NBA Midseason Rookie Awards

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David Thorpe of Scouts, Inc. is a genius. He scouts the game as well as anyone, and certainly has more experience than anyone on The Rookie Wall staff when it comes to analyzing the game. Recently he handed out his midseason awards to the 2010 draft class. Let us start by saying, for the most part we agree with Thorpe. However, there are things we disagree with. Obviously the awards are subjective, so take our opinions for what they’re worth.

Most Outstanding Rookie
Our Pick: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

There is zero question that Griffin is the best rookie at the midpoint of the season. He’s a contender for the All-Star team in a year where the West is incredibly deep in the front-court and statistically some are saying Blake is having the best rookie season ever. While we wouldn’t go quite that far, he picks this award up in a land slide.

Best Prospect
Our Pick: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
Thorpe’s Pick: John Wall, Washington Wizards

Ok, this is more due to our definition of “prospect” than our opinion of Wall. A prospect is someone with a much higher ceiling than where he is playing right now. For Wall, he’s already playing at a high level, and while he may one day be a top point guard in the league, it won’t take too much improvement for him to get there. If we’re calling Wall a prospect, why wouldn’t Thorpe give this award to Griffin too?

The contrast to that is Larry Sanders. Sanders has been getting his minutes jerked around, but when he’s on the floor always seems to be making a positive contribution. We can see Sanders as the type of power forward you can build a team around in the future. Considering where he is now, that makes him a better “prospect” than Wall.

Most Surprising Rookie
Our Pick: Eugene “Pooh” Jeter, Sacramento Kings
Thorpe’s Pick: Landry Fields, New York Knicks

Again, Fields has been wonderful for the Knicks, but doesn’t strike us as “surprising.” The uptempo pace the Knicks play, and the disregard of any requirement to play defense, lets most players put up some pretty gaudy stats. Add to that the skill set Fields has, and it isn’t exactly a surprise he’s contributing.

Contrast that with Pooh Jeter of the Kings. Jeter wasn’t drafted out of college, played for a variety of teams overseas, and now is essentially the backup point guard for an NBA team. If you would have asked before the season, “Who will have a better rookie season, Landry Fields or Pooh Jeter?” you would have heard people asking who Pooh was. Now he’s playing nearly every game and taking care of the ball like a vet, despite it being his first stint in the NBA.

Most Disappointing Rookie
Our Pick: Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs
Thorpe’s Pick: Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers

Some had both Tiago Splitter and Evan Turner as a top five Rookie of the Year candidate coming into the season. Now neither is being asked about the award, unless they happen to be playing the Clippers. Both have obviously been disappointing, but we give the nod to Splitter because he was supposed to be NBA ready from day one.

Best Defender
Our Pick: Omer Asik, Chicago Bulls
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

We’ll defer to Thorpe’s keen scouting eye here. Other rookies are blocking more shots (Larry Sanders, Ed Davis, and Ekpe Udoh), but apparently Asik is defending more consistently than any of those listed.

Best Passer
Our Pick: John Wall, Washington Wizards
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

Here is an award we can give to Wall without any hesitation. The class was much deeper on the front line, so being the best point guard was Wall’s to lose from day one. Then, consider that he’s averaging more than double the assists per game as his former teammate Eric Bledose. Obviously the best passer award is all Wall’s.

Best Dunker
Our Pick: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

Griffin forced us to design a custom Dunk-O-Meter to keep track of his dunks this season. If that isn’t enough, please check this out: Griffin’s Top Dunks.

Best Shooter
Our Pick: James Anderson, San Antonio Spurs
Thorpe’s Pick: Gary Neal, San Antonio Spurs

After Anderson’s first six games, he was shooting 50% from behind the arc. Obviously that number will come down, but it will probably settle higher than 38.7% when it is all said and done. The reasons that Thorpe gave for Neal applies to Anderson. He’ll have a ton of open shots, and has shown so far he’s knocked them down.

Best Scorer
Our Pick: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Lakers
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

Another easy win for Griffin.

Most Improved Rookie
Our Pick: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Thorpe’s Pick: Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons

Paul George was getting inactives and DNPs every game early in the season. In January he’s appeared in 11 games and averaged over 16 minutes per game. Beyond just getting more playing time, he’s had games where he’s looked like the player that had scouts drooling in individual workouts. The best example was his 17 points, on seven of ten shooting, in 27 minutes against the Nuggets on January 23rd.

Biggest Beast
Our Pick: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

I think that Thorpe just wanted to type the words “Blake Griffin” as much as possible in the column.

Most Confident
Our Pick: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Thorpe’s Pick: Landry Fields, New York Knicks

In our mind you have to be confident to verbally spar with your coach, and word is Cousins has had no problem doing that in Sacramento. If that doesn’t sell it, he was confident enough to make choking gestures to the Warriors in one of the Kings few wins this season. For those reasons, Cousins is certainly the most confident rookie in our eyes.

Likely Last Rookie Standing
Our Pick: Avery Bradley, Semih Erden, and Luke Harangody, Boston Celtics
Thorpe’s Pick: James Anderson, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs

Basically, we think that the Lakers are playing the Celtics in the Finals. Because of that the trio of Celtics’ rookies make it beyond the trio of Spurs’ rookies.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Our Pick: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

When Thorpe makes an award that really can only have one winner, you got to agree with him.

Best Recovery from Injury
Our Pick: Ed Davis, Toronto Raptors
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

Davis has been solid for the Raptors since returning from injury. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a few other rookies rally back from early injuries, especially: James Anderson, Patrick Patterson, and Ekpe Udoh.

Best Trade Bait
Our Pick: Derrick Favors, New Jersey Nets
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

Again, a category to talk specifically about Derrick Favors. And, again, we’ll agree.

Best Combination of Rookies
Our Pick: Los Angeles Clippers
Thorpe’s Pick: Same

Yup, again Thorpe nailed it. Griffin is head and shoulders above the rest of his class. Add Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe to the list and you’ve got the best group of rookies in the class.

Best Grinder
Our Pick: Luke Harangody, Boston Celtics
Thorpe’s Pick: Gary Forbes, Denver Nuggets

Not entirely sure what “grinder” means, but to us Harangody does the best with the least, so he gets the award from us.