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ESPN Insider NBA Rookie Rankings - Paul George Gets Honorable Mention
Summer league and preseason play can serve an important purpose for rookies: Letting them know where they're going right, and where they're going wrong.
From the looks of the first few NBA games, this year's rookie class has some outstanding students -- guys who have already learned from their past mistakes.
Here's our first look at which rookies have jumped out of the starting gate at full speed.
• Hollinger's stats: Rookie leaders
1. John Wall, Wizards | Rookie card
Throughout summer league, preseason and Washington's first regular-season game, Wall looked like he was shooting jump shots on roller skates. He landed and drifted every time, with no lower-body balance at all.
Frustrated, he went to work on this on his off day, then unleashed a much better-looking shot in the second half of his next game. He tallied 12 points on perimeter jumpers in the half. If he can maintain the form he showed, his jump shot will be a legit threat for him all season. Consider the fact that Derrick Rose needed a few months to get his midrange jumper in check, and Tyreke Evans is still working out his kinks from the perimeter in his second year, and yet both had terrific rookie seasons.
2. Blake Griffin, Clippers | Rookie card
In Griffin's case, it's less about lessons learned and more about his bottled-up frustration from missing an entire year due to injury. He unleashed his power and grace from the first minute of the first game and has not stopped. I love that he not only plays with force, but also makes plays above the rim. That's a rare talent, and one he exhibits frequently.
Not only can he win the rookie of the year award, he could possibly be an All-Star this season, which says a lot about him considering all of the talented power forwards in the West. The quicker Baron Davis realizes he has a special talent on his roster, the faster the Clippers will return to relevance.
3. Derrick Favors, Nets | Rookie card
If we handed out an award for "Most Improved Player from July to Halloween," Favors would be the easy winner. He showed almost nothing in summer league and preseason, but had two strong efforts in New Jersey's first two games (both wins) by rebounding and finishing buckets in the paint.
If he excelled in only those two areas for the rest of the season, he'd be seen as an enormous success. Remember, he turned 19 during summer league and is playing a man's position. We know he's going to be an effective pick-and-pop shooter, but there are plenty of guys who can do that. Playing alongside a talent like Brook Lopez will allow him to focus on being complementary in his role, and he's off to a great start.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings | Rookie card
All season long I suspect we'll be hearing about how good Cousins is going to be one day based on his upside. But with his size and prodigious game, the future is as much about today as it is down the road, simply because he can impact games now.
He's such a natural scorer. On top of that, he's not afraid to take big shots and he's able to make very tough shots. As long as he's plugged into his team's game plan and connected to his coaches and teammates, he can't help being successful. Thus far, it's all smiles in Sacramento.
5. Landry Fields, Knicks | Rookie card
Some would wrongly assume that Fields has fit right in at this level from day one of summer league because he's a four-year college player. But the fact of the matter is most four-year college players don't make the NBA. So what Fields has been doing is impressive indeed.
Fields has earned a starting guard position for the Knicks, and his willingness to do more than just shoot and score will ensure rotation minutes for him far into the future. It's nice that he averaged 11 points in his first three games, but I love that he grabbed 18 total rebounds in tough games against Portland and Boston. Rebounding is a weakness for the Knicks, and his efforts have kept them beyond respectable in that area.
6. Armon Johnson, Blazers | Rookie card
Johnson is playing his way into a strong Portland rotation with excellent defense and energy. There are people in Portland who think his surprising play is what paved the way for the Blazers to trade a lottery talent like Jerryd Bayless.
7. James Anderson, Spurs | Rookie card
Solid. Solid. Solid. That's what I see when I watch him play, on both ends. In San Antonio, no defense means no playing time if you're a youngster. Anderson plays defense the right way, with his head and his heart. As an added bonus, he's made five of his 10 3-pointers.
8. Eric Bledsoe, Clippers | Rookie card
After barely playing in the Clippers' first two games, Bledsoe replaced an injured Baron Davis and showed his considerable upside and incredible athleticism. His 17-point, eight-rebound game sparked their big upset over OKC on Wednesday.
9. Wesley Johnson, Timberwolves | Rookie card
Johnson started the season confident in his ability to make perimeter shots. Of his first 30 shots (10 each in Minnesota's first three games), 19 had been from 16 feet or further. However, he made just five of them, including making only 2 of 10 from behind the arc.
As he learns to attack more and settle for long jumpers less -- he has shown the ability to make special plays with his athleticism -- his productivity and efficiency should increase.
10. Evan Turner, 76ers | Rookie card
The best thing about Turner's start is that he's been better than he was during summer league and preseason. He's still struggling as a shooter and scorer, but Turner was the No. 2 pick and the best player in college because of his ability to impact games in a variety of ways.
He's doing a nice job on the glass and as a playmaker, and had just four turnovers in Philly's first three games (compared to 10 assists). I'd like to see him look to make more plays on defense, though.
Honorable mention: Paul George, Pacers | Rookie card
George, who can easily fall into being just a scorer, has provided a decent all-around dimension to the Pacers that the team was hoping for when they drafted him. It's great that he made four of eight 3-pointers in the team's first two wins, but even better that he also grabbed seven boards and dished out four assists in those games.
It's worth noting that on David Thorpe's Rookie Top 50 list that he has George ranked 13th, behind #12 Nikola Pekovic(Wolves) and #11 Gary Neal(Spurs). The top ten is listed above. Lance Stephenson is ranked #43 and here is what Thorpe says....."He might be young, but he showed better shot selection than anyone else I saw these past two weeks. He missed only eight shots in four games and still averaged almost 15 points per game (it would have been more had he played more than eight minutes in his last game). He did this all while playing a lot of minutes at the point guard spot, which was an experiment that turned out to be a successful one. I loved how competitive he was as well." - July 23, 2010
Last edited by Hibbert; 11-04-2010 at 12:51 PM.
Reason: additional info