2011/2012 Rookie Rundown V1.0
By Brendan McKay
Happy Holidays ladies and gents, and welcome to the first edition of this NBA season’s Rookie Rundown. To think, two months ago, it was looking like this article, along with the entire NBA season would be for naught. Fortunately for all of us, David Stern, the owners, and the players had at least one day of common sense clarity, got the deal done and here we are; NBA games on Christmas. Frankly, given how far apart the two sides seemed to be, combined with dissension among both players and ownership, I’m shocked we have a season. But that is for another article on another day.
If you were lucky enough to read last year’s Sophomore Report, the format will be familiar. Each week one Rookie will be highlighted, followed by a fluctuating top ten list. Given that we’re talking about Rookies here, rankings will be based not only current production, but we will also keep an eye towards future expectations. If one player is getting twice the numbers and three times the minutes of another, it’ll be taken into account.
Without further ado, let’s get started with this week’s highlighted player. Ricky Rubio.
Why Ricky Rubio you say? He is not the most touted Rookie on his team let alone the league you say? Don’t care. Despite the impression that he might have some limitations, the fact of the matter is that he is far and away the most gifted talent in a somewhat underwhelming class. Ask yourself the following question: “If every 2011/2012 rookie fully projects out to the maximum of their potential, who is the biggest star?” Ricky Rubio is the run away choice. He also told David Kahn and the NBA that they’d have to sit on the back burner for two years while he continued to ball in Spain, making him intriguing enough to deserve this year’s first showcase.
Before even stepping on an NBA court, Rubio’s ball handling and court vision rank amongst the best in the world. He is an absolute wizard with the rock. I mean, take a look at this here video:
Does this video showcase him breaking down a bunch of European stiffs? Yes. Does it show him annihilating 3 or 4 stiffs at a time? Yes. Is that Jason Kidd and Carmelo Anthony that he leaves standing stupid at the 1:58 mark? You’re damn right it is. Look, I realize that a highlight video like this is not evidence of a sure rise to super stardom. It is, however, evidence that, plainly put, he can do things on the court few are capable of. Pure talent like this is what separates the stars from the rest.
Watching this string bean make all of these razzle dazzle plays makes it easy to forget we’re talking about a player that stands 6 feet 4 inches tall. Sure, he’s got some weight to put on, but this type of quickness does not often come with this type of size. Sure there are taller point guards in the NBA, but there aren’t many of them. Just like 90% of the players that come out of Europe, he’s going to be a defensive liability, at least initially, but the physical capability to play above average defense is there. He’s not slow, he’s got quick hands and is long enough to disrupt the passing lanes. With a few pounds of muscle, it will be difficult for stronger guards like Chauncey Billups to simply take him to the block and abuse him. This is the NBA. Size matters and Rubio’s got it.
Lastly, I’d like to refer back to my initial question. “Who will be the biggest star?” Rubio has all the intangibles to make him one of the NBA’s showcase players. Big smile, good looking kid, and the type of game even casual fans will love to watch. He’s even got a great back-story, playing professional basketball since the tender age of 14. All-in-all, this kid’s got the makings of the next European basketball superstar.
1. Ricky Rubio – G – Minnesota Timberwolves
As I said above, he might not even be the best rookie on his team. Despite this, none of these of these players have played a single minute of an NBA regular season game. We’re going off potential alone here.
2. Derrick Williams – F – Minnesota Timberwolves
Well things are certainly looking bright in Minnesota aren’t they? This 20 year old freak athlete looks like he could be an inside/outside nightmare for years to come. On a team with Kevin Love and Michael Beasley, don’t expect his rebounding numbers to accurately reflect his ability. Do expect to see this sequence more than once. Love rebounds > outlet pass to Rubio > touch pass to Williams > Slamma Jamma 2 points.
3. Kyrie Irving – G - Cleveland Cavaliers
The number one pick of the draft doesn’t have a ton of game film (college or NBA) to look at, but what you can see, you have to like. Irving is lightning quick, getting to the basket with ease, going to the line often, and making the most of his trips. Is he the type of superstar franchises are typically looking for with the number one overall pick? Unlikely, but a solid player none the less.
4. Kawhi Leonard – F – San Antonio Spurs
A bit high of a preseason ranking for the 15th selection in the draft? Not if you think that the Spurs got away with grand larceny picking up a player like this at 15. Going into the draft, I was in love with Leonard’s incredible athleticism and work ethic, two characteristics that, when combined, rarely result in failure. With a ceiling of Gerald Wallace and a floor of Trevor Ariza, I find it absolutely shocking that Leonard fell out of the top 5 in a weak draft, let alone all the way down to 15. Only time will tell.
5. Brandon Knight – G – Detroit Pistons
Half way through the season, Knight is going to make Joe Dumars is going to regret overpaying Rodney Stuckey. Knight might not be Derrick Rose or John Wall, but if history tells us anything, it’s that John Callipari can coach point guards. Knight got off to a slow start at Kentucky, but turned it up at the end of the season and showed me something.
6. The Jimmer – G – Sacramento Kings
Look for The Jimmer to Tim Tebow the NBA in 2011/2012.
7. Kenneth Faried – F – Denver Nuggets
ARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH. Kenneth Faried is a man child if there ever was one. I love that he’s on Denver playing with his Brazilian older Brother, Nene. No way he should have dipped to 22 in this draft. Athletic and plenty of heart. Will get me every time.
8. Kemba Walker – G – Charlotte Bobcats
Call me a hater, but I don’t see it. I mean yes, I see this :
But if you think Rubio is playing against some stiffs in his video, then Walker might as well be crossing over a corpse in his game winning shot for the Big East title. I mean look at that poor &$#%#&@!. Even he knew he was on the wrong half of the worst mismatch in college basketball history. Anyways, I like Walker’s game, but not his size. Look for him to ceiling as a solid combo guard off the bench. Jason Terry, he is not.
9. Enes Kanter – C- Utah Jazz
Well, he certainly is big. Strong and has a soft touch too. So why all the way down to 9? He moves like a rusty robot. There have been plenty of NBA players with this downside that have had success (see Kendrick Perkins and Roy Hibbert), but Kanter is going to have to show us something before getting grouped with the likes of them.
10. Jan Vesely – F – Washington Wizards
I’ve mentioned the combination of athletic ability and heart a few times. Here I mention the combination of athletic ability and John Wall, also a deadly duo. As long as Vesely can stop smooching his girlfriend long enough to catch an alley-oop or two from Wall, he should be just fine.
Thank you for reading the Rookie Rundown. All fan correspondence and hate mail can be sent to email@example.com or you can simply blast me on twitter at @bmckay.