With about a month and a half behind us in the 2010-2011 NBA season, it’s time to check in on the best rookies from 2009-2010 and see how they’re handling the pressures of being an NBA sophomore.
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Evans’ rookie season was a dream, at least personally – winning rookie of the year while averaging 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists, only the fourth rookie in NBA history with the 20-5-5 stat line. Sacramento won 25 games last year and seemed headed for more improvement with the young and talented group. Not happening, with a 5-15 record so far, a head coach that has no idea who to play and owners who seem intent on moving the team. And Evans? His numbers have dropped to 17.1, 4.7 and 5.4 assists, but most importantly his shooting and shot selection have gone terribly bad, with 39.7% from the field this season. They did win their first game after 8 straight losses last night, but Evans wasn’t a big factor. Derrick Rose last year didn’t have a great start and then took off in December and onwards. Same fate for Evans? Doesn’t seem likely in the current situation.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
A lot of people thought Curry deserved to be ROY last season, finishing behind Evans in the voting. This year, Curry seems to be the best of the second years. Half of probably the funnest back-court duo to watch in the NBA, Curry is averaging 20.1 points and 5.6 assists, shooting 49% from the field. The Warriors are a bit disappointing, especially with their terrible road record (3-10) but the Curry-Ellis combo, in better relations than last year so it seems, is a reason to watch the Warriors every night.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Like Curry, Jennings is having a good start to his second season in the NBA, scoring 18.5 points per game (3 more than last season and averaging 5.4 assists. His shot selection is still awful, improving from last season’s 37.1% to 39.3%, but the guy takes 16 shots a game, way too much. Like Curry, his team in underachieving. The Bucks, winning 46 games last year and were looking like a long shot contender for the East in the pre-season are 8-13, battling injuries, bad team chemistry and no real on and off court leader. It’s still early in the season, but Skiles has his hands full up north.
Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers
Were there only rookie point guards last year? Collison enjoyed more playing time last year than he earlier expected with Chris Paul going down for half a season. He got traded along with James Posey to Indiana, facing a point guard spot battle with T.J. Ford, which he is so far winning. He missed a few games due to injury, but has started in every game he has played, improving to 14.1 points per game while his assist numbers went down. Collison and the Pacers are enjoying a nice start (10-10) to the season with Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger leading Indiana to what just might be their return to the playoffs year.
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
The rather old (25) two year veteran is pretty much in the same place he was last year – same minutes, and pretty much the same numbers, but more expectations on this Bulls team to make a run for the East’s top spot. He’s averaging 10.6 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game, a bit up in the point department and a bit down in rebounding. Solid, all round, nothing flashy. He’ll probably never be much more, but he’s here to stay for a long time. Great guy to have coming off your bench for about 20-25 minutes a night.
Marcus Thornto, New Orleans Hornets
The biggest drop this year so far. From 25.6 minutes a night last year he’s fallen to 13. From 14.5 points per game he’s averaging only 5.4. It’s not just injuries that are keeping Marcus Thornton back this year. He’s struggling to get himself back as THE guy to come off the bench, losing his position in the rotation. From being ranked 7th last year in efficiency among rookies, he’s 31st so far in 2010-2011. The crowd loves him in New Orleans, but he’s heading down a road right now that can end up with him playing basketball in the Euroleague.