Rookie Success In The NBA

In the realm of professional sports, the NBA is thriving. It is on the rise in popularity, and in 2018 it is arguably the most coveted american sport. The league has evolved in the 21st century. From the addition of sponsorship on uniforms, the prominence of the three point shot, increased skill of players, and the idea that the athletes themselves now have a greater voice thanks to social media. With all that being said you may be thinking to yourself, what is the biggest change in the NBA? Well, here’s my take. The impact rookies can have on the game is now greater than ever.

There is a new era in the NBA, say goodbye to the Detroit Pistons “bad boys” initiating the “Jordan rules” to keep Michael Jordan from having an impact in the playoffs. Those days are long gone. Rule changes have played a big factor on the game. 

Remodeling The NBA

The hand check rule was key to the development of basketball. In the present day, the game is based more on pure athleticism then physicality. When a rookie with premiere athletic ability can run around nearly untouched it makes it easier for them to have success against the stronger, seasoned vets of the NBA. 

The creation of a defensive three second rule has made defense a lot harder in the NBA. After the rule change, players could play with more open space without having to worry as much about a big standing at the rim ready to whack them at any given moment. This has changed offensive play. It is easier to drive to the basket, drawing multiple defenders which frees up teammates who can hit three point shots at a high percentage.

The best analogy for this rule would be a running game in football, if you can run the ball at will then the opposing team will focus on defending the run subsequently making it easier to throw the ball right over the defense.

The flagrant foul discourages heavy contact between players, this rule makes them think twice while playing defense. The objective of the rule is to diminish the likelihood of injury and to keep the stars on the court. The more stars the better for the NBA, when they play, the league gets a lot of exposure and more importantly a large stream of revenue.

When discussing the availability of stars, the rule can be a double-edged sword. While the players chances of injury have lessened, the chances of them being suspended due to the number of flagrant fouls they commit has increased. Some players are not pleased.

Let’s say you are an NBA rookie, in today’s game you have the opportunity to jump in and make an immediate impact. The stats don’t lie.

Impactful Rookies of The Past Decade

  • Kevin Durant – KD was selected 2nd overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder formally known as the Seattle SuperSonics. He managed to put up gaudy numbers, averaging 20.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, shooting 43% from the field, and an impressive 87.3% from the free throw line. No surprise here, Durant was the rookie of the year.
  • Derrick Rose – The 1st overall pick of his hometown Chicago Bulls, D-Rose won the 2008 rookie of the year and deservedly so. He amassed 16.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.9 RPG, while shooting 47.5% from the field. *In 2010 he became the youngest MVP award winner in NBA history at the age of 22.*
  • Tyreke Evans – Called by the nickname of “Reke Havoc” by some, Tyreke Evans was drafted 4th overall by the Sacramento Kings in 2009. In that rookie season, he played his best season of his 10 year career. Scoring 20.1 PPG, 5.8 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, and being very efficient from the field at 45.8%. He really “Reked Havoc” on his way to winning the rookie of the year award.
  • Steph Curry – Chef Curry was practically stolen by the Golden State Warriors at the 7th spot in 2009. In Steph’s rookie year, his numbers didn’t foreshadow what he would become as a pro but he was still his usual, exciting self. With 17.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 46.2 FG%, 43.7 3PT%, and 88.5 FT%. Steph did it all in 2009 and he’s managed to live up to the hype throughout his 10 year career.
  • Blake Griffin – An above average athlete from the University of Oklahoma, Griffin was selected first overall in the 2009 Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers but didn’t end up playing until 2010 due to injury. Once he stepped on the court, he made it known he was there to stay. He showed out with 22.5 PPG and 12.1 RPG while shooting 50.6 FG%. He is one of only four players to average a double-double in a rookie season. (Emeka Okafor, Dwight Howard, and Karl Anthony Towns).
  • Kyrie Irving – There are a lot of expectations when you are the first overall pick, especially when your team was as lowly as the Cleveland Cavaliers were prior to 2011, post LeBron era. Uncle Drew came through in a big way, averaging 18.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.7 RPG while also being an efficient scorer from the field at 46.9% and 39.9% from behind the arc. Good enough to land him with rookie of the year honors.
  • Anthony Davis –  The Brow was taken first overall by the New Orleans Hornets, presently the Pelicans, in 2012. The transition to the NBA game was no issue for AD as he put up 13.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG and shot 51.6 FG%.
  • Damian Lillard – Big Game Dame made an impact immediately in his rookie season. After being drafted 6th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012, he made their pick worth while with 19.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, and he played all 82 games averaging 38.6 minutes per. His effectiveness as a scorer earned him the rookie of the year award.
  • Michael Carter-WIlliams – MCW was selected 11th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013. His 16.7 PPG, 6.3 APG, 6.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG and 40.5 FG% proved he is an all-around player and led to the rookie of the year award.
  • Karl Anthony-Towns – KAT was selected first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2015. He had a monstrous rookie year with 18.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 BPG, 54.2 FG% and went through all 82 games without a problem. He easily earned rookie of the year.

The Year Of The Rookie

In 2017 the young talent of the NBA really stood out more than ever before. With the likes of Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and many more showing out. The trio all played out of their minds and battled all year-long for the right to be called rookie of the year.

Ben Simmons – 15.8 PPG, 8.2 APG, 8.1 RPG, 1.7 SPG, and a 54.5 FG%.

Jayson Tatum – 13.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 SPG and a 47.5 FG%.

Donovan Mitchell – 20.5 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG and a 43.7 FG%.

All three had valid cases to win rookie of the year although it ended up going to Ben Simmons. People argued it should have gone to Donovan Mitchell because Ben Simmons was technically in his second year even when he didn’t play a game in his first season.

The rookies in the NBA are now more athletic and skilled than any other generation of ballers prior, and with the league becoming less and less physical they have a greater opportunity to succeed. Just look at how many triple-doubles there are in the current NBA. The increase in triple-dubs can be directly correlated to how fast paced and soft the league has become. With that being said, don’t be surprised to see the success of rookies increase year in and year out due to how much the game has evolved in just the last decade alone.


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