Rookie Rankings: Lillard’s big fear, Waiters keeps chucking

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor in rankings.

The end of November is upon us. Halloween and Thanksgiving are distant memories as we turn toward the final month of 2012. Basketball and football overwhelm the televeision schedule in December, giving us plenty to watch while spending time with our families on December’s traditional holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years. This year, we get the treat of another special day in December because on December 21 the world may or may not end. That means we may or may not only have 21 more days of basketball to watch, 21 more days of arguing team vs. team, or player vs. player. There’ll be plenty of time to talk about Armageddon1, but for now we must talk basketball. More specifically, the NBA. Not just the NBA, but its crop of rookies. We’ve seen the surprise rise of Damian Lillard in Portland, and flashes of what’s to come for Anthony Davis in NOLA. We’ve seen Dion Waiters become allergic to passing, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist be exactly who we thought he was. With so many rookies playing large roles for their teams the first month of the season, it’s important we take a step back and see where the NBA’s fresh meat stands after one month of play.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

Lillard continues to lead the way for all rookies. The Blazers’ guard scored 20 points for the tenth time in 15 games Wednesday at Washington, but made headlines for his tweets about traveling to the nation’s capitol. Although Lillard is a fan of Washington, there is one thing he hates. All those damn statues.

Like me, it seemed many of Lillard’s followers had questions regarding this phobia. Have no fear though, Lillard clears up any confusion regarding the phobia.

The rookie leader in points and assists has a sense of humor about his “phobia”, but I think he needs to relish in his quirkiness. Anthony Davis and his unibrow are a tough act to follow, but a fear of statues is a good start for Lillard.

Crash Davis said it best, “If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful.”

Damian, you said you’re afraid of statues. Statues, Damian. The press isn’t going to just run with this story, they’re going to Usain Bolt sprint with it. Average 6 points and 2 assists when you’re afraid of statues and you’re a freak, but average 19 and 6 when you’re afraid of statues and you’re colorful.

Keep it colorful Damain.

2. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 4)

Since Kyrie’s injury, Waiters has shouldered more of the load for the struggling Cavaliers. The green light Waiters had to shoot before Irving got injured is nothing compared to the glowing Emerald City like one shining at the Q after the Irving injury. To Dion’s credit, this increased usage has resulted in more  points and more assits for Waiters.

As Cavs fans, we engrained the notion that Dion Waiters is a Dwyane Wade-like player into our brains. While Wade is where the Wine and Gold hope Waiters will get to, currently he looks a little more Jamal Crawford than Dwyane Wade. Yes, it is still very early, and yes Jamal Crawford is a fine player, but Wade is a star and Crawford is an irrationally confident sixth man.

Wade earned the nickname D-Whistle because of all the fouls he allegedly draws. Regardless of whether or not you feel he earned all those trips to the line2,  he still got to the line. Wade’s jump to the player he was during his peak was made in his second season when his free throw attempts doubled from 5 to 10 per game along with his assists rising from 4.5 to 6.5. Currently Waiters averages 2.9 free throws a game, and only 2.7 assists. These are two key stats to pay attention to as we watch Dion Waiters evolve.

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Last Week: 2)

Kidd-Gilchrist was at his best during the Bobcats five wins in six game stretch earlier this season, but has slowed in the last week. The real problem with MKG continues to be his shooting. The more I see of Kidd-Gilchrist, the harder his shot is to watch. He dazzles with his athleticism, hustle, and toughness but when he takes a rare jumper, hide the women and children because it’s going to get ugly.

With MKG’s play in decline, Waiter’s inconsistency, and Anthony Davis’ injury, the door is starting to open for the group of Barnes, Drummond, Shved, and Singler.

4. Jonas Valanciunas (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

Jonas Valanciunas, but you may call him “V”, has been steadily improving in first month of basketball in the States. Big V dominated international youth tournaments growing up, winning a gold medal and MVP in every FIBA youth tournament he played in.3 Valanciunas stood out because of his superior size (7’0) and great hands. Teenage Serbians were no match for Big V, but the question was would his success translate in the NBA?

After a modest first couple games, Valanciunas has come on strong. He put in his career best performance last Sunday against the Spurs. Valanciunas went right at Tim Duncan numerous times for an easy buckets. Duncan may not be in his prime, but the future hall of famer is far from the likes of a Serbian teen. Valanciunas’ 22 point, 7 rebound performance showed he can be a force with the big boys in this league, but his 2 points, and 2 rebounds in 28 minutes against Grizzlies big front line shows V still has plenty of room for improvement.

5. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 3

Although The Brow has found a permanent home perched atop Anthony Davis’ eyes, he hasn’t been able to find a home on the court. Davis has missed the Hornets last five games and could be out for another two weeks. To make matters worse for the Hornets, this happens to be the toughest two weeks they’ll face all season. The Davis-less Hornets play the Thunder, Bucks, Grizzlies, Lakers, and Heat in an eight day span. Not only will the Hornets be deprived of The Brow’s services against four of the NBA’s best, but fans everywhere will miss out on The Brow vs. Durantula, The Brow vs. The Black Mamba, The Brow vs. Flash, and even The Brow vs. Brandon Jennings. The disappointment of missing these matchups lies beyond the fact they sound like the undercard to Wrestlemania XX, but that we’re missing the opportunity to see the league’s biggest stars take on one of the league’s future stars. The Brow stays in the rankings this week, but will likely fall out until he returns to action.

Honorable Mention

Harrison Barnes, Kyle Singler, Andre Drummond, Alexey Shved

The Pistons are struggling to find wins but Drummond and Singler are giving Detroit fans some silver lining. Drummond continues to be effective on the boards and on D, while Singler continues to score efficiently and at a higher volume.

