Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 11/19/14
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) Lillard had an up and down last seven days that started with a horrid shooting night (1-16) last Sunday vs. Orlando. Lillard’s shot wasn’t falling, so he turned to creating, dishing out a career high 12 assists. When they play 82 games a season, even the best players are going to have poor shooting nights,that’s a given. What isn’t a given is how the player responds to his bad shooting night. When Lillard was struggling shooting the ball, he was still able to hand out easy buckets to teammates and not become a black hole. It’s important for a player to have awareness, to know his limits, and do what’s necessary to help his team win. After a rough night like Lillard had against Orlando, players can either: A) Fall deeper into a slump B) Play tentatively, deferring to other teammates or… C) Come out the next night and kick ass like you have Kanye’s “Power” pumping into your eardrums. Two nights later against Miami, Lillard opted for choice C. While his performance against the world champions may not have been set to Kanye’s beats, it was to the tune of 33 points on 55 percent shooting. The Blazers’ guard could get anywhere he wanted on the floor, earning 11 trips to the line, converting on 10. However, it wasn’t all roses for Lillard in Miami, he got served a nice slice of humble pie on this block from the King. Welcome to the league rookie. The next night against New Orleans, DL struggled once again in a classic “mail it in before the all-star break” loss to the Hornets. While we’ll have to wait until after the weekend to see how Lillard responds in a real game, we’ll get a look at Shaq’s number one pick Friday night in the Rising Stars challenge. The Rising Stars challenge will be Lillard’s only action over the weekend — which as pointed out by some of our commenters could be one reason why Shaq chose Lillard first over Irving, who will be featured in the Rising Stars Challenge, 3-point shootout, and the actual All-Star game itself. While Irving’s minutes may be limited in the Rising Stars Challenge, Lillard should be locked, loaded, and gunning for MVP honors. 2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2) Those who watched the Hornets/Blazers game on Wednesday may have thought nothing has changed since last June’s NBA draft. Back then, Anthony Davis was a phenom from a team featuring six players drafted and Damian Lillard was an afterthought from a school best known for not being known. We all know now that Davis isn’t quite the phenom he was billed as and Lillard has gone from afterthought to ROY lock, but if you watched Hornets/Blazers the other night it was as if the last 8 months never happened. Lillard had an off night, following his stellar showing in Miami the day before, while Davis looked every bit of the player chosen first overall. The Brow had his highest scoring game since December 28 (21 points), highest rebounding total since January 19 (11), and added two blocks and a steal to complete the night. Davis, like Lillard, was able to bounce back and have a career high game following a career low scoring night. In the Hornets’ previous game against Detroit, Davis struggled on the offensive end, failing to make a single shot from the floor (0-7). Davis, once again like Lillard, turned to other areas of his game to help his team when the scoring wasn’t happening. The number one pick, added 8 rebounds, 4 huge blocks, and a steal to help the Hornets thrash the Pistons. The good thing about Davis is when his offense fails, his defense and rebounding are there to pick up the slack. The bad thing about Davis, his offense is failing far too often. 3. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 5) Waiters has been a sparkplug and a dividing point for Cavs fans and NBA fans alike. Whether you’re a Waiters hater or supporter, the numbers don’t lie, Dion is improving. Against the league’s best team on Wednesday night, with Kyrie Irving struggling (2-15), it was Dion’s show. And as a spectator at the show, it was one hell of an entertaining performance. Late in the second quarter, with the shot clock winding down and the offense stalled, Waiters was stuck with the ball his hands. Kyrie tried to bark orders Dion’s way to which the Syracuse product shrugged off, and instead pulled up to bury a deep j. You could tell Dion had it going on this night. A few moments later Dion leaked out for a breakaway dunk in which he hung on the ring an extra second, landed, and kept his arms in the air a la the Shaq “I didn’t do anything” celebration. Brilliance. Dion wasn’t done, the next time down the floor, another broken play. This time instead of pulling up, Dion attacked to score the bucket and earn a trip to the line for the and-1. He kept it going throughout the third, drawing another and-1 and prompting the lady making my wings to exclaim “Don’t get mad, get even!” This was the Dion Waiters show. But Dion saved his best act for last. With the game tied, and under a minute to play, Waiters came up with a timely steal, setting the stage for the biggest shot of his young career. Once again with the offense stalled, and the ball in his hands, Dion was required to make yet another play. Waiters pulled up for a long jumper like we’ve seen so many times before, but this time it was different. This time, the shot was pure, the shot was nothing but net. Of course Kawhai Leonard had to ruin Dion’s fairy tale ending by icing a game winning three a few seconds later, but this was the kind of performance Cavs fans want and expect out of their number 4 pick. 4. Bradley Beal (Last Week: NR) Beal returned from a wrist injury to come off the bench in an uninspiring performance against Brooklyn. Although it appears Beal just needed time to get his feet wet again, as his next outing was a special one. Beal has been far from consistent, as most rookies are, but his collection of sharp shooting games continues to grow. He poured in 28 on nearly 60% shooting, nailing all four of his attempts from 3-point range to lead the Wizards to their 4th straight win Monday in Milwaukee. Despite his career high scoring outburst against Milwaukee, Wizards’ coach, Randy Wittman continued to bring Beal off the bench in a disappointing loss to Detroit. The Wizards have outscored their opponents by 54 points when Beal and John Wall are on the court together. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beal return to the starting lineup following the all-star break. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Beal hit 10 plus 3′s in the Rising Stars game. The up and down pace, and lack of defense has been a 3-point shooter’s paradise these last few years. 5. Andrew Nichoslon (Last Week: NR) First Andrew Nicholson gets added to the rising stars challenge, then he cracks the top 5 of WFNY’s Rookie Rankings. This may be the best week for a Saint Bonaventure athletics since the school’s inception. Unless you’re from Orlando, or you snuck down to the hotel bar for a sanity break from screaming kids at the Magic Kingdom, you probably haven’t seen Andrew Nicholson play. At St. Bonaventure, Nicholson dominated the A-10 with his variety of post moves, and his shot blocking ability with his 7-4 wingspan which are both translating well to the NBA game. Nicholson has had his bright moments so far this season, but has yet to put together a stretch like his last week of action. Over the last seven days, the Magic rookie is averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds. In an otherwise very forgettable season for Magic fans, Nicholson has been a pleasant surprise. Honorable Mention: Tyler Zeller Zeller may have had the best game of his career Wednesday against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Big Teezy looked very comfortable with the ball in his hands in the loss to San Antonio. Put back jump hooks, isolations as the shot clock winded down, and pick and pops all were going Zeller’s way. He is clearly a skilled player, and as he adds more and more confidence, he’s beginning to look a lot like last year’s ACC Player of the Year that Carolina fans loved.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Fred Jackson has 'no respect' for Donte Whitner

