2007 NBA Rookie Roundup

The NBA age restrictions have made it so that this year's rookie class is more depleted than usual. Typically, high school players would have made the jump and added some major talent to the pool. This year's class is the first and possibly even the only class to see the effects of the new rule. The added depth has been put on hold until next year; a year where the missing high school players won't be as noticeable due to the incoming stars that were held from entering the NBA this season.

It has taken a while for the rookies to get going this year and no one player stands out among the crowd. Many have called this year's crop a bust, but I have more faith in these youngsters than that. I believe that many of them will turn into very solid contributors, while a few even have all-star potential.

Sure, this isn't 1984 (Hakeem, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton), 2003 (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade), 1996 (Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stoyakovic, Steve Nash, and Jermaine O'Neal), or even 2007, for that matter (Greg Odom, Kevin Durant, and Joakim Noah), but that doesn't mean that it's an all-out bust.

These guys can play and their impact will be evident for years to come. Without further adieu, here is my 2006-07 rookie roundup.

Top 10 Picks (as drafted into the league)

Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (Italy)

The "Italian Job" has brought it all to Toronto. It took him some time to get the feel for the North American game, but this youngster who once said it was easier to shoot threes than anything else (because it's always the same distance) is now taking control for the surging Raptors.

It took him 10 games to get his first double-digit scoring output of the season, but he's stepped up ever since with consistent scoring and energy off the bench. In the last month, he's averaging 14.8ppg, 4.6 rpg, and dropping 2.5 treys. MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki has stated that Bargnani is better than he was at 21, but the young guy still has a long way to go. Nonetheless, the Raptors made the right choice on draft day and have a very formidable front for many years with Bosh and Bargs leading the way.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas (Portland Trailblazers)

It has taken the big man a while to get some time in the crowded Portland frontcourt, but it seems like he is finally getting his chance due to injuries which are depleting the roster. Joel Przybilla was lost for the season due to a knee injury and Raef LaFrentz is out with a strained left calf. That leaves Jamaal Magloire as Aldridge's lone competition and coach Nate McMillan has said that he's sticking with the rookie for now.

Since grabbing the starting center spot at the beginning of March, Aldridge has gone for 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, but then followed up that effort with 3 points on 1-for-12 shooting. He'll need to prove himself to be a consistent contributor in order to hold on to his playing time. For now, I see him following very closely to the footsteps of sophomore Channing Frye, who has proven to be the most hopeless players with a lot of hope.

Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats (Gonzaga)

Whoever compared the Sasquatch to Larry Bird has obviously never seen Larry Bird play. Morrison had an incredible college career, but he has simply been unable to carry this over to the NBA. Will he be a solid contributor? No doubt. Will he be a superstar? I doubt.

His talent is unquestionable, but his athleticism is the major problem. The NBA has eliminated the edge he had on his opponents in college due to taller, longer, and quicker defenders. Morrison has failed to adapt and will, in my mind, fail to become an all-star like many felt he was destined to become. In my opinion, the best case scenario for Ammo is for him to become a slightly more creative Kyle Korver.

Tyrus Thomas, Chicago Bulls (LSU)

This young stud from LSU is filled with potential. He's a high-flyer who can execute on both ends of the court. His blocking ability is uncanny and he finds his way to the rim offensively, as well. However, he needs to work on polishing up his moves in the post, as well as adding to his range. In fact, the kid might as well change his name to Stromile Swift, because everything I've said so far is the exact same thing people said about the StroShow upon his entrance into the NBA. Need more proof of the similarities? Here's a rookie season comparison of the two:

Stromile Swift (2000-01): 16 mpg, 45% FG, 60% FT, 4.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.8 steals, 1 block, 0.8 TO.

Tyrus Thomas (2006-07): 11 mpg, 46% FG, 58% FT, 4.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 steals, 1 block, 1.3 TO.

