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NBA Rookie Watch 12/30/2013

2013 is almost in the books and the NBA rookies to watch are still Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke. Carter Williams came back from injury without missing a step to reclaim his spot on top of the leader board while his main competitors seem to have stalled in their progress. However, with over 50 games to go, there will be more surprises ahead and yet another rookie has cracked our top 5 in December.

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
19 GP, 17.8 points, 41.4%, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 3.1 steals, PER 19.3

PHI_Carter_Williams_MichaelCarter-Williams missed 2 weeks in December with a skin infection on his knee, but the time off wasn’t apparent on his return as he immediately logged a pair of double-doubles in points and assists.

The 76ers lost 7 in a row in his absence and have split the 4 games since his return as Carter-Williams averaged 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 3 steals. As long as he can stay healthy, the Rookie of the Year award is becoming his to lose.

2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
30 GP, 13.1 points, 40.2%, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.6 steals, PER 12.5

Orlando Magic Media DayOladipo continues to look like the best player taken in the top 10 of the 2013 NBA draft with only his inconsistency holding him back from making a claim on the top spot of the leader board.

Once again Oladipo has impressed over his last 2 games, averaging 15.5 points and 9.5 assists in a pair of Magic victories. He just needs to learn how to eliminate games like his 1-4 shooting performance against the Knicks before Christmas.

3. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
21 GP, 13.4 points, 39.3%, 3.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.6 steals, PER 14.9

Utah Jazz Media DayBurke is settling into the starting point guard role with the Jazz and as the star rookie on a rebuilding team, the Jazz must be very pleased with their pick. The 21-year-old has found a solid level of consistency with only 2 bad games in his past 12 outings and he managed to put up a 30 point effort right in between those 2 rough nights.

In his 2 games after Christmas, Burke has averaged 13 points and 6.5 assists as the Jazz split games with the teams from Los Angeles. Utah is a much better team since Burke returned from injury and leading a team to wins counts in a rookie race.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
25 GP, 7 points, 48.4%, 4.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks PER 14.5

Milwaukee Bucks Media DayThe Bucks have been devastated by injuries, among other problems, but the Bucks issues have turned into opportunities for Antetokounmpo and the 19-year-old from Greece has been taking full advantage.

The young forward has started the last 6 games for the Bucks and averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.3 blocks in over 33 minutes per game. Antetokounmpo is generating hope in Milwaukee as reported by Steve von Horn of SB Nation Brew Hoop.

“The Bucks have something special in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The NBA’s youngest player is the brightest beacon of hope Milwaukee has seen in quite a long time.”

5. Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York Knicks
29 GP, 9.1 points, 46.2%, 1.3 rebounds, 0.5 steals, PER 15.4

NYK_Hardaway_Jr_TimHardaway is something of a one-dimensional player, but what he does, he does exceptionally well for a rookie. Forget to guard him or be a step slow on your rotations and this kid can shoot the cover off the basketball. Hardaway is averaging 42.2 percent on 3.5 three-point attempts per game.

As the Knicks season implodes around Head Coach Mike Woodson, Hardaway is getting more run and he is scoring. The young shooting guard has averaged 16 points per game in the Knicks 3 losses starting on Christmas Day. The only issue being, the longer Woodson leaves Hardaway on the court, the more defenses key in on him and the less effective he becomes.

Just missing the cut:

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

Hollis Thompson, Philadelphia 76ers

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

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.