1) Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers: Lillard’s holding on to his position as ROY front runner. Starting off the season with eye opening performances, Portland’s point man is starting to make his excellence a habit. In his last 4 games, Lillard averaged just over 22 ppg. Along with his scoring comes a welcomed efficiency, with Lillard shooting 50% or better in each of his last 4 contests. His performance against the Kings was the highlight of the 4-game set. Lillard shot 7-10 from the field (3-4 from deep), going for 22 points and 9 assists. The one knock on Lillard is his turnover issue. He’s coughed the ball up 16 times in those 4 games, the most of which came in a game against Phoenix (6 turnovers).
2) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats are 6-4, aka above .500. For his major role in that alone, I would hand the ROY award to MKG right freaking now. Alas, I don’t make those decisions. Kidd-Gilchrist has averaged 13.6 over his last 3 games. His field goal percentage has seen some inconsistency here and there, but it’s an adjustment he should make easily as the season- and his career - progresses.
3) Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: Mark Jackson must have told the rookie to let it fly. Barnes went from taking 5, 6, or 7 shots to as many as 16 in the Warriors’ Nov.19th tilt against the Mavericks. The result? Barnes’ erratic scoring started to round out. After early performances putting up 8, 10, 6, 14, then 7 points, Barnes went for 19, 18, 12, and 20, before cooling off against Brooklyn. That 5-game stretch saw the rookie out of UNC average 15.6 ppg. Was the erratic scoring still there? Sure. Barnes attempted just 7 shots in his 9-point game against Brooklyn, more due to some ramped up defense by the Nets (I know, right?!). Nonetheless, the Warriors’ rookie 3-man is starting to find confidence in that stroke that scouts were raving about.
4) Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves: Shved has seen the weight of backcourt duties almost exclusively fall on him. Minnesota is still without Ricky Rubio. Adding on to that, the guards JJ Barea and Brandon Roy have missed time on the court. With Luke Ridnour running the floor at the PG spot, Shed has seen his role increase as the primary 2-guard. He’s also seen time as the point guard with certain line ups. Shved hasn’t disappointed. The former CSKA Moscow guard has averaged 14.7 in his last 4 games. More importantly, Shved is second among rookies in assists at 4.2 apg.
5) Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets: Davis’ scoring has been inconsistent. His 28 point, 11 rebound performance against the Bucks was a highlight. But, his 2 games before that saw him score 8 points each. In addition, Davis ankle injury looks to be bothering him more than a minor sprain. He sprained the same ankle in practice that kept him out of a couple games earlier. He and the Hornets’ other rookie, Austin Rivers, seem to have some issue with recurring ankle injuries. For that, and his inconsistency on offense, Davis is starting to fall lower and lower on ROY rankings.
6) Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: The Wizards’ rookie 2-guard is another case in offensive inconsistency. Earlier in the season, Beal put together a string of good games, scoring 16, 17, and 22 in three consecutive games. In his last 4 games, Beal has seen totals of 8, 6, 18, and 6. His field goal percentage has dipped to 34% (31% from three). Regardless, the Wizards are desperate for some sort of spark. As such, Beal will not see his freedom limited very much when he’s on the floor. He’ll have to adjust to that lack of restriction by taking better shots and contributing at a more consistent clip.
7) Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons: Singler’s potential impact for the Pistons is starting to show. His scoring output is starting to creep towards double digits (at 9.1 ppg right now) as he has been taking on some more minutes. Singler played 40 minutes against the SIxers on Wednesday, going for 16 points and 4 rebounds. Some of his other contributions are harder to quantify. Singler continues to impress his coaches by making the right passes, leading to an assist or high percentage look. He’s also shown great shot selection, rarely taking heavily contested field goal attempts. Unfortunately, the ROY is an award that’s judged based on stats. I feel like Singler will start to get it going more on the scoring end of things, as he is awarded more and more game time.
8) Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers: Waiters has been on an offensive down slope. In his last three contests, he’s shot 20% from the field, bringing his season total to 37% on field goals. Sure, he’s a very talented rookie. In fact, his talent (and struggles) are on par with Bradley Beal. So, why do I have him at 8? Mainly because Waiters has a much shorter leash than Beal. Byron Scott isn’t one to give a bunch of minutes to untested rookies in the first place. If Waiters continues to falter, Scott may just have the rookie come off the bench more (regardless of the lack of depth at the 2-guard spot).
9) Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: Valanciunas has shown out in his last two games. He scored 11 points, snagged 11 rebounds, and even added 3 blocks and 3 assists in a loss against the Sixers. The following game saw the young Lithuanian put together a line of 16 points and 10 rebounds in a season high 35 minutes of game time against Charlotte. At 6’11” and a springy 231 lbs, Valanciunas is a commodity that is likely to see his minutes progressively increase. His energy level should add to that effort. With averages of 8.6 ppg, 6 rpg, and nearly a block per game, Toronto's rookie is already having a productive season.
10) Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets: Rivers’ shooting numbers aren’t there yet. In fact, they’re pretty dismal to this point. The Hornets’ second lottery pick from this summer’s draft is shooting 32% from the field and 31% from three. He’s getting his minutes, it should be noted. Averaging 30 minutes of game time, Rivers just isn’t taking enough shots for an NBA 2-guard. He’s among his draft class’ most talented players, yet he continues to shy away from open jumpers, instead opting to pump fake and lead himself into a contested shot. His average of 7.5 attempts per game should see an increase as the season progresses. As such, the hope here is that Rivers starts to let it fly on those open looks.