The season is coming to a close, but there have been so many rookies that have shined at a moderate level, that a regular ranking column just doesn’t do them justice, as they get left in the dark.
So, here’s to shining the spotlight on every rookie who proved their worth in some shape or form this year, and in no particular order:
Terrence Williams, G/F, New Jersey Nets
Williams shoots average percentages and has been pretty inconsistent for much of the year, but he’s also shown an ability to break-out offensively, and routinely hits the boards aggressively.
He’s averaging just under eight points and around four rebounds in 21 minutes per game. Considering how awful the Nets’ season has been, Williams’ progress has been a tiny bright spot.
James Johnson, F, Chicago Bulls
Johnson played sparingly for much of the season, but due to injuries, he’s found himself in a starting role for the better part of the last month.
He’s shown the ability to crack 15 points on a regular basis when he gets good minutes and shoots the ball at least 8-11 times a game.
He has tremendous length and vast potential, so keep a close eye on him as the season comes to a close.
However, for the 16th pick in the draft, his season has to be considered a disappointment.
Taj Gibson, PF, Chicago Bulls
Gibson has been a beast for Chicago all season, and is very under-rated. He’s very strong inside and regularly gets close to a double-double, as he’s averaging nine points and seven rebounds on the season in over 26 minutes per game.
He’s even grown more consistent as the season has winded down, as he has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in five straight games, and continues to improve as a shot-blocker.
He’s not dominant, but for a late first-round pick, he’s living up to his pick, while still possessing some solid potential.
Rodrigue Beaubois, G, Dallas Mavericks
Beaubois was considered a bit of a reach near the end of the first-round last June, but he’s quickly shown in the past month that he was worth the selection.
All Beaubois has done is drop 40 points against the Golden State Warriors on March 27th, and score at least 10 points in 10 of his last 14 contests.
It looks like the Mavericks have another offensive option to lean on in their 2010 playoff run, and a young player loaded with potential heading into next season.
Ty Lawson, PG, Denver Nuggets
Lawson hasn’t had the consistent minutes or role to truly have an outstanding rookie season, but his play as the starter when Chauncey Billups was out with an injury told us all we need to know.
With great overall percentages and an excellent feel for the game, Lawson has solid averages of just under nine points and three assists per game in just 21 minutes per game.
His three straight 20+ point games as the starting point guard in early January was a taste of what Denver fans can expect from him when he eventually takes over as the starter.
Mr. Billups, start worrying.
Jonas Jerebko, F, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons haven’t had a whole lot of success this season, but their issues have almost nothing to do with Jerebko. The Swede has been a rookie sensation and an integral part of the Pistons starting lineup since the fourth game of the season.
Jerebko’s averages on the season aren’t mind-blowing (just over nine points and six rebounds per game), but he’s stepped up his consistency and overall impact over the past two months, and has become a very versatile player.
He once had 12 steals in a five game span this year, is regularly hitting the boards aggressively, and is even developing a decent outside shot. That kind of versatility, gritty play, and range will make Jerebko a big part of what Detroit’s doing for years to come.
For a second round pick, he’s slowly turning into one heck of a steal.
Austin Daye, F, Detroit Pistons
Daye was the 15th overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, and short of a few spurts here or there, has been a colossal disappointment.
With under five points and just 2.3 rebounds per game in 12 minutes per game on the season, we still can’t be sure what to think of Daye.
One thing is for sure; it’s not much.
Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
There isn’t much that needs to be said about Curry. Shooting jumpers and proving doubters wrong is in his blood, and so too (we’re finding out) is manning an high-octane offense.
He’s slowly turning into a pretty damn good true point guard, while also being able to take over games with his natural scoring ability.
After a slow start, he’s now posting impressive averages of 16.5 points, 5.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game in over 35 minutes per game on the season.
Yeah, he was worth the seventh overall pick.
