For this edition of NBA Coffee Table Talks, the staff writers at C&B will give their takes on some of the rookies around the league. We will talk about players like Kristpas Porzingis, Cameron Payne, Jarell Martin (maybe not), and much more!
Is the NBA ROY race already over?
Timmy: It sure is. Can you even call Karl-Anthony Towns a rookie? I mean… It’s his first year in the NBA, but it doesn’t even seem fair. Towns just had his 12th game with 25+ points and 10+ rebounds, which is the fourth most in the NBA. Just 2/3 of the way through his rookie campaign he is drawing comparisons to Tim “Old Man Riverwalk” Duncan–one of the all time greats. The only stat that really favors Porzingis is PER–but watch one game, or look at one stat line, and you will see that KAT is the undisputed rookie of the year.
Connor: Timmy pretty much summed it all up. KAT has been heads and shoulders above the rest of the rookie class. Sure Porzingis has had his impressive performance and his stretches where he has looked like ROY candidate, but KAT has been the most consistently productive. I think a lot of people *cough, Timmy, cough* overlooked KAT because he wasn’t able to show his entire skill set at Kentucky. We saw the defense and the post game but we barely ever saw the shooting touch or the play-making ability (thanks a lot Calipari). It’s a no-brainer at this point for me and I don’t think any other rookie can do anything over the remainder of the season to change my mind.
Chris: Can’t argue with the fact that Towns is an absolute beast and has proved that he’s going to be a double-double machine for a long time. If the season ended now then yes, Towns is the ROY without a doubt. Unfortunately for him Kristaps Porzingis a.k.a The Latvian Lion, Godzingis, KP, Zinger is right behind Towns in PPG, Rebounds and leads all rooks with 1.90 blocks per game. So while Towns’ play has been stellar I still have faith in my man KP to make a late season run and further contend for the coveted ROY title. There’s not much else a Knicks fan can hope for this season…
Eric: Kat Kat Kat!!!! He is a monster and has been a monster all year. Kristaps is certainly in the discussion as well and maybe you could convince me that Devin Booker is in the conversation as well. Booker has been awesome, even though the Phoenix Suns might be the worst team in the NBA.
What rookie has really impressed from the get-go?
Timmy: I will use this question to show some love for the Zinger. He walked on to a flawed New York Knicks team and is averaging 14 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. While Porzingis still needs to put on some weight and work on his defense, he immediately made himself one of the NBA’s most exciting players to watch. If you don’t love a good ol’ fashioned Porzingis putback dunk, then you don’t love basketball. To top it all off, he got Melo to share not only the spotlight–but also the ball!
Connor: I’m going to have to go with Devin Booker on this one. He is stuck in a terrible Phoenix organization that has no direction whatsoever, but he has really proved to be a brilliant shooter. Not to mention he is the youngest player in the NBA this season. He has proven to be a capable defender and has even shown flashes of play-making and ball handling. I didn’t think coming out of the draft that he would be able to contribute so quickly.
Chris: Clearly my bias lays with Porzingis as he (as promised) turned the draft day boos into cheers with excellent play over the course of the season. I have run into many Knicks fans that have claimed they knew Porzingis would end up being a stud from the beginning of the season, ironically those were the same people who sent me “fire everybody” texts after New York took KP 4th overall. Interesting.
Eric: I know Justise Winslow does not have great numbers like Towns, Porzingis, or even Booker, but he has been terrific as well from the start. Sometimes it is hard for rookies to come off the bench right away, but he has really adapted to his role in Miami. He is an excellent defender and pretty good on offense, especially when he is taking it to the rack.
He must improve his three-point shooting, but other than that, he has looked really sharp.
Most disappointing rookie?
Timmy: I’ll just admit that I went through the list of rookies and didn’t see a single one that I would classify strictly as a disappointment. They’ve basically all shown promise, which is really the most you can ask in a guys first year. This rookie class has been deceptively great and I think a LOT of these players have potential not only to be in the league for many years–but to develop into legit starting players and All-Stars.
