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jrm7one
02-09-2006, 12:59 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&id=2323777

The rookie cream, surprises and disappointments
By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

OK, so perhaps the NBA Rookie of the Year voting won't provide much suspense this year. Unless aliens invade in the night and secretly inject Chris Paul with Rafael Araujo's DNA, the Hornets' point guard will win going away.

But what of the rest of the rookie class? If Paul is blowing the doors off, it follows that the rest of this year's crew isn't exactly making us forget the LeBron-Melo-Bosh-Wade class of 2003. Besides this one breakout star, the other rookies have all had their ups and downs this season.

Perhaps we should have expected this. Unlike a year ago, when a great high school class saved what otherwise would have been a dud of a rookie crop, this year's prepsters didn't bring much to the table. In a draft already devoid of superstar talent, that meant we weren't likely to see many impact players.

Nonetheless, some have turned out better than others. With their first campaign half over, it's time to assess where each of this year's rookies stands and what their future holds. The class of 2005 is easily broken down into three groups -- the cream, the surprises, and the disappointments. Of course, Paul should be in a class by himself, but he'll have to settle for being captain of the first team:

THE CREAM

Chris Paul, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets: In addition to all the other things he's bringing to the table, check out this stat: Paul has the second-best Rebound Rate of any point guard, trailing only Jason Kidd. The 6-foot, 20-year-old Paul is outrebounding Mark Blount, Rashard Lewis, Andre Iguodala, Shane Battier, Carmelo Anthony, Tayshaun Prince, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, among others.

Sarunas Jasikevicius, Indiana Pacers: The Lithuanian combo guard has been one of the few Pacers to make it through the year without breaking something, and his numbers should improve once he adjusts to the longer NBA 3-pointer. He's at 39.2 percent from downtown even now, which isn't bad, but with his stroke he could be in the low to mid-40s next year. Better yet, he's proved better at running the offense than expected and could take over at the point if Jamaal Tinsley's struggles continue.

Charlie Villanueva, Toronto Raptors: Rob Babcock took heat for this pick, but he's turned out to have the last laugh (well, except for the part where he got fired last month). Villanueva still needs work on his defense, but his variety of offensive skills has him averaging nearly 20 points per 40 minutes and creating nightly matchup problems for opponents. The main concern is that the 6-11 forward plays the same position as Raptors star Chris Bosh, making a future trade south of the border a distinct possibility.

Channing Frye, New York Knicks: A star in the making, were it not for the Knicks' baffling reluctance to play him. Look Larry, you're a great coach, but anytime you're looking up at the Hawks in the standings, it's time to give it a rest and let the kids play. Frye's per-minute numbers are phenomenal -- 21.2 points, 9.4 boards per 40 minutes -- and they'd almost certainly be even better if his role and minutes didn't fluctuate on a nightly basis. He's one of the best shooting big men in basketball, but he's not just a perimeter guy -- Frye gets to the line and blocks shots too. The defense needs work, though.

Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks: He's turned out about as expected, and were it not for Paul exploding onto the scene, he'd be cruising toward a Rookie of the Year trophy. Bogut still takes his lumps on some nights, but he's a high-percentage scorer (52.8 percent from the floor), he rebounds and he's one of the best passing big men in the game. And while the Rookie of the Year award won't be his, Bogut already has blown Luc Longley and Andrew Gaze off the map for the title of "Greatest-ever Australian basketball player."

THE SURPRISES

Salim Stoudamire, Atlanta Hawks: For a guy taken with the 30th overall pick, Damon's cousin has established a niche very quickly. The naysayers were right about two things: He's not a true point guard, and he's not much of a defender. But with that shot of his, it doesn't matter. Stoudamire is shooting 38.1 percent on 3-pointers and 88.1 percent from the line, and will stay in the league for a decade because of his unlimited range.

Jarrett Jack, Portland Trail Blazers: Yes, the Blazers traded the pick that could have been Chris Paul, but never let it be said that they didn't get jack. Taken with the 22nd pick, the rookie from Georgia Tech has earned crunch-time minutes because of his defense, and at 6-3, 202 pounds, he has the size and strength to finish around the rim. Right now he can't shoot to save his life, but if he ever gets a jumper, he'll be a long-term starter.

Danny Granger, Pacers: He may not be a surprise in the sense that people are shocked by what he's doing, since a lot of people had high hopes for Granger. But the fact remains that he was the 17th overall pick and is playing a major role on a quasi-contending team. While his numbers aren't anything special, he's as far along defensively as any of the other rookies and showed he can score when called upon. In this class, that's noteworthy.

