Rookie Rankings, Week 20: Who Will Impact the Playoff Push?

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While Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke chase Michael Carter-Williams for Rookie of the Year, a handful of anticother rookies are helping their teams chase postseason berths and higher seeds.

The Eastern Conference has three teams in the playoff chase whose finish will be somewhat impacted by the play of their rookies. The Western Conference has five teams in the hunt with rookies playing a prominent role.

The team relying most on rookies is undoubtedly the Atlanta Hawks, who have two rookies in their rotation as they try to hold off the New York Knicks for the final playoff berth in the East.

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Bernucca: Fixing the Fans’ All-Star Mistakes

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Kyrie IrvingNBA fans do an awful job of protecting the image of their favorite sport.

This is not the NFL, which has been America’s pastime for a generation and can do no wrong in the eyes of its fans. The only time the NFL has an image problem is when a storm affects satellite reception.

This is also not baseball, which has a considerable image problem with its collection of prima donnas on PEDS. But it also has more than a century of tradition on its side.

NBA fans constantly have to argue the merits of their sport not only against other sports but against other versions of their sport. The international game is more fluid. The college game has more energy and emotion. The women’s game has more fundamentals.

So what do NBA fans do to cultivate and protect the image of their favorite sport? They ignore common sense and vote their darlings as All-Stars.

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Rookie Rankings, Week 10: McCollum Could Give Bad Blazers Bench a Boost

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NeilOlsheyLast season, the Portland Trail Blazers had one of the worst benches in the NBA.

Portland’s reserves were last in minutes (13.3), points (18.5), rebounds (10.5), offensive efficiency (21.1) and defenseive efficiency (minus 17.7). It was a big reason they had three players in the top nine in minutes per game, including rookie Damian Lillard, who led the entire NBA in minutes played. It also was a big reason why those players burned out and Portland lost its last 11 games to finish 33-49.

So in the offseason, GM Neil Olshey went out and did something about it. He traded for Robin Lopez to allow LaMarcus Aldridge to remain at power forward and second-year center Meyers Leonard to continue to come off the bench. They signed Dorell Wright as a backup to small forward Nicolas Batum. They acquired Thomas Robinson to give Aldridge a blow at the 4 spot.

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Rookie Rankings, Week 9: Hawks Need More of Antic’s Antics

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anticWhen Pero Antic arrived at training camp for the Atlanta Hawks, he was their fourth-string center.

The 31-year-old rookie from Macedonia was behind former All-Star Al Horford, veteran Elton Brand and journeyman Gustavo Ayon in the pecking order. Even on the NBA’s smallest team, the 6-11 Antic didn’t figure to play much.

And he didn’t. Even with Ayon sidelined by a shoulder injury suffered early in camp, Antic had 11 DNPs in the first 22 games as new coach Mike Budenholzer relied heavily on a big man rotation of Horford, Paul Millsap, Brand and Mike Scott.

Despite his inactivity, Antic has shown a flair for the dramatic, making not one but two clutch plays that led to wins for the Hawks.

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Rookie Rankings, Week 7: Trey Burke Takes Top Spot

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Trey-Burke-Utah-JazzBack 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.

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