubles, all in a nine-game span in January.

On Wednesday, the Kings kicked off the trade deadline hysteria by giving up on Robinson after just four months and sending him with Cisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt to Houston for Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich.

The Rockets also traded Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns, which means Houston cleared out both of the players who had manned their power forward spot this season. Yes, we know the Rockets like to play small with Chandler

Parsons at the 4 and Carlos Delfino at small forward. But right now, their only established NBA big man is center Omer Asik.

Aside from Robinson, the power forwards on Houston’s roster are Greg Smith and rookies Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones and Royce White, all of whom have spent the season bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the D-League. You could argue that Robinson – as disappointing as he has been this season – is better than all of them.

What cannot be argued is this: Robinson now plays for a team that is clearly committed to building through youth and developing its young players at both the NBA and D-League levels. The Rockets used nine players in a 122-119

home win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday, and Delfino – who is all of 30 – was the only one with more than four seasons under his belt.

Contrast that with what is going on in Sacramento, where the Maloof family continued its penny-pinching ways in advance of selling the directionless Kings to the highest of two bidders. By dumping out of Robinson’s rookie contract (4 years, $19 million if both his options are picked up), they showed that they are far more interested in counting beans than winning games.

Robinson also exits an environment that was not conducive to development. The Kings seem to be putting out fires set by the immature DeMarcus Cousins every couple of weeks and have spent a fair amount of time over the last year-plus stroking the ego of Tyreke Evans, who refuses to modify his game for the good of himself and the team.

As far as we can see it, the only downside to Robinson leaving Sacramento is that he missed out on a chance to be overpaid by the Kings, who gave bloated contracts to Garcia, Marcus Thornton, Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson and Travis Outlaw in recent years.

That probably wouldn’t have happened under new ownership in Sacramento or Seattle. And it certainly won’t happen in Houston, where GM Daryl Morey and his reliance on analytics has the Rockets in a playoff spot despite playing in the unforgiving Western Conference with the lowest payroll in the NBA.

Trading lottery picks in their rookie seasons happens more than you think. The Knicks moved Jordan Hill in 2010 to clear cap room and the Nets packaged Derrick Favors a year later for Deron Williams. Heck, the Rockets even traded Jeremy Lamb to get Harden right before this season started.

Although he has had a forgettable rookie campaign thus far, Robinson was a rotation player with the Kings. He has a chance to be the same with the Rockets, given their lack of muscle. He has a chance to have an early taste of the postseason, which often gets young players pointed in the right direction. And in the offseason, he will have direct access to low-post guru Hakeem Olajuwon, who can teach him some badly needed footwork.

Robinson has a second chance to make a first impression. He should try to make the most of it.

On to the rankings.

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Sheridan Hoops Rookie Rankings: Week 15

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Last week, rookie big men Tyler Zeller and Andrew Nicholson weren’t even in these rankings.

This week, they are in the Rising Stars contest that kicks off All-Star Weekend on Friday night.

Zeller, the center of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was among the original field of nine rookies chosen for the game. Nicholson, a power forward for the Orlando Magic, was added this week to replace injured Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond. 

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NBA announces every All-Star Weekend participant

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All the All-Star stuff came down Thursday night. 

This year’s All-Star Saturday Night has a new theme of Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference. Like that’s going to turn a weekend where everyone wants to (a) party and (b) not get hurt into serious competition.

TNT personalities Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal made their picks as GMs for the Rising Stars Challenge. O’Neal had the first pick and chose Portland guard Damian Lillard. Barkley then chose New Orleans big man Anthony Davis.

Yeah, you read that right. Both guys passed on Cleveland point man Kyrie Irving, who’s in the real All-Star Game.

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Sheridan Hoops Rookie Rankings: Week 14

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Damian Lillard’s path to Rookie of the Year just seems to get easier every week.

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.

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