Shelden Williams, Atlanta Hawks (Duke)

Well, at least the Hawks didn't mess up as bad this year as they did in the 2005 draft by passing on Chris Paul in favor of Marvin Williams. Shelden Williams has shown a lot of promise at moments when he's had the opportunity to play (just look at his late-December numbers if you don't believe me). However, his major problem is that he is lost in the depth-chart like many other rookies in the league.

With the Hawks wanting to play the upbeat style that is becoming the newest trend, Shelden Williams finds himself fighting for time behind the athletic duo of Josh Smith and Marvin Williams. It's only a matter of time, however, until Shelden figures out his role on the team. I believe he has the ability to be a consistent contributor if given consistent minutes — and there's no reason the Hawks can pass on that because it's exactly what they need.

Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers (Washington)

Rookie of the Year is spelled ROY, coincidence? Brandon Roy came into this season as the projected cream of the crop and he hasn't disappointed. Sure, it is a bit easier to steal the award this year compared to usual, but Brandon Roy has been spectacular nonetheless. I don't necessarily believe that he will be the best player from this group five years from now or even three, for that matter. But he is the leading candidate for the ROY honor at this moment.

He has been getting more minutes per game than any other candidate, thus vaulting his stats to higher levels than other rookies see possible. He leads the class with 15.5 ppg and add to that a combined 8.1 assists and rebounds per contest. His percentages are highly respectable (45% FG and 83% FT) and he's adding to that 1.2 steals per game. There's no reason why Roy shouldn't get the Rookie of the Year, although other rookies are getting chances later in the season with extra playing time that they never saw earlier in the year.

Randy Foye, Minnesota Timberwolves (Villanova)

When Kevin Garnett requests that the Timberwolves replace you with Troy Hudson for the starting guard position, you know you haven't produced. Garnett has put up with many lackluster starters alongside him in Minny: Michael Olowokandi, Marko Jaric, Eddie Griffin, and even Anthony Peeler (a man who would later elbow-punch Garnett in the face while playing for Sacramento).

Foye was supposed to be the T-Wolves' second or third scoring option this season; he is currently fifth on the team with 9 ppg. He has all the potential in the world, which is why he went seventh overall in the draft. It's just a matter of time until he puts his tools to use and gets that starting position back for good.

Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies (UConn)

He is the most athletic player from the 2006-07 draft (other than James White) and has the ability to become a big-time player in the future. He has a freakish 7'3" wingspan that has allowed him to combine for 1.8 steals and blocks per game.

Gay had a slow start to the season, which has held his shooting percentage to 42%, but he has improved of late. He has started the last 12 games for the Grizzlies and averaged 15.9 points, 6 rebounds, and just over a block per game. If he can improve on his shot selection, he has the potential to be "best in class" for a long time to come.

Patrick O'Bryant, Golden State Warriors (Bradley)

O'Bryant boosted his stock in the NCAA tournament last year by out-dueling Aaron Gray and carrying the Bradley Braves to the Sweet 16. However, so far this season he has only seen action in 16 games for the Warriors while averaging less than eight minutes per contest. He has been sent down to the development league for extended periods of time and simply doesn't seem to be capable of working himself into the Warriors' rotation.

With Andris Biedrins, Adonal Foyle, Al Harrington, and Josh Powell ahead of him in the PF/C rotation, it doesn't seem likely that O'Bryant will be seeing any significant playing time this year or next. But hey, who knows? It's impossible to know what the guy is made of until he's had his time to shine. For now, much like what happened at Bradley (which led to an eight-game suspension), O'Bryant is simply getting paid for work that he's not doing; and it is fine by him, I'm sure.

Mouhamed Sene, Seattle SuperSonics (Senegal)

Much like O'Bryant, Mouhamed Sene hasn't played enough in the NBA to warrant much analysis. He has played in 19 games with less than six minutes per contest. He is said to be an amazing physical specimen with a 7'8" wingspan, but is also very raw on the offensive end of the court (partly because he only started playing basketball in 2003).