Linas Kleiza, Denver Nuggets: Kleiza hasn't seen much action because some guy named Carmelo plays the same position, but when he's been out there he's performed very well. While Denver's other first rounder, Julius Hodge, has spent the year learning the meaning of "business casual," Kleiza has helped the injury-wracked Nuggets stay afloat. The Lithuanian is unusually physical for a Euro and has the pipes to prove it, helping him to one of the best rebound rates among small forwards.

David Lee, Knicks: The last pick of the first round started every game in the Knicks' six-game winning streak, the lone bright spot in an otherwise miserable season. So of course, Brown had to put him back on the bench. Despite having to sit behind mediocrities like Jerome James, Maurice Taylor and Malik Rose, Lee is shooting 59.8 percent and has one of the best rebound rates among forwards. The 6-9 lefty should become a fixture in the Knicks' rotation if one is ever established.

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

Deron Williams, Utah Jazz: Come back, Carlos Arroyo, all is forgiven. The Jazz are saying the right things about their bungled choice of Williams over Paul this June, but good heavens, look at their actions. Last week, Jerry Sloan went to a lineup with two points guards, and didn't choose Williams for either spot. It wasn't like they had Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson lying around either -- Williams is now backing up Keith McLeod and Milt Palacio. That's what 38 percent shooting with few offsetting positives will get you.

Rashad McCants, Minnesota Timberwolves: The scouting report on McCants coming out of North Carolina was that he acted like a knucklehead sometimes and didn't play much defense, but at least he could score. So far, he's been a knucklehead more often than not and hasn't played much defense and he hasn't scored either. A curious inability to draw fouls (he's only taken 63 free throws all season) and a penchant for turnovers have been his biggest offensive problems.

Martell Webster, Blazers: The Blazers traded down to No. 6 from No. 3 to get Webster and then insisted they liked him better than Chris Paul anyway. I'm guessing they've reconsidered that position. Webster has a wonderful jumper but has miles to go in every other respect. In his first pro seasons out of high school, he's currently struggling even in the D-League, all while David Stern smugly looks on and pats himself on the back for banning high schoolers from the draft.

Antoine Wright, New Jersey Nets: Wright couldn't have come into a more promising situation. He was joining a winning team with a weak bench that was in particular need of another scorer. Wright fit the bill on all counts, but he was so bad in preseason that he's spent most of the season on the inactive list and hasn't been able to beat out Lamond Murray for minutes.

Marvin Williams, Hawks: It's not a good year for rookies named Williams. In addition to Deron and Marvin there's a third Williams, Louis, who has hardly played after being a second-round pick by the 76ers. I know what you're thinking -- how can I call Marvin a disappointment when I just wrote that his upside is so high? Here's why: He was the second overall pick, and his play as a rookie hasn't backed up his draft spot. So while I think he'll eventually play his way off this list, right now he has to be on it.

THE REST

Jose Calderon, Raptors: Pass-first Spanish point guard could inherit starting job if Mike James is traded, but needs to shoot better to keep it.

Fabricio Oberto, San Antonio Spurs: Argentine beef import has struggled to get minutes in Spurs' crowded frontcourt, and hasn't stood out in his few chances.

Raymond Felton, Charlotte Bobcats: Charlotte probably wishes it picked one spot sooner, but Felton looks solid as point guard of the future.

Ike Diogu, Golden State Warriors: A studly scorer who torched Detroit's Wallaces, Diogu's defensive limitations make him impossible to pair with Troy Murphy.

Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers: Raw teenage center intrigues with tools but has long, long way to go.

Fran Vazquez, Orlando Magic: Prefers being El Hombre in Spain to being El Caddy for Dwight Howard.

Yaroslav Korolev, Clippers: Russian teen has earned more splinters than minutes on veteran squad.

Sean May, Bobcats: He needs to drop 20, but May showed he could play before knee injury ended his season.

Joey Graham, Raptors: Not sure why Babcock took him ahead of Granger. He defends, but he can't score. Twin brother Stephen tore up CBA, by the way.

Gerald Green, Boston Celtics: High schooler may get some burn now that Celtics are fading from playoff race.

Hakim Warrick, Memphis Grizzlies: Started to turn the corner of late, but high flier still needs some muscle and a jumper.

