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Next Generation: Rookie Rankings Part II

April 22, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Joe E. Tata and Juan Carlos Navarro: two of a perfect pair?
Remember how out of place Joe E. Tata was with all those kids on Bev Hills? Yup, that’s Juan Carlos Navarro on this list. (Worldvision Enterprises Inc.)

Picking up where we left off last week, when we listed the rookies we ranked five through ten, Next Generation brings you the top five rookie performances of the 2007-08 season.

5. Juan Carlos Navarro, MEM – At 27 years of age, I have mentioned that Navarro is a senior citizen by rookie standards, or the Joe E. Tata of Beverly Hills 90210, if you will.

La Bomba’s main contribution during this season was from behind the arc. JCN fell just two short of Kerry Kittles’ rookie record of 158 treys set in the 1996-97 season, yet he did finish one ahead of Allen Iverson for second place.

Putting Navarro’s season in historical context, there is a striking similarity to the 1996-97 rookie season of Matt Maloney. Maloney, like Navarro, was much older than the average NBA rookie – similar to an Eric Nies in comparison with other The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Sexes 2 competitors — the scrappy 6’3” point guard didn’t enter the league until the age of 25. When comparing the two rookie seasons, one might not like the future of Navarro:

Navarro: 25.8 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 2.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG
Maloney: 29.1 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 2.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.6 SPG

In other words, these “point guards” like to chuck the three ball and bring little else to the table.

4. Luis Scola, HOU – No one put it better than former Rocket coach and director of scouting for USA Men’s Basketball Rudy Tomjanovich when he said, “I really like Scola. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t do anything great but does everything well. He’s smart and he has the size and strength to be an NBA power forward.” Scola became stronger as the season progressed, and contributed mightily during the Rockets’ 22-game winning streak in the absence of Yao Ming.

Scola’s rookie season is comparable to that of Kurt Thomas’s 1995-96 rookie effort:

Scola: 10.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 0.515 FG%, 0.668 FT%
Thomas: 9.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 0.501 FG%, 0.663 FT%

3. Al Horford, ATL – Horford is blessed with an exceptional basketball IQ and anticipation skills, as well as a chiseled frame and extraordinary strength. I expected Horford to be able to contribute in the rebounding category, but his scoring needs to catch up to his brute strength and ability to clean glass. Horford also disappoints in the block category, which is a must among fantasy basketball centres on my team.

Even so, only 15 players since the 1980-81 season have averaged a double-double in their rookie season, and Horford narrowly missed joining the impressive club with an average of 9.7 RPG.

Horford’s rookie season mirrors that of Bill Laimbeer’s in 1980-81:

Horford: 10.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 0.499 FG%, 0.731 FT%
Laimbeer: 9.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 0.503 FG%, 0.765 FT%

2. Jamario Moon, TOR – Since the 1980-81 season, only 30 rookies have averaged at least one block and one steal and Moon became number 31 in this impressive group, averaging 1.4 BPG and 1.0 SPG. Moon’s across the board production narrowly edges the value produced by Horford.

Although their games don’t appear on the surface to have any similarities whatsoever, look at the resemblance between Moon’s rookie season and that of Vlade Divac:

Divac: 8.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 0.499 FG%, 0.708 FT%
Moon: 8.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 0.485 FG%, 0.741 FT%

Moon has some work to do, however, to match Divac’s incredible acting.

1. Kevin Durant, SEA – For Rookie of the Year, it’s Durant and no one else is a close second. Unfortunately for Durant, this season the Sonics found themselves running primarily out of the half-court set rather than operating on the run. Additionally, Durant saw a majority of his time at shooting guard rather than one of the forward positions. Both situations placed him further from the basket and, as a result, Durant’s field goal percentage and rebounding initially suffered. He neither had the strength nor the handle in traffic at this stage in his career to get closer to the hoop, and often times found himself settling for contested shots 18 feet or further from the basket.

KD figured things out after the All-Star break, after which he registered a field goal percentage of 47.6. His final game, though, gave fantasy owners something to drool about over the entire offseason – a line of 42 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, one steal, one three-pointer and 18-for-25 shooting from the field. I don’t think it’s a stretch to go as far as to say he has a good chance to be a top 15 player next year at the age of 20.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself, as I compare Durant’s rookie season to the rookie season of LeBron James. Aside from the difference in assists, which you’d expect because LeBron is a primary ballhandler and Durant is not, the categories are fairly close:

James: 20.9 PPG, 0.8 3PG, 5.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 0.417 FG%, 0.754 FT%
Durant 20.3 PPG, 0.7 3PG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 0.43 FG%, 0.873 FT%

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