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03-30-2011, 02:58 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=thorpe_david&page=Rookies-110330


David Thorpe
ESPN.com

Last week, I shared my advice on how some of the top rookies could spend the offseason improving. This week, it's time to honor those who have made strides during the season.



As we consider who has improved the most from this class, I'm looking all the way back to last spring, when many of these players started focusing on getting better with pre-draft preparation.



Although every rookie is now a better player to some degree or is getting more time to show his stuff, here are the guys who have improved the most:




First team



Monroe


Greg Monroe, Pistons
This time last year, scouts were mixed on Monroe. They liked his talent, skill and length but had questions surrounding his inconsistent motor. Would he engage as a rebounder? Would he be a paint presence? Would he find ways to be a significant producer consistently?



As Pistons fans now know, the answers to those questions are yes, yes and yes. Monroe is entrenched in the starting lineup, one of just a handful of first-round picks who can say that. He's a double-double threat every night now after not getting his first until Jan. 4 -- a 14-and-11 game against the Lakers in L.A. Since then, he has recorded 17 more and missed a double-double by one rebound or point in four other games.



Monroe has learned to compete harder and for longer stretches, and he's doing so while fouling less often. In fact, he rarely has had to worry about being in foul trouble, which is gold for a starting rookie center. He has gone from a big guy with questions about his future to the big guy his franchise will build around. That makes Monroe our 2011 MIP.





Patterson


Patrick Patterson, Rockets
Early in the season, we wondered whether Patterson would do anything during his rookie season. Then, on New Year's Eve, he put up 15 points and 10 boards in 25 minutes, showing the Rockets that they had a talented backup forward waiting his turn.



When Luis Scola went down with an injury in early March, Patterson exploded. He moved into the starting lineup, improved the Rockets' defense overall and earned three straight double-doubles (all Rockets wins). He played so well, in fact, that now there is fair conjecture about what Houston should do at the power forward position -- keep the high-scoring Scola or make room for Patterson, who is absolutely ready to be a starting 4 in this league?



Patterson's journey from role player during his junior season at Kentucky, to struggling summer-league rookie, to not playing for the first two months of the season, to now being in the rotation on one of the hottest teams in the league earns him our MIP runner-up.





Griffin


Blake Griffin, Clippers
Griffin's numbers have dropped a bit recently, but that doesn't mean he hasn't improved. Quite the contrary. To continue to rack up 20-and-12 performances is even harder to accomplish now that he's drawing so much more attention from opponents.



Taking into account where he was a year ago -- recovering from a serious knee injury -- makes his progress even more impressive. It often takes players a full year to recover mentally from any kind of injury involving their lower extremities. And let's be honest, not even the most passionate Clippers fan expected Griffin to be an NBA superstar in his rookie season.



If Griffin makes a jump next season like he did this season, you'll hear MVP chants in L.A. -- and not for a certain shooting guard on the Lakers.





Davis


Ed Davis, Raptors
Davis probably surpassed expectations in summer league and has been a bright spot for the Raps all season. But we must remember that he's dealt with injuries twice in the past few seasons. The most recent one cost him the first five weeks of this season and all of the preseason. Still, he played solidly when he returned and has progressed nicely.



Recovering from injuries is always challenging. To do so while fighting for playing time on a young team is impressive. Plus, Davis has been on opponents' scouting reports as a legit rebounding presence but still has consistently performed well on the boards since December.



Many scouts and analysts thought Davis wasn't worthy of a lottery selection, but he is proving them wrong, averaging nine points and eight rebounds in just 26 minutes. He likely will be a double-double guy and has played his way into the foundation of the franchise.





Asik


Omer Asik, Bulls
How much do the Bulls like Asik? Consider this: At the trade deadline, when the Bulls were searching for a 2-guard, they wouldn't trade him for Courtney Lee, who is an excellent defender, a true pro and shooting better than 40 percent from 3 this season. Would they have made that trade this past summer? Probably.



His averages of five and five do not tell the story. Asik has become an integral part of one of the best teams in the league and has seen his minutes increase during this breakout month for the Bulls. He anchors the Bulls' second unit, which doesn't miss a beat on defense when Joakim Noah is on the bench. Asik has learned how to defend without fouling, a challenge that all power players from Europe face but often struggle to overcome because of the physical style with which they grew up.





George


Honorable mention: Paul George, Pacers
No one knows what kind of player George will become -- he has a high ceiling that he's nowhere near reaching. But he is performing much better now than he did back in July, when he oozed talent but mainly just floated outside and launched jumpers that missed. Don't let his honorable mention for the all-summer-league team fool you; he was mostly awful, shooting 33 percent from the field (3-of-26 from 3) and committing 24 turnovers to just 10 assists.



During the first two months of the season, George played sparingly and mostly ineffectively. Fast-forward to today, however, and you'll find that he is shooting better than 45 percent from the field and has about the same number of assists to turnovers. He also has shown that he can be a difference-maker on defense, something we didn't see much from him in July or early in the season.



George still has a lot he can improve on, but he clearly belongs on the court with a lot of minutes next to his name.





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Second team



Bledsoe
Eric Bledsoe, Clippers
Bledsoe looked like a steal back in July thanks to his incredible athleticism and powerful body. But he was far from ready to be an NBA point guard. Although he still has to get much better if he wants the reins to Griffin's team next season and beyond, he is showing serious improvement in running the show.



