Halfway into the month of December and changes are still possible in the race to become this season’s top rookie. The early favorite, Michael Carter-Williams, continues to miss games with a knee infection, Victor Oladipo continues to improve and Trey Burke just keeps getting better. Surprisingly, the Western Conference Rookie of the Month, Ben McLemore, now has 4 games in a row of going 1-for and is only shooting 30.3 percent from the field for the month of December. All told, that leaves lots of room for movement in our Rookie Watch List.
1. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
14 GP, 13.1 points, 38.5%, 3.4 rebounds, 5 assists, 0.7 steals, PER 16
The Jazz had to wait 3 weeks for Burke’s surgically-repaired finger to heal enough so he could play, but the result has been dramatic on a team that was not expected to win many games. A team that started 1-11 without him has gone 5-9 since Burke was able to assume the point guard duties.
Burke has collected a double-double in points and rebounds against the Kings and in points and assists against the Nuggets in December and is averaging 14.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists this month. He is also doing a good job of looking after the ball in December with just 1.3 turnovers per game.
Maybe Carter-Williams would be performing even better than this if he was playing, but since he’s not, Burke gets our top spot for the moment.
2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
24 GP, 14 points, 42%, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals, PER 13.3
Oladipo continues to improve as the Magic up his minutes and his responsibilities. He is playing over 36 minutes per game in December and averaging 15.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists, plus he has lowered his turnovers from 4.1 per game in November to 3 per game over the first half of December.
The 21-year-old guard posted his first triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists earlier this month against the 76ers and he racked up his second 26 point game against Cleveland on Friday. Oladipo has been getting to the free throw line an impressive 5.9 times per game this month.
3. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
15 GP, 17.7 points, 40.8%, 5.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 3.1 steals, PER 19
Carter-Williams hasn’t played since December 3rd, but in his only 2 games this month, he teased us averaging 21 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4.5 steals. The only knock on those performances were the 11 total turnovers. Like Oladipo, turnovers have been an issue for Carter-Williams this season. He has averaged 3.7 per game.
Carter-Williams missed 4 games in November with a foot injury and now has missed 6 games and counting with a knee infection in December. Carter-Williams can quickly leap back to the top of our Rookie Watch if he can perform at the same level as he did at the start of December, however, the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November will have to actually play in games at some point to stay on the list.
4. Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York Knicks
22 GP, 7.9 points, 46%, 1.1 rebounds, 0.5 steals, PER 16.1
Hardaway started out shooting well for a rookie in limited minutes with New York in November, but as various Knicks struggled, Hardaway got his chance and he has been enjoying a breakout month in December. Over the past 8 games, Hardaway has been playing over 20 minutes per game and averaging 10.6 points on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and 48.5 percent of his 4.1 three-point attempts per game.
Hardaway has been the subject of trade rumors, but it isn’t hard to see why the Knicks are reluctant to part with their rookie in order to solve their point guard issues.
5. Hollis Thompson, Philadelphia 76ers
23 GP, 6.0 points, 48.6%, 3.6 rebounds, 0.5 steals, PER 11.2
Thompson started seeing some decent minutes towards the end of November, but in December, his minutes have more than doubled from 14.9 in November to 30.8 per game this month and his production has followed.
Thompson has averaged 9 points on 51.9 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range, 5.4 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 8 games this month.
Just missing the cut:
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
Nate Wolters, Milwaukee Bucks
Steve Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
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.