They fetched donuts, they rode the pine at times and they got their feet wet. Now members of last year’s rookie class are ready to contribute. Of course we know that this year, Derrick Rose will continue his rise to that Deron Williams/Chris Paul point guard status and O.J. Mayo will build on his sensational rookie campaign. But there are several sophomores who have flown under the radar that you might need to start keeping tabs on. Here’s my five.
1. Ryan Anderson (Magic): This name is starting to ring bells for anybody who has read a basketball blog or checked an NBA box score in the past month. Initially thought of as a “throw in” in the Vince Carter trade, this second-year, Keith Van Horn clone is trying to build on his quiet but solid rookie year where he averaged 7.4 ppg and 4.7 rpg with the Nets. He had an impressive preseason, averaging 14 ppg. I expect him to be the x-factor to the Magic’s success in the season and more importantly, the playoffs.
2. Danilo Gallinari (Knicks): Talking to a lot of New Yorkers, a lot of people were baffled when Donnie Walsh used the sixth pick of the 2008 NBA Draft on this unknown international product. It certainly didn’t help when he was forced shut it down for most of last year due to a back injury. At the end of last season and during the preseason, The Rooster has shown flashes of game. Gallinari can really stroke the three and has underrated ball handling and passing skills.
3. DeAndre Jordan (Clippers): If this athletic big man continues to develop and reaches his potential, he could be one of the better centers in the league in a few years. DeAndre showed last year, that he can put up big numbers in limited minutes. In the preseason, he had a 22 and 10 outing against the Warriors in just 25 minutes and a 16 and 9 performance against the Hornets. Minutes will be hard to come by if all of L.A.’s big men are healthy. But given their history (Kaman and Camby), Jordan might get some quality burn, and if he does watch out.
4. Jason Thompson (Kings): Because he played at a small school and is now buried in the league’s least marketable city, very few people are aware Jason Thompson exists. But this skilled big, has some game. He put up 11 points and 7.4 boards per contest in his rookie season. With Sacramento’s talented young core, he will be better this season and will definitely be talked about force in this league in a few years.
5. Brook Lopez (Nets): I’m not going to lie, when I used to see Brook and Robin Lopez, all I could think of were the Collins twins. Because they were twins and went to Stanford, I just saw them as the second coming of Jarron and Jason (no disrespect). I couldn’t have been any more wrong. Brook is a potential all-star someday and he proved on opening night why: 27 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks against the Timberwolves. If he keeps this up, we might see him in an all-star game a lot sooner than later.
What other sophomore will have a big ’09-10 season?
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