Connor: This might not be a fair assessment but I had pretty high hopes for Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky this year. After Michael Jordan and the Hornets organization refused to take up to six draft picks from the C’s just so that they could grab Kaminsky made me think that he might be a hidden gem. While he has certainly had some good moments throughout the season, shooting 40 percent from the field doesn’t get me too excited about what he has to offer. Sure he can has time to grow, but with Al Jefferson out for almost two months, Kaminsky had a chance to solidify himself as a mainstay in the rotation and, in my opinion, he did nothing to make himself stand out.
Chris: This has been a stacked rookie class from top to bottom and as most of these guys are still teenagers it’s impossible to predict where their play will be at a few years down the line. With that being said I expected a little more out of Emmanuel Mudiay. He slipped a little bit on draft day after playing a year professionally in China. Mudiay is averaging a solid 11.3 PPG and leading rooks in the assist per game with 5.7. With his professional experience I thought he would have been a top 4 scorer for rookies heading into the season, solid play but it just goes to show how talented the rookie pool really is this year.
Eric: Kelly Oubre Jr. only play 11.3 MPG because he has not been very good this season for the Washington Wizards. The team definitely had high hopes for Oubre on the wing to help the team with scoring but he has disappointed big time. He averages 3.7 PPG, but he does shot 35 percent from deep, which is not bad. In the month of February, he is averaging 4.4 MPG and 1.9 PPG because people have came back from injury and because there is no need for Oubre in the lineup.
I thought Oubre was a steal for the Wizards in the draft because it filled a need on the wing to back up Otto Porter Jr., but he has been a huge disappointment so far.
Which rookie is in the worst situation?
Timmy: Uhm, can I pick the Celtics rookies? Sure they are in a great, team-oriented locker room with one of the best coaches in the NBA on a team currently sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference… but they can’t BUY minutes on the floor unless it’s a blow out in one direction or the other. Towards the beginning of the season R.J. Hunter was getting some nice first-half minutes–but despite some promising outings, Coach Brad Stevens has all but cut him out of the roster in the interest of shortening the bench.
Connor: As much of a Celtics homer as I am, I have to agree with Timmy on this one. Now I’m not advocating for all of them to be playing 20 minutes per game, but I think there are spots where their skill set could be helpful. When fellow rookie KAT was putting a hurting on the C’s on Monday night, would it have hurt to throw Jordan Mickey in there and see if he has any chance of slowing him down? Certainly nobody else had been able to stop him, so why not throw him in? If I had one qualm with the way Brad Stevens coaches is that he sometimes gets a little to trusting in his veteran players. Granted, Evan Turner has been playing really well lately, but sometimes the match ups call for different things and the Celtics’ three rookies have something to offer.
Chris: Maybe a better question would have been what rookie is in the best situation? Philly, LAL and Minnesota all have young talent and presumably solid draft picks in 2016. The young players on these teams are growing and developing together to one day get out of the gutter and contend in the playoffs. Towns and Okafor are averaging 30 minutes per game which is great for their development into All-Stars down the line. I don’t understand why D’Angelo Russell isn’t getting more time in L.A. on such a weak team. Might be time to start playing your draft pick so he has time to grow rather than focus on the Kobe Farewell Tour, just a thought.
Eric: Mario Hezonja should be playing a lot more than he is. He is a very talented young player, that has the ability to put on a show on any given night. He reminds me of a smarter J.R. Smith because they both are really good deep shooters and they also have a lot of confidence in themselves. It is not his fault that there really is not much room for him to play, he is a shooting guard on the Orlando Magic, which is a team full of guard and they just added another guard in Brandon Jennings. The Magic need to play him much more.
My second pick for worst situation would be Bobby Portis. People see now that Portis is starting to play a lot more, but the only reason he is starting to play a lot more is because Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic are sidelined with injuries. He is a very good player that could be playing a lot of quality minutes on plenty of teams, but the Bulls need to make some moves this offseason to clear up their heavily crowded frontcourt, so Portis can play more.
Last question, do you think Timmy should apologize to Karl-Anthony Towns?
Timmy: Hey, hey, hey. See question 1.
The short answer is yes.
Connor: If there isn’t a thank you card sent out by the end of the day I’m going to be furious. So many apologies need to be made.