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Next Generation: Rookie Challenge Grades

February 19, 2008 | By Steve Simon | comment on this post

While in Puerto Vallarta, I was fortunate enough to find a Champions Sports Bar (I highly recommend the potato skins) and watch some of the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. In this week’s installment of Next Generation, I’m grading the rookies solely on their performance in this exhibition.

Sean Williams: Williams put up 17 points, 10 rebounds, and one electrifying dunk after receiving his own pass off the backboard. In the second half of the season, I believe his fantasy value will take a hit with the acquisition of DeSagana Diop and the loss of Jason Kidd (assuming this deal finally goes through). However, this one game and the highlight of the game have earned him an A.

Kevin Durant: In 26 minutes, Durant scored 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and added four assists and two steals while shooting 10-of-19 from the floor. The five turnovers don’t matter in a game that doesn’t count. He earned an A- for the across-the-board performance, but lost a perfect score because of his inability to lead his team to a victory (just like with the Supersonics).

Al Horford: No stranger to the big stage after winning two championships while attending Florida, Horford scored 19 points and grabbed seven boards, while missing only two shots along the way. “I love this kid, man,” said Caron Bulter. “I love his game. He’s a banger. Old-school style. He’s the kind of young kid every team loves to have.” Big Al earned an A-, and his prospects for a solid second half just improved with the acquisition of Mike Bibby.

Jamario Moon: Moon put up 13 points, with his only two misses coming on his unlikely three-point attempts. He received only 18 minutes off the bench, but the 27-year-old brought his Harlem Globetrotter background to the exhibition, flashing his athleticism and earning himself a solid B.

Juan Carlos Navarro: Navarro overcame a shaky first half to lead all international players with 14 points, along with four rebounds and four assists, while adding two 3-pointers and two steals in only 19 minutes. JCN also earned a B.

Yi Jianlian: Yi missed some dunks, and provided a new meaning to “pu-pu platter,” scoring eight only points, and adding a paltry two rebounds, one assist, and a steal in 23 minutes. The big man appeared to be nervous, yet this type of game is not tailor-made for his style of play. At this stage of his career, he’s much more comfortable launching shots from the perimeter. I found it particularly strange when Charles Barkley chose Yi after being asked to choose one player on the floor to build a team around. Yi earns a C- (while Barkley gets an F).

Mike Conley: On the surface, Conley’s game was nothing to brag about – two points, eight assists and five turnovers. Upon further evaluation, the point guard’s role in these games is to push the tempo and set up others for spectacular dunks and he did both. Conley’s line is also somewhat similar to Chris Paul’s line one year ago of eight points, 11 assists and six turnovers. Conley also receives a C-.

Jeff Green: Somehow, Green managed to earn 34 minutes of action, yet he only scored nine points and secured five rebounds in a game in which no defense was played. His first half was absolutely brutal. Green earned a D.

Luis Scola: Four points and three rebounds? Couldn’t they have given us someone who would have showed just a little enthusiasm, such as Joakim Noah? Scola receives an F.

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