At only 20 years of age, Sene has a lot of time to develop himself into the type of player the Sonics plan on him becoming. Whether or not he was worth the 10th pick in the NBA draft is another question that is impossible to answer until we see what this man is made of.

Notes on the Rest

The top 10 typically contains most of the all-star potential. However, this year the draft is more evened out than usual. There will be many key contributors out of the remaining 50 picks (and undrafted rookies) that will have an impact for years to come.

Here are a few other names to keep in mind when considering whether or not this year's draft class is a bust:

Kelenna Azubuike (Golden State – undrafted) has raised eyebrows of late, putting up almost 10 points per game while filling in for the injury-depleted Warriors. His stats will settle down as J-Rich and Baron Davis have returned, but he has proven himself capable of contributing in the future.

J.J. Redick (Orlando – 11th) was the Player of the Year in college. He has yet to make much of a contribution for the Magic and I doubt he ever will. He needs the perfect situation to contribute. Without a superstar scorer that can draw his defender away, Redick will always have difficulty making the contested shots.

Thabo Sefolosha (Chicago – 13th) had a career game versus the Warriors on February 28 in which he put up 19 points. He was highly coveted by many during the draft and is expected to be around for years to come.

Ronnie Brewer (Utah – 14th) has been out shadowed by the Jazz's second round stud, Paul Millsap (Utah – 47th), but he still should develop into a decent player. Brewer has allowed a starting spot slip through his fingers early on, but his potential is undeniable. Millsap, on the other hand, has fought for everything that has been given to him. He has earned his role on the rebuilt Utah roster and leads the rookies in both rebounds (5.2) and blocks (1.1) per game.

Rodney Carney (Philadelphia – 16th) was just starting to find his spot with the 76ers before tearing his right rotator cuff (shoulder).

Renaldo Balkman (NY – 20th) is like any other switch on the Knicks roster. When Isiah Thomas flicks on his minutes, he usually produces. When he flicks them off, he can disappear for weeks at a time.

Rajon Rondo (Boston – 21st) is a lightning-quick guard out of Kentucky that can do it all, except for hold on to the ball at times. If he can control his turnovers, he has a very bright future in the league. The Celtics just need to figure out what they're doing with the Sebastian Telfair/Delonte West/Rondo logjam at point.

Marcus Williams (NJ – 22nd) is the future of New Jersey. That might be saying too much about a first-year guard that has averaged 7.7 points and 3.1 assists so far, but the Nets said quite a bit when they considered trading Jason Kidd without getting another point guard in return.

Craig Smith (Minnesota – 36th) is leading the rookies in FG% while also showing flashes of brilliance every once in a while. He'll have trouble becoming much more than a solid contributor as he is undersized for his natural position (PF), but he has the offensive skills to go both ways in the post and the fight to overcome more skilled individuals.

James White (Indiana - 31st, signed by San Antonio) is getting a mention here whether you like it or not. If you can show me a more creative and able dunker than this man, then I'll never mention him again.

Jorge Garbajosa (Toronto – undrafted) is averaging 8.5 points and 5 rebounds a game while also heavily influencing the Raptors towards the winning ways that he was accustomed to in Europe. He is a proven winner on many levels, including the Olympics, and brings an understanding of the game that is very foreign to the rest of his rookie class.

Comments and Conversation

March 12, 2007


Redick has been a solid contributer when given the chance. He is shooting .397 from 3-point range so I think your comments may be a bit off base. If he were struggling that much to get his shot off I would expect to his percentage be a lot lower than that. He just has not gotten a ton of playing time due to missing most of camp and the first month of the season with an injury.

Gay and Aldridge both suffer from the same affliction: A lack of motivation. They both have great talent but have always struggled with consistency even at the college level.

I have always likened Morrison to Wally Szczerbiak, a guy who makes his living as a jump shooter but can beat some guys off the dribble.

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