Early predictions for the rookie of the year award can be found here.
We are now a little over a third of the way through the NBA season and are almost at the midpoint. As the NBA season continues to trudge on, the race for the rookie of the year award continues to become clearer. Early in the year we had many players who looked like they could take home the award but with new injuries and the production from a couple of good rookies, the field has now been narrowed down. Let’s first look at some of the players who were considered early on to be in the running for the award, but who have now fallen out because of injuries or inconsistencies.
Jabari Parker SF Milwaukee Bucks
Jabari Parker was having a fantastic year for the Bucks until he suffered an injury that would end his season pushing him out of the running for the rookie of the year award. An unfortunate loss for Parker does open a chance for some of the other rookies to have a chance to take home the award. Jabari Parker was averaging 12.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG while shooting right around 50% from the field before his injury.
Julius Randle PF Los Angeles Lakers
Early on in the year, it seemed obvious that the Lakers would struggle in the Western Conference this year with the lack of talent surrounding Kobe Bryant. That has proven to be the case and Randle would’ve truly gotten great experience. Julius Randle, as you may know at this point, suffered a broken leg in his rookie debut which ended his season.
Doug McDermott SF Chicago Bulls
Many thought that Doug McDermott would have a chance to contend for the rookie of the year award this year. They were quickly proven wrong as McDermott proved to us all that he was incapable of competing both defensively and offensively for the Bulls. It’s McDermott’s first year and I hate to say that a rookie will not be able to make it in the NBA but Doug will surely have to work on his game if he wants significant minutes for a team in the NBA.
Doug has missed the last 17 games for the Bulls with a knee injury and he is expected to remain out for a couple more weeks. McDermott is averaging 3.2 ppg 1.6 rpg while shooting 42% from the field and 23% from 3 point range. These shooting percentages are simply not even close to the numbers that a team vying for a championship wants to see out of one of their players. Don’t expect Doug to get too many more minutes this season.
T.J. Warren SF Phoenix Suns
T.J. Warren is having a frustrating season for only one reason: he is not getting the minutes. The Phoenix Suns are one of the better teams in the West and they can’t afford to start rebuilding their young players in Tyler Ennis, Archie Goodwin, and the aforementioned Warren while they are fighting for a playoff spot. Warren is averaging 4.2 ppg and 1.1 rpg in 10.7 minutes per game while shooting 47% from the field and 40% from downtown. I truly thought that T.J. Warren would get a significant amount of minutes this season, but with the fantastic seasons by both Markieff and Marcus Morris, the two forward positions haven’t been too available. T.J. Warren does have the skills to one day be a great player in the NBA, but we will just have to wait to see if he can get the minutes to prove it.
There are many other rookies that haven’t been able to get the minutes they want such as Noah Vonleh and Nik Stauskas, but only a few rookies are fortunate enough to get the minutes they want their first year. The rookies that put in the hard work to get better each and every practice will eventually get the minutes they deserve. This is the time for patience in those rookies that are not getting the consistent court time they want and need.
Top Rookie Shooters (Excluding Jabari):
|1||Andrew Wiggins, SF||MIN||32||31.8||13.8||41.6%||38.0%||69.9%|
|2||K.J. McDaniels, SG||PHI||31||25.3||9||39.7%||28.4%||74.3%|
|3||Zach LaVine, PG||MIN||29||25.1||8.8||40.8%||25.0%||82.5%|
|4||Nikola Mirotic, PF||CHI||34||18.4||8||42.6%||38.5%||77.9%|
|5||Nerlens Noel, PF||PHI||29||30.1||7.7||41.7%||0.0%||50.0%|
Head and shoulders above the rest for points per game here as you can see is Andrew Wiggins. His numbers are just not comparable. His 3 point percentage is quite impressive as well as many, including myself, were worried about his outside shooting game. His free throw percentage has to improve though. As he gets more opportunities at the strike, I’m sure he will improve that percentage.
Nikola Mirotic is shooting very well for the Bulls when he gets in the game, but he doesn’t get enough minutes to really be able to put up the numbers that he is capable of.
