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.
Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)
Lillard and the Blazers have both slipped a little in the last few weeks. The Blazers have lost eight of nine and are free falling from playoff contention while Lillard has had at least four turnovers in four of his last seven games.
However, Damian did bounce back strong on national tv in a battle against Ty Lawson and the electrifying Nuggets. With the Nuggets desire to run, run, run it provided a tantalizing matchup between Lawson and Lillard. Lillard held his own, taking it at Lawson time and time again in route to 26 points but it wasn’t enough as Lawson dropped 30 to propel the Nuggets to a narrow victory.
There were several times in the game where Lawson was a one man fast break, blowing by everyone on the court. And time after time Lillard sped right back down the floor to answer what Lawson had just done. You’ve got to love the confidence and fearlessness of the rookie as these bursts led to some entertaining buckets from Lillard, but more times than not Lillard tried to do too much, leading to a few forced shots and turnovers.
Lillard is a hell of a player, but watching this game also reminded me that Ty Lawson is no slouch himself. The NBA is overflowing with talented young point guards, it will be interesting to see how high Lillard can climb.
And besides giving America a thrilling basketball game, the Blazers/Nuggets game also set twitter on fire with pot jokes galore.
Dion Waiters (Last Week: 4)
“Oh Dion…” used to be a phrase I’d say expressing disappointment and disbelief. Now “Oh Dion…” has turned into “OH %$#@ YEAH DION!” This guy is becoming more fun to watch as each game goes by. In games against Miami and Chicago, two of the NBA’s top 10 defenses, DW scored 51 points on 56% shooting. The days of the uber inefficient Dion Waiters are a distant memory now. The visions of Dion forcing shots have been erased by flashes of Waiters going behind his back to split a double team, attacking the paint, and finishing off a reverse layup right in The King’s grill dancing through my head.
With Kyrie out with injury, Dion has taken the keys to Byron Scott’s offense and gunned it down the street. Waiters followed up great performances against Miami and Chicago, with his third straight 20 plus point game against Toronto and chipped in 6 assists to go with a block and a steal. In the month of February, a quarter of Dion’s shot have been long two’s (15-23ft), on which he has hit at an astounding 60% clip. There is no way Dion will keep up this crazy, good jump shooting streak, but the fact that he’s put together a whole month of crazy, good jump shooting is something Cavs fans should be excited about.
Dion is not a knockdown shooter and he gets lost on defense far too much, but those are things that can be fixed with extra time in the gym.
The Dion Waiters bandwagon is getting ready to leave the station. And whether you’ve been on board since June like Chris Grant, have just jumped on recently, or still don’t want to throw away your “Weighters” sign — everyone is welcome. Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun, but often times bumpy ride.
Bradley Beal (Last Week: 3)
Like Waiters, Beal is really starting to settle into playing in the Association. Since returning to the starting five after his injury, Beal is averaging just a shade under 20 points a game at 19.8. In that same time period the Wizards’ 6′ 5” guard is averaging 6.6 rebounds a game as well. Hell the Wizards even have a winning record since Beal’s return the starting lineup.
It’s no coincidence that Beal and the Wizards are both playing far better since the return of point guard John Wall. It’s fairly obvious that a shooter will benefit from a point guard who can penetrate like Wall can, but with Wall on the court, Beal is shooting a whopping 49% on his 3-point attempts compared to just 35% when Wall isn’t on the court.
It’s not just Beal’s numbers that are impressing folks in DC, it’s his maturity too. Late in a close game at Toronto, the often quiet 19 year old was seen getting on his teammates during a timeout. Beal told the Washington Post that, “I’m not saying my teammates quit, but we still had an opportunity to win…The game is never over. That’s what I was kind of upset about.” The Wizards need more of that attitude if they are going to transform themselves from cellar dweller to playoff contender.
Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)
Naturally after I was berating The Brow last week, Davis came out with a strong 20 point and 8 rebound night against Sacramento. Following the win over the Sacramento Futuresonics, Davis ran into Brook Lopez and the Nets — literally Davis collided with Brook Lopez in the Hornets’ game against the Nets, causing the number one pick to leave the game with a shoulder injury. The hit itself looked very tame, and the Hornets’ medical staff cleared Davis to return, but coach Monty Willians elected to shut Davis down.
With the injury to Kyrie Irving last weekend, the Hornets would not be outdone in Tankfest 2013. Not only did Davis not return to the game against Brooklyn, he didn’t even make the trip with the club to Oklahoma City.
With Davis’ injury and the way fellow rookies Waiters and Beal have been playing, this was finally the week the Brow falls in the rankings.
Moe Harkless (Last Week: NR)
Maurice “Moe” Harkless was selected out of St. Johns with the 15th overall pick by Philadelphia last June. A little over a month later, Harkless was dealt to Orlando in the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal — And for the next seven months, not much was heard from the 6-8 scoring small forward. On January 28th, Harkless played 30 plus minutes for the first time in his career, scoring a then career high 16 points. Since that day, Harkless is averaging 11.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game, and in his last six games is averaging just under 15 points a game.
Once thought of as a project, Harkless is already emerging as pro. So much so, that the man who drafted him, Philly coach Doug Collins is ““consumed with tracking boxscores and performances of Moe Harkless,” With the emergence of Andrew Nicholson at power forward, and Harkless on the wing, Orlando is collecting some nice, young pieces.
Follow Ryan Jones on Twitter @Czarjonesey7
(Photo via Jason Miller/Getty Images)