At the All-Star break and after watching all the festivities the past two nights including the Rookie Challenge, The game of Horse or Geico, the 3-point contest where Daequan Cook dominated, the Slam Dunk Contest, and hearing Kenny Smith talk trash about everyone on the planet. I have decided to make my Rookie/Sophomore Rankings for this year.
1. Derrick Rose-CHI-PG (17, 6.3)- I know that Mayo is a better scorer but Rose is the PG of a young team that is still in the playoff hunt. Mayo right now is the front runner for the ROY (rookie of the year), but if Rose can some how lead the Bulls into the playoffs I don't know how you could not put him in as the top rookie this year.
2. O.J. Mayo-MEM-SG (19.3, 4rpg)- The man can score and is the biggest ray of hope in for the Grizz right now. If he continues this and finishes with over 20ppg and Rose does not lead the Bulls into the postseason then Mayo will likely win ROY.
3. Russel Westbrook-OKC-PG (15, 4.9apg, 4.7rpg)- He keeps getting better and better as the season goes. plus he is getting more comfortable at the PG position running a team. His overall stat line combined with his defense makes him like a better scoring version of Rajon Rondo. If only he could start winning like Rondo.
4. Brook Lopez-NJ-C- (12.3, 8.1)- He has been very consistent and is the perfect compliment down low for Guards' Devin Harris and Vince Carter. Just like the Bulls, the Nets are going to be in the playoff hunt in the East for one of those last seeds and Lopez is a huge factor in the Nets hopes.
5. Michael Beasley-MIA-PF/SF- (13.3, 5.3)- He is a key player on a playoff team right now. While he should be getting more boards, he still is improving and will now be expected to score more and create on the perimeter as a 3 will Shawn Marion out and Jermaine O'Neal in.
6. Eric Gordon-LAC-SG- (14.7ppg)- Just like with Al Thorton last year, the Clippers injuries and struggles have allowed for a talented rookie to showcase his skills. Gordon can score but can he do more. We might not find that out this year, but he is still a top talent.
7. Marc Gasol-MEM-C- (11, 7.1)- I love this guys fundamentals and what he brings as a role player. He is never going to be a star but he knows his role and plays it well. Besides 7-1 Centers with great fundamentals are tough to find.
8. Kevin Love-MIN-PF- (9.4, 8.7)- Is just like Gasol in that he knows his role and his game and does not play out of it. The Al Jefferson injury is going to be very tough for the TWolves but it will give Love a chance to show if he can be the go to guy inside while Jefferson is out.
9. Jason Thompson-SAC-PF- (10.4, 6.8)- He might be the best unknown basketball player on the planet. He played college ball at Rider and now plays on the Kings. Unless you follow basketball hardcore, you probably don't know about Thompson. But he can play and is a very good young PF.
10. Mario Chalmers-MIA-PG- (10.1, 4.8)- He is the Joe Flacco of the NBA. A rookie PG (QB of the basketball court) who is starting for a winning team. As long as he helps facilitate to superstar Dwyane Wade, plays decent defense and hits some big shots, something he knows a little bit about, the Heat are in good shape to be a 4-6 seed in the East.
Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden were both in the Rookie Challenge but not in my top 10. It is not cause I hate the Blazers, in fact I wanted Rudy to win the the Dunk Contest. But i feel the 10 guys ahead have been better up to this point in the season.
1. Kevin Durant-OKC-SF- (25.5, 6.7)- He's fifth in the league in scoring, he owned the Rookie Challenge dropping 46 and should have been in the All-Star game with the big boys. He is a rising superstar in this league who behind Kobe and DWade has the most complete offensive game. Oh by the way he is only 20. Barring an injury he should make about 10-12 All-Star games. I know he plays for a bad team. I know he should be averaging more rebounds and I know he has the body of a contestant on America's Next Top Model not a Pro Athlete. But even with that, he is still maybe the best 20 or under player I have ever seen. Just compare his stats to Kobe, LaBron, or KG when they were his age. Durant is the truth.
