One thing has remained constant throughout the course of the first three months of the 2010-11 NBA season: Blake Griffin's dominance. Few rookies have ever made the impact Griffin has this season, helping to transform the Los Angeles Clippers into a competitive team that is, if nothing else, must-see television.
While it appears as if Griffin will run away with the Rookie of the Year award this season, several other rookies are starting to find their collective way in the NBA. Here is a look at the Rookie of the Year race to this point in the season.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers – 31.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, .577 FG (This Week)
For the last several weeks, Blake Griffin has nearly been excluded from this conversation because of the fact he has been so dominant it almost feels too obvious. I had come to the conclusion the former Oklahoma star wouldn't be mentioned in the body of this week's Award Watch (simply in the introduction and in the rankings that follow), but Griffin took his already remarkable game to another level this week. Yes, he had his streak of 27 consecutive games with a double-double snapped (posting a pedestrian 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a win over the Timberwolves on Jan. 19), but Griffin's play was as good, if not better, than any player in the NBA this week. In the Clippers' three other games he averaged 32.3 points, 16.7 rebounds and five assists, helping his team to a 3-1 week. He was dared to shoot the basketball (in an effort to keep him from dunking every time he touched the ball) and knocked down shots from the perimeter. He hit the glass with reckless abandon. As good as Griffin has been all year, he was better this week and, therefore is, once again, Ballin'.
John Wall, Washington Wizards – 14.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 1.3 steals
It was a strange week for the Wizards, who lost to the Bucks and Suns (combined record: 36-47) and knocked off the Jazz and Celtics (60-27), but John Wall continued his strong play. The point guard posted three double-doubles in four games this week and is one of only five players averaging at least nine assists per game (the others are Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams; not bad company to keep). In his matchup with Williams and the Jazz on Jan. 17, Wall had 19 points (on .583 shooting from the field), 15 assists and five rebounds in a 108-101 Wizards victory. Behind Wall's strong play, the Wizards (13-29 overall) are playing close to .500 (5-6) basketball since the New Year and are only four games back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons – 10.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals
After coming off the bench for the first two-plus months of the season, Greg Monroe has started each of the Pistons' last seven games and has taken advantage of the minutes he's been afforded, helping the 16-28 Pistons to a 4-3 record in that time. In Detroit's last ten games, Monroe is averaging 11.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, while shooting .603 (47-78) from the field. With the former Georgetown Hoya in their starting lineup the Pistons have gone 5-5 this season, meanwhile Detroit is 11-23 (.324) when Monroe comes off the bench. With a youth movement starting in Motown expect to see more of Greg Monroe on the basketball floor and in the Rookie of the Year watch.
Ed Davis, Toronto Raptors – 6.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, .688 FG%
With six players on the Toronto Raptors roster averaging at least ten points per game, Head Coach Jay Triano doesn't need rookie Ed Davis to do a lot of scoring. What the Raptors need from their rookie out of North Carolina is rebounding, defense and smart, efficient play on the offensive end. This week, Davis game them just those things. The 6-10, 215 lb., forward averaged just four field-goal attempts and only 6.2 points per game but dominated the glass and, in 109 minutes of action (27.3 per game) pulled down 40 rebounds. Davis hasn't committed a single turnover in nine straight games, a stretch of 211 total minutes. Despite his limited minutes (he is ninth in per game on the Raptors current roster), Davis leads the team blocks per game (1.0). This week he recorded the fourth double-double (11 points and 12 rebounds) of his young career in the Raptors loss to the Hornets on Jan. 17.
Injuries have depleted the Boston Celtics front line this season, but Semih Erden's solid play exemplifies the team's tremendous depth, giving Coach Doc Rivers a solid contributor down low with Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal and Kendrick Perkins all battling injuries. This week, the 6-11, 240 lb., center from Turkey set or tied career-highs in rebounds (11), points (14), steals (three), offensive rebounds (four) and field-goals made (five). The 24-year-old big man helped the Celtics win two out of three games and had, arguably, the best game of his young career this week, scoring 14 points (on 5-5 shooting from the field and 4-5 from the free throw line), grabbing seven rebounds and swiping three steals with one blocked shot in the team's 110-86 win over the Utah Jazz on Jan. 21.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers – 9.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, .625 FG%
Throughout the course of his young NBA career, Paul George has seen inconsistent minutes and this week was no different. What the 6-8, 210 lb., forward did with the minutes, however, was anything but inconsistent. The former Fresno State star scored a career-high 17 points (on 7-10 shooting) in the Pacers' 107-121 loss to Denver on Jan. 23.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz – 5.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists
After failing to log a single minute in Utah's 103-95 loss to New Jersey on Jan. 19, Hayward averaged 25 minutes, 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and one steal while shooting .667 from the field in two games (both losses) this week.
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks – 6.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks
Despite playing just two minutes in the Bucks win over the Wizards on Jan. 19, Sanders managed to posted respectable numbers this week, helping a struggling Milwaukee team to a 2-1 record. The former Virginia Commonwealth forward/center shot .533 (8-15) from the field in three games, and had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots in 27 minutes of action against the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 22.
Wesley Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves – Nothing of consequence
After playing well to start the season, Johnson earned the first DNP-CD of his young career this week. The former Syracuse star went 0-5 from the field, 0-4 from the three-point line and 0-1 from the charity stripe in a 111-126 loss to the Clippers on Jan. 19 and hasn't scored in double-digits since a 10-point performance against the Charlotte Bobcats on Jan. 5. He is averaging 3.7 points in Minnesota's last seven contests.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Los Angeles Clippers – 5.0 points, 2.2 rebounds
In four games this week, Al-Farouq Aminu shot just .318 (7-22) from the field and.111 (1-9) from the three-point line. The forward out of Wake Forest has scored in double figures just once since Dec. 29.
Eugene "Pooh" Jeter, Sacramento Kings – 2.3 points, 0.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, .375 FG%
While Pooh Jeter hasn't exactly set the world on fire in his rookie campaign, it was a particularly slow week for the point guard out of the University of Portland. In three games this week, Jeter had just seven points and two assists in 31 minutes of action while shooting .375 from the field.
Rookie of the Year Race –Top 5 (Season Stats)
1. (1) Blake Griffin – 22.8 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, .522 FG%, .600 3FG%
2. (3) John Wall – 15.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 1.8 steals
3. (2) Landry Fields – 9.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals, .517 FG%, .383 3FG%
4. (4) DeMarcus Cousins – 13.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks
5. (NR) Greg Monroe – 6.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.0 steals .495 FG%