Top Rookie Rebounders (Excluding Jabari):
|1||Nerlens Noel, PF||PHI||29||30.1||7.2||2.1||5.1|
|2||Nikola Mirotic, PF||CHI||34||18.4||5.1||0.6||4.5|
|Tarik Black, PF||HOU||25||15.7||5.1||2.3||2.8|
|4||Jusuf Nurkic, C||DEN||22||13.1||5||1.5||3.5|
|5||Andrew Wiggins, SF||MIN||32||31.8||4.1||1.3||2.8|
Nerlens Noel is leading all rookies in almost every rebounding category, but it doesn’t seem too impressive. He is averaging over 30 minutes per game and is starting at center for the 76ers (and sometimes at the 4) each and every night. The other big men on the list don’t nearly get the amount of minnutes that Noel gets. Nerlens is a great rebounder, but hasn’t been as dominant in that aspect as some had thought.
Jusuf Nurkic has to be the most intriguing player of the 5 listed above. He is only averaging 13.1 MPG, but he is averaging 5 rebounds per game on the season. If he continues to gain more minutes, his rebounding numbers could continue to look more and more impressive.
Top Rookie Passers (Excluding Jabari):
|1||Elfrid Payton, PG||ORL||37||25.8||5.4||2.3||2.33|
|2||Zach LaVine, PG||MIN||29||25.1||3.8||2.4||1.55|
|3||Kostas Papanikolaou, SF||HOU||25||23.6||2.8||1.6||1.73|
|4||Marcus Smart, PG||BOS||18||19.7||2.4||1.3||1.79|
|5||Dante Exum, SG||UTAH||34||18.4||1.9||1.1||1.69|
Elfrid Payton is leading all rookies in assists per game. The most impressive statistic, though, is his assist to turnover ratio. Most would say that right around a 3 assist to turnover ratio is quite impressive so 2.33 for a rookie can be considered to be good. Sure, most guards would say that they would want a better assist to turnover ratio than that, but Payton has to be satisfied with these numbers his first year.
Top Rookies in Steals and Blocks (Excluding Jabari):
|1||Nerlens Noel, PF||PHI||29||30.1||1.55||0.6|
|2||Elfrid Payton, PG||ORL||37||25.8||1.38||0.63|
|3||Gary Harris, SG||DEN||16||14||1.13||0.78|
|5||Marcus Smart, PG||BOS||18||19.7||1.11||0.49|
|6||Andrew Wiggins, SF||MIN||32||31.8||1.09||0.45|
|1||K.J. McDaniels, SG||PHI||31||25.3||1.48||0.58|
|2||Nerlens Noel, PF||PHI||29||30.1||1.38||0.53|
|3||Jusuf Nurkic, C||DEN||22||13.1||1.05||0.35|
|4||Nikola Mirotic, PF||CHI||34||18.4||0.68||0.3|
|5||Jerami Grant, SF||PHI||17||14.9||0.59||0.48|
It’s odd to see a shooting guard leading rookies in blocks and a pf/c leading rookies in steals, but that is exactly what is happening.
Nikola Mirotic is 4th in rookies in blocks, but the most impressive stat that is not listed above for him is that he leads all rookies with a 99.9 Defensive Rating and is tied for 13th in the NBA out of all players. Mirotic is a great defender who, if he is afforded more minutes, can put up even better steal and block numbers.
Now let’s start to take a look at the rookies who are currently ahead of the race in being named the rookie of the year.
Jusuf Nurkic C Denver Nuggets
Jusuf Nurkic is one player who is not one of the top 5 candidates to take home the award, but he is quickly becoming one of the players that should be included in the conversation. Over his last 3 games, Nurkic is averaging 12.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.3 blocks per game, and 1.3 steals per game. If he can continue this production for the rest of the season, there is no question that he should be one of the top candidates by the end of the season.
Zach Lavine PG Minnesota Timberwolves
Zach Lavine is a point guard who has proven that he has the athleticism to play in the NBA, but it remains to be seen whether he can actually contribute at the point guard position efficiently. He has started a good amount of games for Minnesota this year with the loss of Ricky Rubio, but he hasn’t put up the numbers that we as fans had hoped. If Lavine can shoot with a high percentage and decrease his 3 point attempts, he has a chance to put up some great numbers this year.
TOP 5 ROY CANDIDATES
5. Elfrid Payton PG Orlando Magic
Elfrid Payton has had himself a very up and down season. Early on he was struggling in the starting lineup and was moved to the bench. He was irrelevant for the Magic and sometimes was not even included in the rotation. Payton has put in a lot of hard work and now he has been put back into the starting lineup with great production in his recent games. Against Brooklyn a couple nights back, Payton had 16 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds in a tight game.