Devon Still responds to unpaid child support allegations

Diamondbacks sign Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas

Josh Gordon felt alienated by some in Browns organization

Jerry Jones: I'm a big admirer of Robert Griffin III

Raiola fined for uneccesarily striking Pats' Zach Moore

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Michigan keeping Jim Hackett on as athletic director

LeBron James on Ferguson: 'Violence is not the answer'

Decision on Ray Rice's appeal could come Wednesday

Jaguars coach calls out Blake Bortles: ‘We expect more’

Report: Jets prevented Ryan from talking about dad's health

Kobe Bryant on 3-11 Lakers: 'We're not a 3-11 team'

OSU player posts Michigan player's girlfriend as his 'WCW'

Jim Harbaugh's family may not eat turkey thanks to NBC

Ole Miss' The Grove threatened by Mississippi State fan

Is it time for the Redskins to move on from Robert Griffin III?

Top 10 fantasy football turkeys for 2014

WATCH: Coyotes lose in ugly fashion, score own goal in OT

Golden State Warriors are having tons of fun on team plane

Jenn Sterger hints she'll be back in her FSU cowgirl gear for game

Game of the week: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

Top storyline for each Week 13 NFL game

Floyd Mayweather throws shade at Manny Pacquiao on Instagram

10 greatest Thanksgiving Day games in NFL history

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Should Washington move on from RG3?

Dominic Raiola fined for cheap shots

Game of the week: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

Rose leaves with injury again

WATCH: Pierce signs for fan during game

Report: McCoy to start over RG3

Braxton Miller headed to Oregon?

10 most one-sided college football rivalries

Pierce: C's Big Three like 'Holy Trinity'

Maclin unhappy with Cooper comments

Post-Week 13 CFB Playoff projection

What has Masai Ujiri built in Toronto?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.