Seeing as though most of the current NBA talk is about the free agency and The Decision 2.0, I thought I’d get in early and share my picks for this year’s rookie award “winners”. I have put winners in quotations as there is only one real award these rookies can win, but I like to make things more interesting then that, so not only will I choose my prediction for rookie of the year, I will also choose the rookie leader in each major statistical category (points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks), the rookie most likely to make noise in the playoffs, the rookie who will increase his teams win percentage by the most, both All-NBA 1st and 2nd teams and the rookie most likely to become Darko Milicic.
A few quick notes before we get started, seeing as though he’s not playing for another 2 years of course Dario Saric is not included in this and neither is Joel Embiid as he will most likely not play next year (Yes, I know his recovery time is only 4-6 months, but do you really think the Sixers will play him after how long they nursed Noel?). Which brings up my next point, Noel will be included as he is technically a rookie this year.
Points: Jabari Parker
This pick was a no brainer, not only is he the best offensive talent in the draft, but he is already the star of his team and should have a green light from day one. With the Greek freak still a couple of years away from being a solid contributor, Larry Sanders not being able to keep his personal life in check, and Brandon Knight being a third option at best, there is no reason why Jabari shouldn’t be taking at least 20 shots a night. Don’t be surprised if he averages in the low to mid 20’s.
Rebounds: Nerlons Noel
I thought long and hard about this pick, as I couldn’t seem to decide between, Noel And Julius Randle. The deciding factors between the two ultimately came down to, Noel being 6’11 with a 7’5 wingspan while Julius is somewhat undersized for a typical NBA power forward at 6’9 with a 6’11 wingspan and also the lack of rebounding ability in Philadelphia compered to Los Angles. Noel will be competing for boards against the 76ers other big men being Byron Mullins, Henry Sims and Thaddeus Young (all of which aren’t exactly Dennis Rodman on the glass), while Julius will have, Chris Kaman, Paul Gasol (although it is very possible he’ll be gone in the next few days) and Jordan Hill, again not exceptional, but respectable rebounders. That being said I wouldn’t be surprised if both Noel and Randle got close to 10 rebounds per game.
Assists: Elfrid Payton
Fairly confident with this pick, Payton has a great eye for the game and what seems like a god given ability to get to the rim, which will create open shots for the likes of Oladipo and Gordon, whether or not they convert those looks is another story. He is also a talented defender, so fast break assists will be a great opportunity, especially with athletic freaks Gordon and Oladipo running back with him. Even if some of his passes go unrewarded, he should generate enough opportunities for his whole team to get in the neighborhood of 7 assists per game. He should also be able to create an interesting pick and roll tandem with underrated big men Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic. Exum was a close second for this pick, but considering the Jazz are looking like they are going to use him at an unnatural position for him (shooting guard), I can’t see him being ultra effective, especially since he is the type of player who requires the ball in his hands to be any sort of threat.
Steals: Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins has the tools to become a superstar that much is very well known, but at this current time his biggest use is on the defensive end. His offense is a work in progress and with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters as already developed perimeter scorers, there won’t be a tremendous rush this year to force too much out of Wiggins offensively. That will leave room for him to be an absolute nightmare on defense. Not only will he easily lead all rookies in steals, but his name might not be too far off an All-NBA defensive team list.
Blocks: Nerlens Noel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaMTNRr9Zvc , watch this, enough said.
Playoff noise: Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins gets the nod here for multiple reasons, one, he will have plenty of games under his belt and by this stage he should be giving opposing teams a few sleepless nights. Two, his team is in a decent position to make the playoffs without putting too much of the burden to do so solely on him, which means he shouldn’t be too worn out come playoff time. Three, the likes of Parker, Gordon, Noel, Payton and Smart should be nowhere to be seen. Unless one of the previously mentioned players causes his team to have an astronomical turnaround season, the only player with a chance to take the attention away from Wiggins in the playoffs is Noah Vonleh. The Hornets where a playoff team without him, and thanks to the misfortune of Detroit and extreme fortune of Cleveland, the Hornets are now a serious threat in the East. With Kemba Walker running the show combined with the scoring threat of Gerald Henderson and defensive prowess of Kidd-Gilchrist, not to mention the lethal and exciting new frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Noah Vonleh, watch out. I apologize for that rant, I digress.
Win percentage: Jabari Parker
It helps that the 2013-14 Bucks set the bar extremely low at only 14 wins. Surpassing that should be very achievable for Parker and co., especially if Larry Sanders returns to form. Parker should be capable of scrapping quiet a few wins together just purely on his ability to put the ball in the basket. I have full confidence that Parker can at least double their current number of wins. Gordan/Payton and Noel all get honorable mentions, mostly based on how poorly their teams performed last year.
Darko Milicic: Dante Exum
Before we get started just a quick explanation as to how this pick works. First you have to be a top 10 pick, second there must be a decent amount of hype around you and most importantly, you must never come close to even sniffing the potential of that hype. I really believe there won’t be a Darko Milicic in this draft as it is ridiculously deep, but gun to my head, I would unfortunately choose Dante. Compared to the other rookies in this years top ten, he is a relative unknown, he didn’t even work out for the team that ultimately drafted him, he is this years best kept secret. These are all early warning signs, not only that, he is most likely going to be playing out of position as long as Utah want both him and Trey Burke to play in the backcourt together. Possibly most importantly he hasn’t spent the last year playing against his fellow rookies as a way to fully gage how talented he is, this is rarely a good thing.
All-Rookie 1st team: Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon
Parker, Noel, Payton and Gordon are all going to be one of the star players on there team, so there selection is self explanatory, there all going to play 30 plus minutes and see plenty of the ball, so there stats should be quiet impressive. Wiggins probably won’t play as large of a role from the get go, but he is far too talented not to make the 1st team.
All-Rookie 2nd team: Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Kyle Anderson
The easy picks where Vonleh, Smart and Randle. They are the most talented players outside of the 1st team, and should all cruise to this spot. The question marks are Anderson and Napier. Anderson has found himself on the best team in basketball. The spurs are notorious for going deep into their roster and sharing the ball and minutes to perfection. If Anderson plays his cards right, he might just find himself as a rotation player on the defending champs and find himself with enough game time and general solid play to end up on the 2nd team. Napier has an intriguing few days ahead of him. Behind door number 1, he finds himself running the floor for the Big 3 and whomever else they can nab in the free agency. If this is indeed his fate, he should find himself in a similar position to Anderson, that being if he proves he can play solid basketball, he will be on a championship caliber team and getting decent minutes. Behind door number 2, Lebron and Bosh leave and he’s left with an ageing Dwayne Wade. This will be far less favorable, but could also lead to a better statistical season for Napier. Either way his fate turns out, it should be an impressive season from the two-time NCAA champion.
Rookie of the year: Jabari Parker
In my mind this is a 3-man race between Parker, Gordon and Noel. Noel will have a huge impact on a Philadelphia team who seem determined to remain in the lottery. He will dominate on defense as well as contribute to the overall team offense. His contribution will mostly consist of catching lobs from Michael Carter-Williams and put backs, although he does have an underrated inside game that could catch some by surprise, that all should be enough to put him in double digits for scoring. Gordon is a phenomenal athlete and the Shawn Marion comparisons are spot on. Expect him to make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor for an Orlando team desperate for a new star. Parker will be next years ROY mostly because he is the most NBA ready player, he will be the immediate star of Milwaukee basketball and scoring the ball is hugely influential in voting.