NBA Rookie Rankings: Beal, Shved on the rise
Note: in parentheses next to the player's current ranking is his previous week's ranking.
1. (1) Damian Lillard (POR): Lillard got off to the hottest start of all the rookies, and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. He led all rookies in scoring again over the past week, putting up 19.7 points per game. He reached nine assists in two of his three games, and averaged 8.0 per game in all three combined. Lillard is the far and away frontrunner for rookie of the year at this point in the season.
2. (3) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA): As we frequently saw in college, MKG fits into whatever role his team is in need of. A lot of No. 2 overall picks would feel entitled to chuck up a lot of shots, but Kidd-Gilchrist was content all last week with only 6.8 per game, which he made at a 66.7% rate. He contributes in plenty of other ways too - he had a game with eleven rebounds last week, and followed up the next night with six assists and three blocked shots. The Bobcats lost all four of their games last week, but it wasn't MKG's fault.
3. (2) Dion Waiters (CLE): Waiters missed all of last week's games with an ankle injury, but no one besides MKG played well enough to pass him in the rankings. Waiters remains third among rookies with 15.2 points per game, and has been greatly improving in other areas throughout the season.
4. (8) Bradley Beal (WAS): Beal didn't play much (17 minutes) when the Wizards shocked the Heat last week, but he certainly contributed to pulling off the upset. Beal put up ten points and three assists with no turnovers in the Wizard's four point win, and it seemed to get him going in the next two games. He followed his performance against the Heat with 18 points against the Hawks and 17 points against the Warriors - he added six assists and six rebounds in the latter game. His field goal percentage remains a concern, but he is slowly improving (shot 40% last week). If he can learn to score more efficiently, he could be a fantastic all-around player.
5. (9) Alexey Shved (MIN): Shved tied Beal for the biggest jump in the rankings this week, and it's in large part due to more efficient scoring. Shved really struggled shooting the ball early in the season, but is shooting it at 45.8% over his past five games. He's scored in double figures in four of his past five games, and puts up a solid amount of assists and rebounds for a combo guard. His biggest concern right now should be turnovers, but he's been a nice find for the Timberwolves, who signed him as an undrafted free agent.
6. (4) Jonas Valanciunas (TOR): It wasn't too long ago that JV went through a great stretch of games in which he was frequently playing 30+ minutes, but he's averaging only 19.3 minutes over the past week. That's in part due to foul trouble, as the young Lithuanian has picked up five fouls in each of his past two games despite not playing more than 20 minutes in either contest. Over the past week, he's picking up a foul every 4.5 minutes that he's on the floor, and his playing time has been restricted because of it. Despite the recent slump, JV remains top ten in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots among rookies.
7. (5) Harrison Barnes (GS): I didn't drop Barnes too far in the rankings last week because it would have been unfair to drop a rookie for a two game slump. This week, however, Barnes' slump has continued, as he's now averaging just 6.0 points on 31.6% shooting over his past six games. Like Valanciunas, Barnes still ranks top ten among rookies in scoring and rebounding, so he remains on the list, for now.
8. (10) Andre Drummond (DET): Drummond got a little bump up in minutes this past week, and has responded well, scoring efficiently over his past three games. Offensive ability is the biggest question mark for this young man, but he's increased his field goal attempts lately and has maintained a very strong field goal percentage - made 16 of his 25 shot attempts last week. Drummond also had two games last week in which he had 12 rebounds with 2+ blocked shots. Drummond has a boatload of raw potential, and it seems that he's beginning to tap into it and show it on the court. Among rookies, Drummond is ranked ninth in steals, third in blocks, third in rebounds, and first in field goal percentage. His biggest concern is at the free throw line, from which he shoots an atrocious 39.1%.
9. (6) Jeff Taylor (CHA): I loved what I was seeing out of Taylor as of a week ago, but he really had a tough stretch of games the past week, possibly in part due to the return of former starting shooting guard Gerald Henderson. Taylor averaged 7.8 points (37.5% shooting), 2.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists over four games last week, and only registered one steal and one block over the four games combined. He did pick it up in his final game of the week, with 10 points on 5-7 shooting, so hopefully that's a sign that he's ready to bounce back.
10. (7) Kyle Singler (DET): It's tough to figure Singler out - he's often great for stretches, then struggles terribly. It's actually quite characteristic of rookie. Regardless, it has him bouncing all around my top ten on a weekly basis. Over his past three games, Singler has averaged 4.7 points on 25% shooting, 2.7 rebounds, and not much else. While he did drop this week, don't be surprised if he has a great next couple games and makes a push back up the list.
Just Missed the Cut: Andrew Nicholson (PF - ORL), Tyler Zeller (PF/C - CLE), Nando De Colo (PG/SG - SA)
Be sure to check back each Monday for the updated NBA rookie rankings.