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 nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.
1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)
Lillard’s game has been seesawing a bit over the last five games. In three of his last five Lillard has scored 24 plus points converting on over half of his field goals, along with an average of 8 assists. In the other two games Lillard struggled, shooting 22% from the field and turning the ball over 8 times.
The best of those last five for the Rookie of the Year frontrunner came in a loss to Philadelphia on Monday. In the loss, Lillard stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, but it was his trip to Chicago that that garnered national attention. Because Lillard is a dynamite, athletic, rookie point guard it’s natural to put his name in the same sentences as former Rookie of the Year and MVP Derek Rose.
Chicago coach, Tom Thibodeau sounded off the Blazers’ guard, “He’s come in mature beyond his years. [He] plays the game with a lot of poise. I think the combination of his shooting along with his ability to break you down off the dribble [and] pick-and-roll offense. I’ve been very, very, impressed with him.”
Lillard’s 24 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds helped pace Portland passed the Bulls on Thursday night.
2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)
Davis is settling in nicely in New Orleans and now can be counted on for somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 and 8 each night. In his last four games Davis has in fact has been just under 15 points and 8 rebounds. After a 5 block game over a week ago against Brooklyn, Davis’ gumby-like wingspan has managed to average just one block over his last four games.
The Hornets have had a lousy season so far, but Davis gave the future Pelicans something to smile about with his game winning tip in against Boston on Wednesday. Down just a point in the final seconds, the Hornets’ Eric Godron attacked the paint, threw up a runner that corralled off the rim, for Davis and those aforementioned gumby-like arms to sky over Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green and tip in the game winner.
The loss means little in the scheme of the playoff picture for either conference, but could do a lot for the confidence of Davis and the Hornets. When a rookie lifts his squad in memorable fashion to a win over a marquis team (Irving over the Celtics and Thunder) it gets the locker room, the fans, and the city a buzz. Davis only had nine points in the win, but his athleticism and wing span were enough to get the two that mattered.
3. Maurice Harkless (Last Week: NR)
Harkless has been in double figures for Orlando in each of their last five games including a career night in a loss to Milwaukee on Saint Patrick’s Day.
The rookie swingman from St. John’s, scored 23 and grabbed 9 rebounds in 43 minutes against the Bucks, all career highs.
After starting the season slowly and tentatively, Harkless is becoming one of the steals of last June’s draft, and the most important piece in August’s Andrew Bynum trade that brought Harkless from Philly down to the land of Disney. He scored in double figures just once in his first 37 games, but has hit that mark 17 times in his last 25 games, including 15 of his last 17.
Harkless missed all of training camp and the entire preseason with Orlando due to a sports hernia. As the season progessed and the Magic traded JJ Reddick, playing time and shots started to come Harkless’s way. Now that he has his feet wet, and is back to full health, he looks to be the top small forward from last year’s draft class.
4. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 3)
5. Bradley Beal (Last Week: 5)
Waiters and Beal are destined to be grouped together. They are the same age, play the same position, were drafted back to back, and have both emerged as good NBA players with high upside. Unfortunately, we can now add injured to the list of similarities between the two.
Waiters left Monday’s beat down at the hands of Indiana with soreness in his knee. He is expected to be out at least a weak and could end up needing surgery. Regardless this is the last thing Cavs’ fans want to hear.
Although it appears to be nothing too serious, with the continuous injuries to Kyrie Irving, Cavs fans have to be pulling their hair out watching their two young stars fall victim to injuries…or they may be thinking this is perfect timing for tanking in these meaningless end of year games.
Like the Cavs, the Wizards also know what it’s like to watch their former number one pick point guard be bitten by the injury bug. John Wall’s knee has been a major concern for folks in Washington, but Wall has come back from injury in the second half of this year to provide a nice 1-2 combo with Bradley Beal.
With Beal and Wall together, the Wizards are a fun watch on NBA league pass, but against Phoenix the fun came to a stop as Beal once again landed awkwardly on his bad ankle.
Beal was forced to sit on the sidelines as Wall and the rest of the Wizards finished off the Suns and reports are that Beal was visibly frustrated in the locker room following the win. Beal previously missed six games with the same ankle and is sure to miss several more.
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