Julius Hodge, Nuggets: In Denver's ongoing quest for a shooting guard, nobody has ever suggested that Hodge might be the answer.

Nate Robinson, Knicks: World's shortest two guard still rough around the edges, but he's athletic enough to make it work.

Francisco Garcia, Sacramento Kings: Brutally bad at start of year, he's put it together in past few weeks to become key cog off bench.

Luther Head, Houston Rockets: Decent shooter needs to develop in other areas, but apparently used compromising photos of commissioner to get rookie game invite.

Johan Petro, Seattle SuperSonics: Plays harder than Jerome James did, but not any more effectively yet.

Jason Maxiell, Detroit Pistons: Man, that's a heck of a team he's watching.

Wayne Simien, Miami Heat: Has seen sporadic action on a veteran Miami team and hasn't made a case for more.

Ian Mahinmi, San Antonio Spurs: Spurs think he could be best thing from France since the Coneheads, but teenage big man will stay overseas for a while longer.

James Singleton, Clippers: Took him a while to make the NBA, but defensive ace clearly belongs.

Daniel Ewing, Clippers: Got minutes in thin backcourt but hasn't done much with them.

Andray Blatche, Wizards: Teenage forward showed lots of skills in limited burn.

Donell Taylor, Wizards: Though undrafted, he's taken over as Wizards' backup PG.

Monta Ellis, Warriors: Going preps-to-pros is tough on guards, but he can score.

Shavlik Randolph, 76ers: Plays more for Philly than he did for Duke. Playing better, too.

Travis Diener, Magic: Size an issue, but shooting could make up for it.

Charlie Bell, Bucks: Became one of Bucks' top reserves before hurting knee.

Chuck Hayes, Rockets: Undrafted out of Kentucky, he's proving he belongs.

Chris Taft, Warriors: Fared well in his few chances but has a lot of bodies ahead of him.

Orien Greene, Celtics: Atrocious offensively, he's getting minutes but probably shouldn't.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.

CableKC
02-09-2006, 01:10 PM
Funny....I would have put Granger in the "Cream of the crop" section and Sarunas in the "Surprises" section.

Jon Theodore
02-09-2006, 01:21 PM
Funny....I would have put Granger in the "Cream of the crop" section and Sarunas in the "Surprises" section.

my thoughts exactly and this coming from one of Runi's biggest supporters.

SwissExpress
02-09-2006, 01:23 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&id=2323777

The rookie cream, surprises and disappointments
By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider


Linas Kleiza, Denver Nuggets: Kleiza hasn't seen much action because some guy named Carmelo plays the same position, but when he's been out there he's performed very well. While Denver's other first rounder, Julius Hodge, has spent the year learning the meaning of "business casual," Kleiza has helped the injury-wracked Nuggets stay afloat. The Lithuanian is unusually physical for a Euro and has the pipes to prove it, helping him to one of the best rebound rates among small forwards.



My favorite Euro of his generation. Nice to see him getting noticed. The guy is even stronger mentally than physically.

SwissExpress
02-09-2006, 01:26 PM
Funny....I would have put Granger in the "Cream of the crop" section and Sarunas in the "Surprises" section.

That's because you don't have Chad Ford as your colleague;)

Hollinger must have heard about his abilities some 1000 times last year from Chad, and I was even afraid (before reading this article) he might put him to the "Dissapointments" or similar section...

EDIT: I meant Sarunas by "his"

McKeyFan
02-09-2006, 02:13 PM
This surprises me a little too. I guess its not just PD guys who wonder why AJ starts ahead of Runi.

N8R
02-09-2006, 06:22 PM
I am just glad to see Frye in the Cream of the Crop. Hopefully the Knicks don't trade him away which is their usual course of action. I also like seeing Lee in the Surprises section. The knicks just need to make a WHOLE lot of trades soon and build around Frye Lee and Robinson

Moses
02-09-2006, 06:28 PM
Not sure how you can mark Rashad McCants as a dissapointment..The guy is averaging around 14 PPG over the last month or so.

317Kim
02-09-2006, 06:42 PM
Runi and Danger are just like I expected and maybe better in some ways.

Pacesetter
02-09-2006, 06:46 PM
These guys are awesome though. You can feel the energy level rise any time these guys step onto the court! I seriously can't believe we've got two rookies in the same year that play like these two. What an offseason!