Shved has slowed the last few games, but the return of Kevin Love should help the young Russian. With Rubio being cleared to practice for the first time since tearing his knee, it will be interesting to see how Rubio and Shved are used once Rubio gets healthy.

Harrison Barnes is playing big minutes for a Warriors team that has won 5 of 7. Barnes has been quietly scoring at a respectable rate (10.1 PPG), but there was nothing quiet about these two points against Minnesota big man Nikola Pekovic. Enjoy.

  1. Somewhere Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck are training to save us. []
  2. He didn’t. []
  3. Valanciunas is the only player to hold that mark. []

  • mgbode

    I like Waiters and think he has a bright future if he can figure a few things out. But, there is no way that he deserves to be #2 in these rankings right now.

    his assists have gone up w/o Irving and it’s good to see he can get them. however, he shot over 40% 6 times in 10 games with Irving on the court. He has shot over 40% once in 5 games w/o him (and it was 40.9%).

    only fair to point out his worst 3 game stretch came right before Irving got injured, but Waiters shooting 33/94 is not helping the offense score in an efficient manner.

  • Chris Gillespie

    Waiters is a chucker and his PER is 12.6, which is terrible. He has potential but right now looks like Jordan Crawford #2.

  • JB

    Not to be a jerk but wow am I sick of people talking about the end of the world. It’s not even amusing anymore, it’s just silly.

  • mgbode

    don’t worry, in 20 days we won’t be able to chastize you for that comment. since the world will have ended and all.

  • Du

    Totally agree. He isn’t even listed in the top 10 right now on’s latest rankings (which I disagree with too). MKG is certainly ahead of Waiters at this point.

    Waiters needs to take better (higher %) shots, get to the FT line, and increase his assists. Right now his PER is under 12.61. Over time, need to see that increasing and then in the 20 range.

    With all that being said, still think he is going to be a special player. No question that Waiters can create his own shot and has a knack for getting to the rim.

  • BenRM


  • ThatAlex

    If these are current rankings, Waiters shouldn’t be #2. Lillard, MKG, Davis (injury notwithstanding) and arguably Singler should be ahead of him right now.

  • Yup

    Dion had 7 assists in a quarter. His is arguably the best passer amongst all our guards. Chill…

  • Yup

    Also his lack of TO’s for a rook are ASTONISHING. Something you “inefficient” haters always seem to fail to mention.

  • Steve

    Have to agree. Also, my boy Drummond is not getting enough respect. Cleaning up on the glass, and taking what is given to him offensively and finishing efficiently. Second highest PER among rookies. The defense has been shaky, he’s clearly playing like a rookie, but with that size and athleticism, he’ll be fine.

  • mgbode

    “defense has been shaky”

    Drummond’s issue is that he was billed as a defensive ying to Monroe’s offensive yang. he has not been what they need.

    also, he plays for the Pistons (hate those guys 🙂 )

  • mgbode

    7 assists in 1 quarter would be more impressive if he didn’t finish with 7 assists in that game. also, he has been given proper credit for his increase in assists with Irving out.

    but, when you shoot a FG% at the same rate as your 3pt% (37%) while not getting to the FT line very much, it makes it awfully difficult to be an efficient scorer. and the TOs get taken into account with WS/48. His is at .035 right now, which is 7th on the Cavs (Andy, Gibson, Casspi, Irving, TT, Gee).

    the kid has a ton of talent and has shown glimpses of what he can be. especially when paired next to a guy like Irving. however, he has a ton of work to do and he needs to figure out how to become a more efficient scorer. I think he will, but that it is going to take time to do it.

  • porckchopexpress

    Two things to come to Waiters defense (not that you’re attacking him)
    1. Look who he’s passing to. He has the same problem Kyrie had last year in that he often gets in the paint and kicks out to a Caspi or Miles and they clank a pretty good look. In addition when he does drive he doesn’t get great looks near the basket because big men don’t really worry about TT standing 8 feet away because he’s out of range. Andy is the only big that has an idea of how to clear space or move into position to help a driving guard.
    2. Look who he’s passing to 2. If you look at alot of the jumpers Waiters is taking its not as if there are alot of other options. Gee is a nice player but he simply isn’t an effective volume shooter, he and Pargo don’t seem to have a lot of chemistry yet, and TT is well, TT. Again, Andy is the only effective other piece on the floor. So he is taking alot of shots that carry a high degree of dificulty. No question he has got to start making some, and hopefully when Iriving returns Waiters will use some restraint. Right now, somebody has to take those shots and even at his percentage he is -sadly – pretty much the best option.
    One big postive that I saw in particular when he was playing against Tony Allen, whom I consider a fantastic on ball defender. Waiters can get to about 15-17 feet from the rim and get a clean jumper off almost any time he wants. He has a nice high release point, and he gets a lot of leg lift on his jumper (drifts sometimes). Point is that I feel like I have seen enough to feel good that if they start falling, he has the type of jumper that will serve him well in playoff series, if we ever make the postseason.

  • Steve

    Drummond plays defense like a guy who has just turned 19. He doesn’t know exactly where to be sometimes, but still shows off his physical abilities. He’s raw, no one ever said otherwise, but he looks like a guy who will blossom nicely. And his offense looks much better with a PG who can competently get him the ball in good situations. Just imagine what it would be like with Irving.

  • BenRM

    I agree. These are the types of things you want to look for at this point in Waiters young career. Not simply the raw numbers.

  • CJJ

    That fear of Statues phobia may have just won Lillard rookie of the year !!!
    That is awesome. You just can’t make this stuff up. The good news for Cavs fans is that when they play against Lillard, he will just freeze in fear cause the guys we have guarding him are so slow he will think they are statues.