Midway through the 2012-2013 NBA season it’s hard to determine who will be winning rookie of the year, but it’s safe to assume it’ll be either Damian Lillard, the current popular choice, or Anthony Davis, who was the favorite going into the season, but hasn’t affected his new team the way Lillard has so far done in Portland.
10 – Jonas Valančiūnas, Toronto Raptors
The Lithuanian Center hasn’t played since December, which kind of hurts his rankings. He was averaging 7.8 points (10th among rookies), 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. At the age of 20, he seems to have a brighter future as a traditional big man then what Andrea Bargnani has for this team, but doesn’t look like someone who’s a definite starter for years to come.
9 – Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics – Sullinger was on some sort of a role for the Celtics earlier in January, but has struggled remaining consistent with his scoring in the paint. He’s averaging 6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while playing 19.8 minutes a night, but he is improving and getting more chances as the season progresses, and is on the right team to become a better power forward.
8 – Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves – A pleasant surprise for the Timberwolves, who had a big hole to fill at point guard. Shved isn’t the passer or the defender a healthy Ricky Rubio is, but is a much more dangerous scorer, averaging 10.8 points and 4.6 assists per game, going through a slight regression in January after a couple of double-double games in December.
Number 7 – Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Instead of being part of a team on the rise, Waiters has to play on a Cavs team that missed Kyrie Irving for the early part of the season and lost Anderson Varejao for the entire year. They have been winning more recently, as Waiters goes through the motions with his shooting, like most rookie guards. He’s averaging 14.5 points per game but probably too much to make shots from downtown and tough 2’s.
6 – Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers – Zeller was picked 13 places behind Waiters but is doing a good job since becoming a starting player, averaging 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in January, with a few double-double games to his name. His shooting is terrible, so far making only 41.4% of his field goal attempts, but once he adds a few pounds of muscle to his upper body, things will be a bit easier for him in the paint.
5 – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats – MKG has had a few moments of all-around brilliance this season; a very smart and athletic player with an impressive all-around skill set is bound to have them, like becoming only the second player to record two 25 points, 12 rebounds game before his 20th birthday. Still, consistency isn’t a strong suit of his or his awful team (11-34, worst in the NBA), really struggling in January, going 8 consecutive games in single-digit scoring.
4 – Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
The former Florida star began his NBA career having to play without John Wall at his side, but his shooting has vastly improved in the month of January, averaging 15.1 points while making 50.8% of his three point shots. The Wizards have begun looking much more respectable although their 11-33 record is still quite embarrassing.
3 – Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – Another player who probably could have used another season of College Basketball (Uconn), but has been holding his own in the paint pretty well for the Pistons, improving as the seasons progresses and averaging 8.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in January. Drummond recorded and 18-18 game this week, and has already posted 8 double-doubles this season, proving he’ll be a force to be reckoned with along with Greg Monroe very soon.
2 – Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets – For now, Anthony Davis isn’t the next Bill Russell and isn’t the player who immediately turns the fortunes of a franchise. He missed nearly a month of basketball earlier this season, but has done well, along with his fun-to-watch team, averaging 13 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He probably isn’t aggressive enough at the moment on the offensive side of the ball, hardly getting to the line, or at least not as much as he should be.
1 – Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Portland struck gold with the number 6 pick in the draft, as Lillard immediately became on of the three players the Blazers absolutely rely on to get them into the postseason, along with Aldridge and Batum. His shooting can be inconsistent at times, but he finds ways to score even on bad days, averaging 18.1 points and 6.5 assists, both highs among rookies. After so much bad luck with high draft picks like Roy and Oden, the Blazers hope they finally made one that will last them a very long time.