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NBA Rookie Watch 01/13/2014

Two weeks into the New Year and the NBA rookies to watch are still Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke, however, there may be some competition looming on the horizon.  As the season shakes out and teams resign themselves to their respective fates, certain rookies are going to get their chance to shine while others will see their minutes cut.  The Knicks might apologize to Tim Hardaway Jr. as he has been playing well, but winning games has meant the rookie has lost 5 minutes from his playing time in January.  Other teams, like the Bucks, really have no reasons left to hold back their rookies any longer.

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
26 GP, 17.5 points, 41.4%, 5.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.7 steals, PER 18.5

PHI_Carter_Williams_MichaelThe play of Carter-Williams for Philadelphia this season should (almost?) be enough to make their fans forget this team traded their 2013 All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday away this past summer for another rookie who is yet to play.  The 12-25 76ers are 11-15 with Carter-Williams on the court and 1-10 without him.

Carter-Williams points, assists and steals have dropped a bit in January, but he still has a comfortable lead over his rookie rivals in most statistical categories.

2. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
26 GP, 13.3 points, 38.8%, 3.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.8 steals, PER 14.6

Utah Jazz Media DayBurke didn’t play a game for the Jazz until November 20 because of an injured finger and didn’t start until his third game, but with him in the starting lineup, the 12-26 Jazz are 11-13 and that is pretty impressive.

The biggest knock on Burke has been his inconsistency, but he has scored in double-digits in 8 of his last 9 games and the Jazz are 5-4 over that stretch.  The 21-year-old still has work to do on his shooting, but the Jazz have been a much better team with him in the lineup.

3. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
37 GP, 13.2 points, 40.7%, 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, PER 12.8

Orlando Magic Media DayOladipo remains the best player taken in the top 10 of the 2013 NBA draft and his scoring is up in January to 14.3 points per game for the month.

Unfortunately, the Magic hasn’t won a game since before New Year’s and winning has to count for something.

4.  Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
31 GP, 6.7 points, 45.3%, 4.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks PER 12.8

Milwaukee Bucks Media DayThe Bucks problems have turned into opportunities for their rookies and 19-year-old Antetokounmpo from Greece has been taking full advantage.

The young forward has started the last 12 games for the Bucks and averaged 7.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and almost a steal and a block per game.  It appears like the Bucks have something special in Antetokounmpo.

5. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
36 GP, 7.3 points, 40%, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, PER 9.4

Detroit Pistons Media DayCaldwell-Pope has started 31 games for the Pistons this season and tends to be overshadowed by the team’s big free agent additions, plus Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.  However, on a roster that too often seems to have forgotten how to defend, Caldwell-Pope stands out with his effort, even if that effort isn’t always backed up by his teammates.

The rookie has also been improving each month at the offensive end and seems to have taken a huge leap in January.  This month he is averaging 10 points on 53.7 percent shooting, 3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.6 steals.  His three-point shooting has also improved to 42.9 percent in January.  Caldwell-Pope has become a rookie to keep an eye on.

Just missing the cut:

Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York Knicks

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

Pero Antic, Atlanta Hawks

It’s a long season that is just getting underway.  If you think we have over looked or overrated a rookie, let us know in the comments below.

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.