2. Al Thorton-LAC-SF- (16.9, 5.2)
3. Jeff Green-OKC-SF- (16.7, 6.6)
I've got Thorton slightly ahead of Green though their numbers are about the same . Their game, size and skill set are very similar. Both are on losing teams and have had to play a big role early in their pro careers. They both are combo forwards who can post up, score inside and rebound. They are listed as SF's but are not traditional slashers.
4. Al Hortford-ATL-C- (10.4, 8.4)- Hortford is a winner above everything else and is a perfect big man to compliment the great talent around him in Atlanta. He is coming back from an injury but if he is well the Hawks are likely a 4 or 5 seed and might get a rematch with Boston in the second round. Remember those young Hawks took the World Champs to 7 games last year and Hortford was a key part in that especially with his defense against the best PF in the game in KG.
5. Luis Scola-HOU-PF- (12.4, 8.1)- The guy just plays basketball and is a warrior down low. He does all the little things. Like Hortford he is a winner that will do whatever is best for the team in order to be a contender. With all the injuries in Houston the past two years he has remained a constant.
6. Wilson Chandler-NY-SF- (13.7, 5)- He is a good player who has struggled with his consistency but that is bound to happen when you play with the chemistry experiment gone wrong that is called the Knicks. However the Knicks need him to step up if they are going to get back in the playoff picture in the East.
7. Thaddeus Young-PHL-SF- (13.7, 4.9)- He is a good payer who can become a great player in due time. He has got a nice all-around game and possesses great length similar to Josh Smith/Tayshaun Prince. He has had to play out of position at PF with Elton Brand being hurt. This shows how committed he is to his team and winning.
8. Rodney Stuckey-DET-PG- (13.7, 4.9, 3.4rpg)- At 6-5 is a very good big PG who can score and get to the whole at will. His PG skills are still developing, but with his size, athleticism, and ball-handling skills make him a very unique player. The Pistons are committed to him as their PG of the future or else they wouldn't of traded Chauncey to Denver. He has the keys to the offense we'll see where he takes them.
9. Ramon Sessions-MIL-CG- (11.7, 4.8)- When he is a starter he is a star, however in limited action he is not as effective. It still remains to be seen if he can be the "man" as a PG or a SG, but when he gets his chances as a starter he has been very very good. He has had 44 points in a game this year and had 22 assists in a game last year. So he is not just a specialty scorer, he is very well rounded.
10 (tie)- Nick Young-WAS-SG- (10.8ppg) & Daequan Cook-MIA-SG- (10.4ppg)- Both come off the bench and provide a great shooting touch for their team. The main difference is that Young has a lethal mid-range shot and game while Cook as we saw on Saturday night is one of the league's best 3-point shooters. Young is on a struggling team and has played both the 2 and 3. Cook is on a good team and can play some point but is really best at backing up DWade or playing with DWade in 3 guard sets.
Just missed the cut: Carl Landry-HOU-PF, Mike Conley-MEM-PG, Aaron Brooks-HOU-CG, Yi Jianlian-NJ-PF (due to injury), Brendan Wright-GS-PF
Here are my Top 25 Career Projection, in other words how I feel the Rooks and Sophs will have the best NBA careers:
1. Kevin Durant
2. Derrick Rose
3. O.J. Mayo
4. Michael Beasley
5. Eric Gordon
6. Russel Westbrook
7. Thaddeus Young
8. Rodney Stuckey
9. Al Hortford
10. Brook Lopez
11. Jeff Green
12. Al Thorton
13. Yi Jianlian
14. Ramon Sessions
15. Greg Oden
16. Courtney Lee
17. Mike Conley
18. Nick Young
19. Mario Chalmers
20. Kevin Love
21. Rudy Fernandez
22. Wilson Chandler
23. Marc Gasol
24. Jason Thompson
25. Luis Scola