Elfrid Payton will continue to get the minutes on a struggling Magic team. Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton haven’t found their connection yet, but if they do that backcourt can truly turn into something special. If their chemistry can improve, then Payton’s numbers will surely go up.
2014-2015 Player Statistics: 6.9 PPG 5.4 APG 3.4 RPG 1.4 SPG 40% FG 21% 3PT 49% FT
4. Nikola Mirotic SF Chicago Bulls
Nikola Mirotic has a lot of talent and he has shown it when he gets the minutes. The problem is that he only averages 18.4 minutes per game on the season. Mirotic has played great defense this season, as I mentioned before, which should continue to earn him more and more minutes.
In his last 10 games, Mirotic is averaging over 10 points per game but still under 20 minutes per game. Nikola Mirotic is going to have to earn himself more minutes or else someone else might be crowned the rookie of the year. We can’t blame Coach Tom Thibodeau though as Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy both get time in front of Mirotic, Along with the great season by Butler and the MVP like season that Pau Gasol is having, there isn’t much time left for Mirotic.
2014-2015 Player Statistics: 8.0 PPG 5.1 RPG 1.2 APG 43% FG 39% 3PT 78% FT
3. K.J. McDaniels SG Philadelphia 76ers
What a steal in the draft it was for the Philadelphia 76ers. K.J. McDaniels was drafted in the 2nd round of this year’s NBA draft and has been nothing but a pleasant surprise for the 76ers who have struggled to find talent to throw onto the court this season. K.J. has the athleticism and the skills to be in the NBA for a very long time. McDaniels has already opened the eyes of many fans and teams with some of the plays he has made this season. Teams might have a shot at K.J. this offseason as he decided to only sign a 1 year contract with Philadelphia.
Recently McDaniels has been promoted to the starting lineup, but he has been unable to keep up the stellar numbers that he was producing early on in the season. The level of competition has increased as Philadelphia has started to play against the much tougher Western Conference teams. The problem with McDaniels is that he does not have a dominant go to move to get to the rim. He doesn’t have the strength to really get himself to the rim where he excels, but he needs to work on his strength while trying to find that move. If he can find that dominant move, then he can truly put up some gaudy numbers.
2014-2015 NBA Statistics: 9.0 PPG 3.7 RPG 1.2 APG 0.9 SPG 1.5 BPG 40% FG 28% 3PT 74% FT
2. Nerlens Noel PF/C Philadelphia 76ers
Nerlens Noel is putting up some solid numbers for the 76ers this year, but he should be doing much better. Noel had one full year of sitting on the bench to truly learn the game. Some of the brightest minds in the NBA had significant time on the bench in their career because that is the time that they can really take a step back and learn. Noel seems like he didn’t benefit much from being on the bench. He is putting up some solid numbers, but there is a lot lacking in his game. He has a very weak jump shot and has a very tough time outrebounding bigger forwards and centers. He has to work on his fundamentals in the low post if he truly wants to become someone in the NBA one day.
With all of this said, if Nerlens continues to work on his post game and gets in the weight room, the ceiling is the limit. As of right now it seems as though if he doesn’t improve much, than he can contribute the kind of numbers and production that Chris Andersen does for the Heat.
2014-2015 NBA Statistics: 7.7 PPG 7.2 RPG 1.7 APG 1.6 SPG 1.4 BPG 42% FG 50% FT
1. Andrew Wiggins SG/SF Minnesota Timberwolves
Andrew Wiggins is no doubt the front runner as of right now to win the rookie of the year award. After getting off to a rough start to his NBA career, Wiggins has turned it on lately while averaging over 16 PPG in his last 10 games and over 23 PPG so far this month. Andrew Wiggins has shown the talent that we all saw from him while he was at Kansas. I was worried about his jump shot coming into the year, but he has shown great improvement in that field. If he can continue to improve his jump shot, the ceiling is the limit for him.
Wiggins has a lot of pressure on his shoulders knowing that he is the reason the Timberwolves no longer have their all-star in Kevin Love. The pressure most likely got to Andrew Wiggins early on in the season, but as he let the game come to him, he felt it easier and the pressure has slowly gone away. While Minnesota will not be vying for a playoff spot these next couple of months, they have this award race to watch to see if their young star can take home the award.
2014-2015 NBA Statistics: 13.8 PPG 4.1 RPG 1.4 APG 1.1 SPG 42% FG 38% 3PT 70% FT