NBA Rookies Report: Who's on the Rise?
Generally speaking, last year’s crop of NBA rookies was pretty average across the board.
This season, however, expectations were considerably higher since you have Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins,, Nerlens Noel, and Julius Randle, among others, coming into the league. As we are now a little bit over half way through the season, it’s a good time to take a look and see how these guys are adjusting to the NBA.
As we already know, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker, unfortunately, suffered season-ending injuries. Parker was having a strong start to the season through 25 games with averages of 12.3 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, and 1.7 assists per game. However, other players have shows tremendous promise this year as well including Andrew Wiggins, Elfrid Payton, Joe Ingles (who?), and Langston Galloway (double who?). Therefore, without further ado, we dive into rookies on the rise as the post All-Star game second half of the season approaches.
Rookies on the Rise
Andrew Wiggins (nERD: -8.2, nF Efficiency: -2.4)
With the season-ending injury to Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins is pretty much on cruise control at this point in terms of winning the Rookie of the Year award. His gross numbers are pretty good for a rookie, as he’s averaging 15.3 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 1.8 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game. Even his shooting numbers are not bad for an NBA player in his first year: 42.8 percent from the field, 36.7 percent from three point land, and 73.0 percent from the charity stripe. His free throw percentage isn't impressive, though, considering he is a perimeter player.
A real concern with respect to Wiggins relates to his -8.2 nERD, which means a league average team would lose about eight games with him as a starter over the course of a season. The league average nERD for a player is zero -- although, to be fair, none of the rookies discussed in this article have a positive nERD. However, there were some very positive results on the court during the month of January for Wiggins.
Through 17 games, Wiggins averaged 19.8 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 1.4 steals per game. In addition, he raised his shooting percentages during the month, shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 79.0 percent from the free throw line. Although the Timberwolves are now getting some people back who had been injured (Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Nikola Pekovic), which will likely reduce Wiggins' impact and usage rate, he should be able to finish out the year and keep a lock on the Rookie of the Year award.
Nerlens Noel (nERD: -5.5, nF Efficiency: -1.9)
Overall, Nerlens Noel has not really taken off for the 76ers yet. He does have some pretty impressive steal and block numbers on a per-game basis, but overall, he looks like he needs some serious physical development. In 46 games this year, Noel is averaging 8.1 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 1.6 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game and 1.7 blocks per game. He’s shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 53.9 percent from the free throw line. Clearly, there is a lot of room for improvement, but he seems on the right track to play the whole season and continue to grow into his body. There are definitely some more highlight reel blocks coming during the rest of the season.
It’s rare for someone of Noel’s size to average over 1.6 steals per game and 1.7 blocks per game. In fact, if Noel were to keep up 1.5 steals and blocks per game, it would be just the 34th time in history that a player 6'10" or taller averaged those marks for a season. One person who was able to put up similar numbers as a rookie is none other than Anthony Davis, the Brow! Even more interesting to me is that these two players are only one year apart in age. Davis is going to be 23 this year and Noel will be 22. There is clearly a much larger gap in their talents at this time on the playing floor, but it will be interesting to see if Noel can close it as he develops.
Elfrid Payton (nERD: -7.3, nF Efficiency: -2.5)
Elfrid Payton is a player who has really seemed to find a comfort zone during the first 50 or so games of this NBA season. At the beginning of the year, he looked overmatched, and his numbers reflected that as he was shooting approximately 40% from the field and under 50% from the free throw line. However, in January, Payton started to play much better, shooting 45.2% from the field and 67.5% from the free throw line. In addition, he averaged, over 15 games in January, 10.7 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, 6.9 assists per game, and 1.9 steals per game while playing almost 33 minutes per game. The Magic are by no means a good team (they rank 27th in team nERD), but Payton seems like a solid building block who can complement Victor Oladipo very nicely and should be fun to watch the rest of the way.
Joe Ingles (nERD: -3.3, nF Efficiency: -1.7)
It seems fair to say that nobody really knew much about Joe Ingles when this season started. Even a diehard hoops fan will have difficulty really following a player whose career has meandered through Australia, Spain, Israel, and a couple of NBA summer camps and is now an NBA rookie at the ripe old age of 27. On top of that, Ingles' first season statistics are nothing to write home about, as he’s averaging 4.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Yet, with the injury to Rodney Hood and Alec Burks' being out all year, Ingles has been given a chance to start recently. He’s now started 16 games over the past month, and you can see a glimmer of his overall ability. Ingles has averaged almost 28 minutes per game along with 6.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 4.0 assists per game and 1.5 steals per game. Those are pretty solid numbers for someone that is clearly not the first, second or third option on offense for the Jazz.
The Jazz may not be very good as a team, but they certainly are a young and exciting team. The ages for the core starting five on that team range between 22 and 24 (Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter). In addition, there is another rookie, Dante Exum (who is all of 19 years old), who has been starting at point guard for the Jazz over the past few weeks. Overall, he’s started eight games for the Jazz and had pretty poor results. As a starter, he’s averaging 5.9 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists per game with a bad shooting percentage from the field, 31.5%, and no ability to get to the free throw line. Exum is a big talented point guard, but it’s clear that much work needs to be done.
Langston Galloway (nERD: -1.3, nF Efficiency: -1.6)
Langston Galloway (just 23 years old and having played for the New York Knicks' D-League affiliate most of the year) appears to be everyone’s favorite player of the moment in New York. Over just 12 games, he’s managed to capture people’s imagination (Jeremy Lin anyone?) and put up decent numbers while averaging almost 30 minutes per game. Galloway is averaging 11.3 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 3.1 assists per game. With the possibility of a Jose Calderon trade, Galloway could see himself with an opportunity to play out the season as the Knicks starting point guard.