July 30, 2009
There are a number of question marks surrounding this year’s NBA rookie class: can Blake Griffin live up to the hype? Is Hasheem Thabeet the worst second-overall pick since Darko Milicic? Who will Ricky Rubio take to the prom?
After analyzing the Summer League performances, scrutinizing the projected depth charts, and consulting ETB’s evil-leaning crystal ball, however, we’re here to take the suspense out of at least one question a little early: meet your 2010 NBA All-Rookie First & Second Teams.
Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers – As the only prospect from the Class of 2009 pegged for almost-certain stardom, Griffin flashed his highly touted talent in his five Las Vegas Summer League appearances, averaging 19.2 points (50% FG), 10.8 boards, 3.2 assists, and 1 steal per. Despite the loose atmosphere and offense-friendly format, by all accounts Griffin approached these games with the sort of workmanlike intensity some NBA players struggle to attain during the regular season, much less summer exhibitions. That’s right, Clippers fans, your franchise has actually landed a natural-born hustler.
The personal drive and leadership qualities are there. The skills are obviously there (except for his puzzingly dreadful free-throw shooting, which topped out at 45% in Vegas). Unfortunately, though, so is the long, black shadow of failure cast by the Clippers franchise he’s been tasked with helping turn around. Is he up to it? He can’t do it alone, but we’re intrigued by the young core of Griffin, Eric Gordon, and Al Thornton and think that maybe, just maybe, this team could slowly but surely move its way back towards respectability.
The obvious preseason frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors, expect Griffin to have a standout rookie campaign and headline the All-Rookie team. Just stay healthy, Blake, stay healthy.
James Harden, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder - We remain high on incumbent starting SG Thabo Sefolosha (for the benefit of longtime ETB readers, however, I’ll leave at that… this time), but well-rounded players like Harden aren’t taken third overall to ride the bench for very long, if at all. The physical 6-5 guard from California played in nine games this summer between Vegas and Orlando, averaging a combined 14.7 points (50% FG), 3.3 boards, 2.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per.
Perhaps just as importantly, he played within himself and didn’t try to go out there and dominate for the sake of dominating lesser competition; when you see rookies playing within the flow of the game, especially during summer ball, it’s a good sign. Harden will be solid, not spectacular, during his rookie season, but we expect him to replicate the sort of late-season surge his new teammate, Russell Westbrook, enjoyed during his first year last season. It’s hard to argue with the direction this franchise is headed… if only they could do something about their fugly-ass logo and jerseys.
Tyreke Evans, PG, Sacramento Kings - Like other players on both the First and Second All-Rookie teams, Evans is walking into a situation in Sacramento where he’ll have little to no competition for starting minutes and will be given every opportunity to put up respectable stats. It won’t matter if they come during garbage-time blowouts, which Kings fans should expect to once again regularly suffer through this season. At least they’ll have the electric Evans to entertain this time around.
At 6-6 and 220 pounds, we can only see this year’s fourth-overall pick playing the point until SG Kevin Martin is shipped out, which could be as soon as this season. (Tell me, again, how the one-dimensional Martin fits into this team’s long-term “plans?”) Until his inevitable move to SG, Evans will run the show and give Kings fans hope for a better future with his ability to get to the rim, draw fouls, and distribute the ball to an emerging frontline headlined by Jason Thompson
Sean May and Spencer Hawes. Again, his field-goal percentage could be ugly–I’ll be surprised if it’s much better than Russell Westbrook’s 40% freshman effort–but he could easily lead this rookie class in scoring.
Rest of the 2010 NBA All-Rookie First Team, and the entire Second Team, after the break…