Reggie Williams, G/F, Golden State Warriors
Williams is a fantastic story, as he went undrafted out of Virginia Military (where?), and came out of the NBADL to become a scoring sensation for the Warriors.
Due to injuries and a high-octane offense, some random minutes and a few solid games helped Williams carve out a solid role for Golden State, and now he’s in position to start his fourth career game.
He has great size, range and natural scoring ability, as he’s topped 20+ points in four of his last eight games, and has scored at least 12 points in 10 of his last 12 contests.
All things considered, Williams is a heck of a find.
Chase Budinger, G/F, Houston Rockets
Budinger should have (arguably, at least) been a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, but slipped to the second round, and has quickly developed into a solid steal for the Rockets.
Budinger shoots good overall percentages, and has shown an ability to make an impact on the glass, while playing decent defense and filling up the basket when his number is called.
His minutes have been a bit inconsistent, and he averages under 20 per game on the season, but his 24-point effort two games ago is perfect evidence that he has the potential to be a solid player at the pro level.
Jordan Hill, PF, Houston Rockets
Budinger’s former Arizona teammate reunited with him in Houston after he was traded from New York, even after being selected eight overall last June.
Hill hasn’t had the proper amount of minutes or role to truly prove himself, but he hasn’t been able to average over six points or five rebounds in either city this year, which isn’t what we come to expect out of a lottery pick.
He’s getting 17 minutes per game right now, and while he’s doing okay on both ends of the court, he’s nowhere near a lottery guy should be right now.
Hasheem Thabeet, C, Memphis Grizzlies
Thabeet was at one point so disappointing this season that he was tossed down to the NBA Developmental League, but he’s been getting more minutes since coming back, and seems to be progressing.
He’s a blocking fiend, but he’s still pretty lost on offense, and still rebounds very small for his height.
Most people knew Thabeet was a bit of a project, but 2.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game still isn’t cutting it.
Sam Young, F, Memphis Grizzlies
Young’s season line is average (7.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game), and his minutes have been sporadic.
He hasn’t shown a consistent ability to knock down three’s, but for a second-round pick, he’s clearly able to play in the NBA.
He just needs a bigger role.
Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings was right there with Tyreke Evans for ROY running earlier in the year, but since his 55-point out-burst, Jennings has slowly tapered off.
He’s come alive again in the past month, but he’s probably too far off to catch up to Evans or Stephen Curry. Jennings is extremely quick and explosive, and has shown an impressive ability to take over games when his shot is on.
His shooting percentages need to improve drastically, however. Reg
Jonny Flynn, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Flynn is easily one of the better rookies of 2009′s class, but he’s arguably sitting at fourth place among the rookie point guards.
He’s shown a solid ability to score the basketball and get his teammates involved, but he hasn’t been able to get his nightly performance to an elite level on a consistent basis.
Flynn has the athleticism and talent to be an elite point guard for years to come, but he’s on a bad team and he needs to refine his point guard skills.
Wayne Ellington, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Ellington is a pure shooter and has played well in spurts for Minnesota. He appears to be a bit of a volume scorer, so it’s likely he’ll need a bigger role and more offensive touches to ever realize his talent.
With over 18 minutes per game, we had hoped to see a little more out of Ellington.
Darren Collison, PG, New Orleans Hornets
Collison instantly made a name himself after Chris Paul went down for over two months with an injury.
Collison stepped up in a big way and showed he has the ability to led a team and play consistently at an elite level. He’s no longer in the starting lineup and his assists have diminished due to the ball being back in Chris Paul’s hands, but he has shown over the past few games that he can also be an effective scorer off the ball.
His potential could quickly start-up trade rumors, and not necessarily having to do with him.
Marcus Thornton, SG, New Orleans Hornets
Thornton has been a fantastic steal for the Hornets, averaging just under 14 points per game on the season, while shooting great overall percentages.
He’s not overly versatile or balanced, but in terms of scoring and offensive production, he’s easily one of the better rookies this year.
