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NBA - The Race to Rookie of the Year

By Joe Kaiser
Thursday, December 12th, 2002
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A month and a half into the NBA season, statistics indicate that it will be a six-man race for the Rookie of the Year award, barring any huge surprises. The cast of candidates includes the following: Houston center Yao Ming, Memphis forward Drew Gooden, Chicago guard Jay Williams, Denver forward Nene Hilario, Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire, and Miami forward Caron Butler.

The ROY is an award unlike many others in sports. Winning, or being on a winning team, doesn't really matter. In fact, most of the best rookies play for horrid teams who had high picks in the NBA draft prior to the season.

Let's take a look at the candidates, one by one, and determine who has the early lead for the award a quarter through the season.

Yao Ming

First off is Yao, a player who looked to be on his way to a subpar season in the first two weeks of the regular season. Since then, the lights have went on and his confidence has soared. His teammates love having a 7-6 target in the post who has soft touch anywhere around the basket. Currently, the Chinese sensation is shooting over 60% from the field, an absolutely mind-boggling figure. His upside is higher than anyone else in the class.

Yao's stats:

PPG: 11.4
RPG: 6.9
APG: 1.0
SPG: 0.3
BPG: 1.6

Drew Gooden

Next up is Drew Gooden, the fourth pick of the draft from Kansas who has immediately made a name for himself with the Memphis Grizzlies. He is a high-percentage shooter and absolutely tenacious on the glass. Playing with Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, and Stromile Swift, Memphis' future in the front court looks brighter than the sun on hot summer day. Gooden runs the floor well and is a solid defender who figures to be a fixture with the Grizzlies for years to come.

Gooden's stats:

PPG: 14.6
RPG: 6.4
APG: 1.8
SPG: 0.8
BPG: 0.7

Jay Williams

The third candidate is Jay Williams, the second pick of the draft who appears to be fitting right in to the role of starting point guard on the Chicago Bulls. Williams is tireless on the court and has the ability to make other around him better. He is the best of all the youngsters on the Bulls roster, and has shown it early in his professional career. Williams is solid in most every facet of the game except for one -- free throw shooting. But that will come with time.

William's stats:

PPG: 10.4
RPG: 3.8
APG: 5.5
SPG: 1.5
BPG: 0.2

Caron Butler

Next up is Caron Butler, the small forward for the Miami Heat out of Connecticut. Many experts projected Butler as the player in this class "most ready" for the NBA. He's proven them right so far, settling right in to Pat Riley's team with a well balanced game. Butler needs to improve his shooting, but is solid in nearly everything he does on the court. The Heat found a gem in this kid from U-Conn.

Butler's stats:

PPG: 12.2
RPG: 5.9
APG: 2.6
SPG: 1.4
BPG: 1.3

Amare Stoudemire

Two more youngsters complete this list, the first being Amare Stoudemire, who is just six months removed from his high school days in Florida. This younster has taken the NBA by storm with his amazing ability to fit right in at such a young age. His transition in the early going has been much faster than any other player who's made the jump from high school to the NBA. Stoudemire plays tall around the basket and has the potential to be the game's best rebounder. His athleticism and talent have the Suns drooling, and it's only going to get better in the years to come.

Stoudemire's stats:

PPG: 9.9
RPG: 8.2
APG: 0.8
SPG: 0.8
BPG: 1.4

Nene Hilario

Last is Nene Hilario, who came to the states from Brazil and is one of the bright young stars on the Nuggets. Nene is a very versatile player with a well-rounded game. He can score, rebound, dish, and is active on the defensive end of the court, as well. His skills are still quite raw, but his future is undeniably bright. On a Nuggets team filled with baby-faced players, this one just might be the best.

Hilario's stats:

PPG: 7.3
RPG: 5.3
APG: 1.4
SPG: 1.5
BPG: 0.8

In order to compare each rookie, what I did was take each of the five categories and number where each player ranked in each one. Then I totaled up the numbers, and the player with the smallest number came out to be the winner. Who is he? Continue reading.

Here is the breakdown:

Points per game:

1) Gooden
2) Butler
3) Yao
4) Williams
5) Stoudemire
6) Hilario

Rebounds per game:

1) Stoudemire
2) Yao
3) Gooden
4) Butler
5) Hilario
6) Williams

Assists per game:

1) Williams
2) Butler
3) Hilario
4) Gooden
5) Yao
6) Stoudemire

Steals per game:

1) Williams (tie)
1) Hilario (tie)
3) Butler
4) Gooden
5) Stoudemire
6) Yao

Blocks per game:

1) Yao
2) Stoudemire
3) Butler
4) Hilario
5) Gooden
6) Williams

Here are the totals for each player:

1) Butler (14)
2) Yao (17)
3) Gooden (17)
4) Williams (18)
5) Stoudemire (19)
6) Hilario (19)

So there you have it, the rookie roundup. The statistics show that Miami's Caron Butler is the most well-rounded rookie, and through one-fourth of the NBA season, he has my vote as Rookie of the Year.

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