Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 2/8/13
With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor. 1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1) Once again there is no doubt that Lillard’s name belongs at the top of this list. He continues to be a 20 point, 6 assist machine while playing 40 minutes a night for a team competing for a playoff spot. No one is as big of a Lillard fan as I am, but someone needs to tell me what the hell Shaq was thinking when he selected Lillard first overall in the Rising Stars draft Thursday on TNT. It’s fair to compare Lillard and Irving as rookies and to contextualize how promising both young point guards are, but NO ONE can justify taking Lillard over Irving. Whether it’s the draft for the Rising Stars game, a fantasy draft, or if having a guy named Damian on your team gives your team a 10-0 lead to start the game, Irving’s name has to be said before Lillard’s. Shaq continuously referred to himself during the Rising Stars draft as “The Black Jerry Colangelo”. After making a decision like choosing Lillard over Irving, I’d say comparing Shaq to the guy who just committed to pay over $33 million the next two years for the services of Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, and Landry Fields sounds dead on. 2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2) 3. Andre Drummond (Last Week: 3) The biggest difference between Davis and Drummond is a little word called expectations. Davis was selected last June as the first overall pick in the draft. That means the Hornets thought he was better than every other basketball player in the entire world that is not yet in the NBA. Drummond, on the other hand was taken 9th overall and thought of to be “a project”. When Davis puts up a stat line of 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks I yawn. But when Drummond does the exact same thing I’m searching him on youtube, sending irrational texts to friends, and professing my love for the Pistons’ big man. To put things in perspective, Davis is like Tom Brady and Drummond is like the nerdy engineer in the GoDaddy commercial. Everyone expects Brady to be with his supermodel wife, whereas the whole country is a buzz when they see the nerdy engineer swapping spit with Bar Refaeli. If Brady married Sarah Jessica Parker, we wouldn’t be impressed. We’d want more out of Tom, but if that nerdy engineer landed SJP then people would be pumped and he’d be a hero. The same situation applies to Davis and Drummond. Although they are having somewhat similar seasons, Davis is a disappointment to me, while Drummond is a sensation. In Drummond’s defense, it may be a little unfair to call him the nerd and Davis the golden boy when Drummond outranks Davis in true shooting percentage, blocked shot percentage, and rebounding percentage. 4. Harrison Barnes (Last Week: NR) Harrison Barnes has made his way back into the top 5 after scoring 14.6 ppg in his last 5 contests on 63%. Scoring and efficiency often don’t go hand in hand, but Barnsey (The ultimate nickname for someone with an Aussie accent to say) has them both going his way as of late. During those last five games The Black Falcon has an offensive rating of 133.2 which is up 30 points from his season average. Although it is only a five game stretch, that stretch is impressive considering the league leader in offensive rating is Tyson “Dunks only please” Chandler at 136.7, followed by CP3 and Durant at 126.2 and 124 respectively. If the Warriors are serious about winning a playoff series, they need consistent scoring from someone other than Curry and Lee. Klay Thompson is more than capable of being that guy, but with his inconsistency and need for racks of shots, he can’t always be counted on. That leaves the door open for the rookie to make a big impact come April. 5. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 5) In a game where your team wins by 27 against the miserable Bobcats it’s hard not to look good. That being said, in Wednesday’s win over Charlotte, Dion played the type of game the Cavs need from their two guard night in and night out. Although there were a few ill advised step back jumpers 1 Waiters played much more under control than in previous games. Time after time we’ve seen Dion split a double team with a fancy dribble, weave his way through traffic, twirl in the air, and clang the ball off the rim. He’s shooting a modest 50% on the year at the rim, but on this night Waiters went 5 of 6 on such shots. A lot of Dion’s struggles around the rim can be attributed to him receiving the “rookie treatment” from the officials. Whereas guys like Dwyane Wade seem to draw a foul whenever they are so much as breathed on, it appears at times Waiters can’t seem to buy a whistle. However, excuses can only take you so far in the league so it was nice to see Dion finally finishing at the rim, let’s just hope it continues. The Cavs drafted Dion for his ability to get to the tin, but also his ability as a ball handler. Dion’s turnovers have been far too high compared to his production. Now at least we’re starting to see some assists to go along with those giveaways. In 3 of his last 4 games, the Cavs’ guard has had at least 5 assists. Once team’s have to start paying more attention to Dion it’s only going to make life even easier for Uncle Drew and their Cavalier teammates. Honorable Mention: Tyler Zeller While Tyler’s brother, Cody, was busy leading the Hoosiers and earning the nickname that I’m going to make the future Mrs. Jonesey call me, Big Handsome, Tyler has been playing some strong basketball for the Wine and Gold. At the end of the Rising Stars draft Kenny Smith randomly assigned the remaining players to Team Shaq and Team Chuck. When Zeller was assigned to Team Chuck, Kenny Smith tried to be positive stating that Chuck is getting some rebounding on his team with the addition of Zeller. Barkley replied, “Yeah, 3 rebounds a game.” While this may have been an easy stab at the less talented of the Zeller brothers, Tyler has started to hold his own as the Cavs’ starting center. Since taking over the starting duties, Zeller has been in double figures in 13 of 22 games. No, he’s not going to set the world on fire with his play, but when I watch Tyler confidently step into and hit an 18 footer, I can’t help but feel hopeful about Big Handsome’s big brother. Bradley Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist both have missed time with injuries. Both were also struggling before being injured. ___________________________________ These have become so common that I’m almost numb to it by now.
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