The NBA Rookie of the Year award has been the 76ers Michael Carter–Williams to lose for most of this season and the fans in Philadelphia have reason to be concerned that their team’s head office appears to be helping him to lose it. That was one rough trade deadline if a strong finish to Carter-Williams season was on your wish list.
Fortunately, the turmoil that goes with striving for the best lottery pick doesn’t rest solely in Philadelphia. Most of this year’s top rookies will face similar challenges down the stretch.
1A. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
48 GP, 12.5 points, 37.5%, 3.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.8 turnovers, PER 12.9
If Burke could boost his shooting percentage to something more reasonable, he would win Rookie of the Year. As it is, the race is on and it’s undecided.
The Jazz have outperformed expectations with him in the lineup and been brutal without him. As a young point guard, he has done a good job of leading his team, taking care of the ball and on occasion, put up some impressive scoring lines. Over the past 10 games, his team is 4-6 and the 76ers would prefer that you skip that stat.
Burke’s numbers have been improving since the All-Star break. Over his past 8 games, he is shooting 41.5 percent and his turnovers were 1.4. If this gets down to a decision between the top 3 young guards and Burke continues to improve over these last few weeks, the guy with the non-embarrassing turnover numbers deserves to get the nod.
1B. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
49 GP, 17 points, 39.5%, 5.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2 steals, 3.7 turnovers, PER 15.3
The 76ers are in a 15 game slide and Carter-Williams has been feeling the effects. It’s not his fault the team traded away the guys who helped build his attractive stat line and it’s not like he still can’t produce, but this decline has been underway for a while and it’s not likely to get better.
Carter-Williams is shooting just 38.8 percent from the field since the All-Star break and only 12.5 percent from deep, worse he’s been turning the ball over 4.6 times per game. Again, it’s hard to blame Carter-Williams, but it’s getting to the point of hoping for the sympathy vote to win Rookie of the Year.
1C. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
62 GP, 13.9 points, 41.1%, 4.3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.6 steals, 3.1 turnovers, PER 13.5
Oladipo played a ‘don’t forget about me’ game after the All-Star break when he scored 30 points, collected 9 rebounds and dished 14 dimes in a 129-121 win over the Knicks, but in the 8 games since the break, his averages haven’t really moved much from his season stats.
The Magic have beaten the 76ers twice since All-Star weekend, so the recent win totals could be considered bloated, but they are still better than Philadelphia’s – 0-15 is truly awful. The Magic are still trying to win after offloading some talent and that alone should help Olapido’s case.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
54 GP, 7.2 points, 43.1%, 4.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks PER 11.8
There may not be a more impressive rookie in the NBA this season than the 19-year-old Antetokounmpo. The kid walks onto the court looking like he belongs there and he has the size, skills and athleticism that makes one wonder how he managed to slip to 15th in the draft.
His stats will not get him to the top of the board, but this is a player worth following over the next few seasons. Post All-Star game, 9.3 points, 45.5 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals over 7 games should catch everyone’s attention.
5. Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
46 GP, 6.3 points, 63.3%, 3.5 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, PER 18.5
When Plumlee gets a chance, he doesn’t embarrass himself, in fact, on a team headed to the lottery, he might just get enough minutes to win Rookie of the Year, but that isn’t happening in Brooklyn.
Plumlee’s rise on our Rookie Watch is as much the fall or lack of progress of other rookies as it’s been his recent improvement. With a few more minutes lately – stress few – he has been averaging 7.4 points on 64 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds and a block in 17.3 minutes since the All-Star break.
The young center rarely seems to leave the paint, but in a league struggling to find size, the Nets have a keeper.
Just missing the cut:
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks
Lots of points lately, but his excellent shooting has deserted him.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
Being shafted for playing time by a team hoping to win – it’s not working.
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
Could move up, if he could stay healthy.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
Needs more minutes and an improved shooting touch.
Time is getting short, but if you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
Magic Rookie Victor Oladipo: Shooting vs. Point Guard?
“I still have a lot of room for improvement,” Oladipo said. “I just have to keep getting better, keep growing and keep believing in myself. A big thing is to never let my confidence waiver, continue to have my teammates back and I know they believe in me too, just going out and playing hard for them.”
Charlotte Bobcats Rookie Cody Zeller Is Having Fun
“It is definitely a learning process being a rookie in the NBA,” Zeller said. “You have a lot to learn, but everyone has been good about trying to help me out, the coaches, the vets, everyone along the way. We are winning, so everything is better when you are winning. It’s definitely fun. It could be a lot worse than playing basketball for a living.”