With the playoffs only a few weeks away, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver handed out grades to the league’s first round rookies on their performance this season. How did UK’s rookies fare? Let’s take a look:
1. Anthony Davis, Hornets: A-
13.2 PPG, 8 RPG, 1 APG, 1.8 BPG, 1.1 SPG in 56 games
Here’s a simple question for those expressing disappointment about Davis’ rookie campaign, which has included injury setbacks and, perhaps, more modest numbers than many expected: Does he really look like anything other than a superstar in the making? Davis, who just turned 20, possesses a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 21.6 (the league average is 15), tops among rookie starters and second only to Pistons reserve center Andre Drummond’s 22.4 for first-year players. Even though he will likely be filling out his frame for the next half-decade, Davis has performed very well around the rim, taking almost 50 percent of his shots there and finishing 70.6 percent of them. His length, which made a mockery of the NCAA last year, has translated well to the pro game and it’s especially effective when he’s on the move, either cutting baseline or heading toward the hoop after setting a high screen. Staying with a player that mobile and long is essentially impossible for a solid chunk of NBA defenders.
His defensive impact is already being felt and will only become more noticeable as the Hornets improve and as his overall strength increases. Opponents have found success posting him up, but he’s far from the typical rookie big man who is susceptible to being picked on.
Overall, Davis would earn a solid “A” if not for his absences from the lineup. Again, this boils down to expectations. Franchise players over the last 10 years or so have evolved to a freakish level of durability. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and others have all played a vast, vast majority of their team’s games since achieving recognition as a key contributor. The standard for greatness is a high bar, but it’s the only measure that makes sense for a player with Davis’ gifts.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats: B
8.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1 BPG in 67 games
Kidd-Gilchrist is half-pedestrian, half-amazing. Few players are so ineffective offensively and yet so widely respected. He is essentially only a credible threat to score when in transition, but all 30 general managers would kill to have the chance to enjoy the fruits of his growth. That’s the paradox created by a 19-year-old forward with nice size, strength, quickness, length and the top motor in his class. It’s not a stretch to say that he is the prototype for a modern elite defender.
Now, about the offense. He treats the three-point line as if it’s off limits – he’s shot just nine threes all season – and he’s yet to find an area of real strength, other than dunking, as he struggles in the post, in pick-and-roll situations and as a spot-up shooter. His poor marksmanship is exacerbated by the fact that he’s not really a threat to distribute off the dribble. His mission for next season is to find a way – any way – to force defenses to respect him. Big picture, the fact that Kidd-Gilchrist is half-amazing makes him a full half more amazing than just about everyone else on the Bobcats’ roster. This is the last guy in Charlotte you need to fret about, even if he has a long way to go.
Golliver also grades Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague, which you can see by clicking the link below. Go ahead, it’s fun. He gives Austin Rivers an F.