Ron who? :)

Kestas
02-09-2006, 07:26 PM
a stack of names and not even a mention of Macijauskas.

the best shooter in Europe (was up till this season) is not even mentioned. that's depressing, to put it the mild way..
this emphasis on Saras being a shooter is wrong imho. now Macas is a shooter. Saras is just a PG with a very good shot :/ but his shot is not even close to Macijauskas' imho..

anyways, Hornets should be renamed to NO/Oklahoma City Black Hole. and I still can't understand what are their plans for Macas. one day they all shout about how glad they are to have acquired the best shooter in the World (yeah, there were such epithets in US press), yet six months later the guy has barely touched the ball.
he's by far their most expensive healthy player on the bench. maybe they have plans for him, but when a guy gets five minutes every five games, when what plans can there be? he can't possibly be that bad. but if he is, then let him go, for Gods sake. what's this bull with having to keep players who have a contract.. he has failed you, you fire (release, whatever) him and everybody is happy. Macas would go and find a team that he could actually play for. right now he almost doesn't exist. some prick basketball observer doesn't even mention him in his list of loosers. how low is that?

anyways, how can macas be so bad all of a sudden? he was a top-3 player in Lithuanian NT that beat Americans and won the Eurobasket, also our top scorer. he was the All-Euroleague starting five player last year. he was the most valuable player for Tau, last year's Euroleague finalists. his realease is second to none and he can shoot with a deffender right into his face. his sidekick in Tau, Calderon, who had nowhere near the recognition Macas had, is playing decent minutes for the Craptors.. and Macas is still 26. he should be having his best season to date now instead of siting in a suit on some bench in some university in Oklahoma City..

sorry if that sounded like an off-topic..

SwissExpress
02-10-2006, 08:15 AM
Macas would go and find a team that he could actually play for. right now he almost doesn't exist. some prick basketball observer doesn't even mention him in his list of loosers. how low is that?


I agree. He came to Ceramica almost out of nowhere and suddenly became the best player in Europe in one season. Now he suddenly dissapears, while his sidekicks like Nocioni, Calderon, Splitter and Scola are shining maybe even more than ever before.
He should be in that list of dissappointments.

SwissExpress
02-10-2006, 08:19 AM
Luther Head, Houston Rockets: Decent shooter needs to develop in other areas, but apparently used compromising photos of commissioner to get rookie game invite.



That selection was strange to me too, by the way...

Rytas_Jega
02-10-2006, 08:30 AM
He came to Ceramica almost out of nowhere...

:unimpress

themind
02-10-2006, 08:43 AM
:unimpress

Although I'm Rytas fan, but less make it fair - until the last season the team wasn't well known in Europe... :)

SwissExpress
02-10-2006, 08:44 AM
Well, he came to Ceramica out of a 2nd-tier European club that did not even play in Euroleague back then and became a leader of a top-5 Euroleague club. It's almost out of nowhere. ;)

Hicks
02-10-2006, 09:28 AM
Ceramica?

SwissExpress
02-10-2006, 10:22 AM
The full title is Vitoria "TAU Ceramica", Spain.

Jon Theodore
02-10-2006, 01:37 PM
we should clearly trade our whole team for Euro's

SwissExpress
02-10-2006, 01:47 PM
we should clearly trade our whole team for Euro's

?

Mr.ThunderMakeR
02-10-2006, 01:56 PM
Something that strikes me as strange:

The majority of us here on PD think Danny is the real superstar in the making and is doing better for the team than Sara, right now at least. Outsiders see it the other way around, and don't give DG much credit (DG still cant get past honorable mention on NBA.coms rookie rankings.).

Why is this?

SwissExpress
02-10-2006, 02:02 PM
Something that strikes me as strange:

The majority of us here on PD think Danny is the real superstar in the making and is doing better for the team than Sara, right now at least. Outsiders see it the other way around, and don't give DG much credit (DG still cant get past honorable mention on NBA.coms rookie rankings.).

Why is this?

I think he already got past... He's no.9 or 8 currently.

Raskolnikov
02-10-2006, 03:43 PM
we should clearly trade our whole team for Euro's
I call Point Guard!

Raskolnikov
02-10-2006, 03:46 PM
Something that strikes me as strange:

The majority of us here on PD think Danny is the real superstar in the making and is doing better for the team than Sara, right now at least. Outsiders see it the other way around, and don't give DG much credit (DG still cant get past honorable mention on NBA.coms rookie rankings.).

Why is this?
Cause he didn't get the minutes in the beginning of the season and thus didn't produce the way he does now.

Saras did play about the same amount of minutes for the entire season.