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Rookie Team of the Year: Lottery Edition

Which Lottery Rookies Made Our Team of the Year?

Michael Carter-Williams

Carter-Williams became just the third player since 1951 to lead all rookies in points (16.7), rebounds (6.2) and assists (6.3) per game, and he also led all rookies in steals (1.9), and minutes (34.5) per game, and recorded two triple-doubles in 70 games. The rookie from Syracuse has all the physical gifts (height, wingspan) a point guard could ask for to complement his above average athletic ability.

He’s going to win Rookie of the Year, but I’m not convinced MCW is going to be the best player from this draft class. His per game averages, the two triples, and his performance during Philly’s fast start (particularly the debut win vs. Miami) to open the season make it nearly impossible to argue that he isn’t worthy of ROY, but going forward he’ll need to improve his decision making (3.5 turnovers per game) and shooting (40% FG, 25% 3-pt FG, 70% FT) if he’s going to be a legitimate starting point guard for a playoff or title-contending team.

Further, with no intent to demean his individual statistics for the year, the 76ers won only 19 games, and one could make the argument that MCW’s stats were inflated by Philly’s pace of play (fastest in the league) and his usage rate (25.3%, 25th highest in the NBA, higher than Chris Paul, Rondo, etc.).

If the 76ers do indeed select second overall in the draft many mocks have them selecting Duke F Jabari Parker, who would become the face of the franchise. While MCW will still get to run plenty of pick and roll in Brett Brown’s offense, learning how to shoot and become an effective floor spacer will be key to his progression as a player and for the Sixers hopes of building around him, Nerlens Noel, and this year’s draft picks. Still, his potential is evident, and his spot on the Rookie Team of the Year is unquestionable.

Victor Oladipo

Oladipo had a strange but successful rookie season for Orlando. He entered the season as the favorite to win rookie of the year, but with Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo occupying the one and two, Oladipo had to compete for his minutes and take his opportunities as they were presented.

He did end up starting 44 games and averaging 31 minutes per game in 80 games this year for the injury-plagued Magic (missed games: Nelson-14, Afflalo- 9, Vucevic-25, Harris-21), who only managed to win 23 games (3rd worst in the league).

The Magic experimented early and often this season with Oladipo at point guard (primarily played the two in college), and while he struggled with turnovers (3.2 per game), he excelled defensively, and definitely had his moments handling and distributing the ball.

Whether he sticks as a point guard or slides back over to the two, he’s a guy who who’s going to continue to improve because he works extremely hard. That he averaged 13.8 points (42% FG, 33% 3-pt FG, 78% FT) 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.5 blocks is unimportant. What spoke volumes to me was his professionalism and readiness to step up when called upon. Most people remember MCW’s debut win over Miami, but aren’t aware that Oladipo led the Magic to wins over the Pacers (prior to their collapse) and Thunder in the same weekend, had a triple double of his own (against Philly), and displayed the same knack and motor defensively he was known for as a Hoosier.

Going forward he still needs to become more a more consistent shooter and cut down on turnovers. It will be interesting to see what the Magic do this summer, but regardless of whether they move Nelson or Afflalo I like Oladipo and believe his upside and ambitions are sky high.

Trey Burke

Burke started the year on the sidelines, but still played 70 games, and ended the year with a 32 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds bang in Utah’s double overtime win against Minnesota. Burke averaged 12.8 points (38% FG, 33% 3-pt FG, 90% FT), 5.7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.9 turnovers in 32.3 minutes. The Jazz only won 25 games and the big man duo of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors failed to replicate anything close to what the Millsap-Jefferson tandem used to bring.

If the Jazz are unable to move up in the lottery it will be interesting to see who slips to them, and with Gordon Hayward set to become a restricted free agent, the future is uncertain in Utah, but they do have an intriguing young point guard in Burke who posted a 3-1 assist-turnover ratio who should continue to improve his outside shooting.

Tim Hardaway, Jr.

The Knicks season was an absolute and total disaster. It all started when they traded for Andrea Bargnani, and it all but ended when they had their late-season winning streak snapped by the lowly Lakers. And they may lose Carmelo Anthony to Chicago (or elsewhere). Phil Jackson has his work cut out for him, that’s for sure. In fact if he’s able to return the Knicks to the Promised Land his tombstone will read The Zen Master.

What they do have going forward is a guy who at the very least is an extremely solid role player and defender in Iman Shumpert, and a rangy young wing in the making in Hardaway, Jr. In his 81 games, he averaged 23.1 minutes, 10.2 points (43% FG, 36.3% 3-pt FG, 82.8% FT), 1.5 rebounds, and 0.8 assists, and it wasn’t really his fault that the Knicks season was a disappointing one.

Giannis Antetokounmpo 

“The Greek Freek” didn’t have a statistically sensational season by any stretch of the imagination, but there were so many games he impacted the game in ways that don’t show up in box scores. While he’s been compared to Paul George due to his athleticism and continued growth this late in his life (reportedly has grown another inch, now 6″11), I don’t see him having that type of potential, and see him as a multi-year project. Still, if he continues to improve over the next several years he’ll develop into a guy any team would love to have, and has all the tools to be a top-notch perimeter defender in the NBA. I considered giving the last spot to Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng, who has averaged a double-double since he started getting legitimate run in mid-March, but I couldn’t bring myself to award someone who played so sparingly for the majority of the season. While I like Dieng going forward, I can’t help but wonder what a shooting guard, small forward combo of the ultra-athletic Andrew Wiggins and Antetokounmpo might look like a few years from now.


Mason Plumlee

He struggled with foul trouble in his playoff debut this weekend and will likely see some of his minutes thrown Kevin Garnett’s way now that the postseason has begun, but that doesn’t change the fact that without Plumlee the Nets wouldn’t have climbed as high as they have in 2014. He’s never going to be a superstar, but Plumlee has been a real plus in the paint for Brooklyn, and he’s an efficient (19.09 PER, 42nd in NBA) player.

Even if he doesn’t become an All-Star or a legitimate starting center, guys who can perform well in limited minutes (7.4 points on 66% FG, 4.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks in 18.2 minutes per game) are always extremely important pieces. His in-season progression along with the re-emergence of Shaun Livingston has helped saved the Nets season, which could’ve easily turned out like the Knicks’.