Bledsoe looked good early on when he was getting lots of playing time and has continued to read the game better even when his minutes dropped. Explosive off the dribble, he is better now at picking his spots: Blowing past his man only to run into trouble in the paint has become less of an issue.





Booker


Trevor Booker, Wizards
Nobody was sure what position Booker was best suited for coming out of Clemson; possibly the best overall athlete in the draft, he was a bit smallish for a 4 but not skilled enough to play the 3. Now we know he can play both positions somewhat well because he plays so hard and uses his physical skills so often.



This wasn't the case early on, when Booker wasn't using his amazing athleticism. But now he is a beast on the glass who is always a threat to get a monster tip dunk or an easy garbage bucket because he's hanging around the paint more and floating on the perimeter less. Going forward, he'll be someone who can come in at the backup spot for either forward position -- a rare player, indeed.





Crawford


Jordan Crawford, Wizards
Crawford has exploded onto the scene in Washington, although sometimes it's more of an implosion. (He missed 34 shots combined in tight losses to the Clippers and Warriors.) We must track his shot selection, which may be the worst in the league.



Still, the acrobatic jumpers, the slashes to the rim and the deep threat he can provide suggest he can be of service to the Wizards going forward. We never saw this kind of play in Atlanta simply because he did not play.





Turner


Evan Turner, 76ers
Awful in summer league and early in the regular season, Turner is starting to look as though he'll end up being a pretty good player. It's been challenging for the second overall pick, who has had to adjust more than any other player in this class to learn how to play without the ball in his hands a lot, but he's been looking more comfortable now.



Although consistency is still a problem for Turner, that's partially because both his minutes and his opportunities fluctuate from game to game. In March, he has seen as many as 28 minutes in a game and as few as four minutes. So it's no surprise to see he's gone scoreless in four games this month but also scoring 20 points in a fifth game.





Wall


John Wall, Wizards
Wall came into the league with high expectations and, for the most part, has not disappointed -- no small feat for a No. 1 pick with a lot of responsibilities to his franchise and the NBA. Yes, his shooting has been an issue all season and will continue to be until he can spend some real time focusing on it, but he has shown progress in other areas.



One thing I've seen from Wall is an improved ability to get to the rim and finish, both in transition and in the half court. Within a season he may be the hardest point guard to slow down on a fast break and keep from scoring in the NBA.

Dr. Hibbert
03-30-2011, 04:39 PM
Too bad, like I said in the last game thread, that PG has hit the rookie wall. Well, not so much hit it as smashed into it so hard that he bounced two towns back.

Look forward to seeing what he can do after another summer of improvement, though.

pacer4ever
03-30-2011, 04:44 PM
Monroe is a boss

graphic-er
03-30-2011, 04:54 PM
No Tyler Hansbrough on that list even on the second team? HE is still considered a rookie right?

pacer4ever
03-30-2011, 04:57 PM
No Tyler Hansbrough on that list even on the second team? HE is still considered a rookie right?

no

dohman
03-30-2011, 05:01 PM
No Tyler Hansbrough on that list even on the second team? HE is still considered a rookie right?

Once you play a signal minute of a NBA game that is your rookie year.

I asked NBA.com and that is what they told me.

Justin Tyme
03-30-2011, 05:33 PM
John Wall 2nd team! LOL! He's better than anyone on the 1st team not named Griffin or Monroe. He's better than Honorable Mention Paul George too, and I'm a PG fan who wanted Bird to draft him. Seriously, who wouldn't trade George for Wall and never think twice? Thorpe needs to re-assess his thinking, BIG TIME!!!

Lou Bega
03-30-2011, 05:37 PM
This writer is just afraid to show UK it's proper love; He didn't even mention the play of Cousins. What a beating DMC put down on the Pacers last Friday.

Paul George is decent but his game was EXPOSED and not improved this last two weeks!!

pacer4ever
03-30-2011, 05:42 PM
This writer is just afraid to show UK it's proper love; He didn't even mention the play of Cousins. What a beating DMC put down on the Pacers last Friday.

Paul George is decent but his game was EXPOSED and not improved this last two weeks!!

He put Patrick Patterson on the team over Cousins LOL

ballism
03-30-2011, 05:49 PM
John Wall 2nd team! LOL! He's better than anyone on the 1st team not named Griffin or Monroe. He's better than Honorable Mention Paul George too, and I'm a PG fan who wanted Bird to draft him. Seriously, who wouldn't trade George for Wall and never think twice? Thorpe needs to re-assess his thinking, BIG TIME!!!

It's about improvement since last year, not how good they are.
Wall is great, he's a franchise player, but everybody knew that a year ago. And he still can't shoot.


He put Patrick Patterson on the team over Cousins LOL

Cousins keeps getting dominant stats, but he also keeps pissing off more and more teammates and keeps making a few stupid decisions during every close game. And we all saw that coming a year ago. So, has he improved over the year more than Patterson?
I'd still try put Cousins on the second team (I mean, he used to foul out in 20 minutes at the start of the season, now he can stay on court). But I can understand why Thorpe doesn't put him there.

dlewyus
03-30-2011, 06:17 PM
After reading this, I wonder if we could get Scola.

Frostwolf
03-31-2011, 02:03 AM
first team and second teams regarding who has shown the most improvement over their expectations. read the article, guys.

90'sNBARocked
03-31-2011, 05:04 PM
I hope we one day don't regret taking Patterson or Davis

I still believe in Paul , but I see both those players becoming beasts