He has a bright future as a two-guard in this league, especially if he can improve defensively and become a better passer.
Toney Douglas, G, New York Knicks
It took him nearly all season long, but Douglas has found himself as the starting point guard, and is finally getting consistent minutes.
He still has to work on his vision and overall point guard skills, but Douglas has the frame, build, and scoring ability to excel in Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
He’s no lock to keep the job for next season, but the results have shown he was worth a late first-round investment.
James Harden, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Harden isn’t flashy or overly explosive, but he has prove to be exactly what people thought he was coming out of Arizona State: solid.
The guy can score the ball with ease, using crafty moves, fakes, and his solid athleticism. He’s put up 9.9 points per game on the season, while shooting 37.8% from beyond the arc.
He could still use some improvement in his overall “rounded” game, while his overall field goal percentage also could be better.
Regardless, his solid production while playing behind two elite offensive options (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), is fairly impressive.
Eric Maynor, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
Maynor has spent his rookie year playing behind either Deron Williams or Russell Westbrook, which hasn’t allowed him to truly show what he can do.
He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but unless an injury or a trade gives him a real opportunity to prove himself, his talent could go wasted.
True, he hasn’t been very lucky with who he’s playing behind, but he’s been getting over 16 minutes per game for Oklahoma City, and he still averages barely four points per game.
Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Holiday has been starting at the point for the 76ers off and on for most of the year, but it hadn’t been until the beginning of January when Holiday really started putting it all together.
His season line is average (over seven points and three assists per game), but he has really picked it up over the past month, scoring 10+ points in 12 of his last 17 contests, and dishing out at least five assists in nine of those 17 games.
He’s making progress, and slowly taking a firm hold on the starting point guard gig.
Tyreke Evans, G, Sacramento Kings
Evans still needs some polishing on his point guard skills, but his amazing length and athleticism could have him as one of the most impressive point guards in the league, or possibly that we’ve ever seen.
He’s already proving his worth, but his potential is what is mouth-watering.
Evans is averaging over 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds per game, which (outside of LeBron James) is just unheard of.
Omri Casspi, F, Sacramento Kings
Casspi has tapered off in the past month due to inconsistent minutes and a reduced role, but up until then, he had been a pleasant surprise for the Kings.
Casspi is still averaging over 10 points per game, while hitting the boards well and shooting solid overall percentages.
DeJuan Blair, F/C, San Antonio Spurs
Blair has done a solid job of proving all his doubters wrong, as he has routinely chased down double-double’s when given a solid amount of minutes.
Despite a height disadvantage, Blair out-rebounds the opposition on a regular basis, and owns an impressive showing earlier in the year, where he scored 28 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in the same game.
Once his minutes increase, we’ll be able to really see what he brings to the table. At the very worst, Blair is a solid back-up who can hit the glass as hard as the next guy, and can also help with some hard-earned points on the inside.
For a second-round pick, Blair is far beyond just being a steal. His combination of work ethic and talent are easily first-round level.
DeMar DeRozan, G/F, Toronto Raptors
DeRozan is a mixed bag. He starts and plays over 21 minutes per game, but scores just 8.6 points per game and grabs just 2.9 rebounds per game.
His shoots extremely well from the field, but doesn’t stretch the defense with a consistent three-point shot, and just hasn’t seen a great connection between his awesome athleticism and his offensive skills.
For the ninth pick in the draft, he’s not playing on an elite level or making the type of difference he should be.
Wesley Matthews, G, Utah Jazz
Matthews has been a terrific addition to Utah’s rotation, helping out as a regular starter early in the season, and re-establishing himself as a permanent starter in the past two months.
Matthews brings timely, efficient offense to the table, while also being able to play lock-down defense.
He’s a high-IQ player with great fundamentals and and excellent understanding of his role. It boggles the mind now, knowing what we know, that the former Marquette product went undrafted.