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Dime’s Rookie Report: The 10 Best Freshmen In The NBA

By 01.03.12
Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker (photo. Chad Griffith)

8. Brandon Knight
Detroit should schedule Kyrie Irving 82 times a year. Brandon Knight seems to get up for him. Earlier this year, Knight dropped 23 and six against the No. 1 pick; In his four other games, he’s combined for 33 points and nine assists. While he hasn’t been spectacular at any point outside of roasting our new cover boy, Knight’s J is too smooth. When certain cats shoot, even if they hit a shot, you can tell by the way the rim rips if they really are knockdown shooters. Knight took a step-back 26-foot three late in that game against Cleveland, and once that net was ripping, I was in love with his shot.

It’s still going to take time to sort out that mess in Detroit – they have no great players to weed out the bad ones… just a bunch of guards who are all pretty equal – but Knight is proving he’s a keeper.

7. Tristan Thompson
Thompson is in the top 10 in rookie PER (18.9) but yet you haven’t even noticed him this year have you? I remember seeing Thompson play in high school in the Springfield Hoophall Classic, and a good friend of mine in the industry needed to speak with him after the game. He had watched/worked the game and still had to have me point out which cat was Thompson afterwards. For someone so versatile and athletic, and for such a personable kid with a great name (Tristan Thompson just screams All-Star doesn’t it?), he’s better at doing backup vocals than stringing a jam from the front. Even in college, at least to me, he felt like an afterthought at Texas. I was always busy watching some other team play.

All this is funny to everyone outside of Cleveland. I can’t blame them if they’re mad no one realizes Thompson is giving nine points, over four rebounds and almost two blocks a game on 64 percent shooting. Want more? If the Cavs wanted to limit their flopping for once (Andy Varejao) or if they wanted to release Antawn Jamison from basketball purgatory, and started giving Thompson 36 minutes a night, he’d probably put up lines like this: 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

6. Kemba Walker
If we’re talking rookies that I’d feel comfortable putting on a billboard, singing “Jingle Bells” on one of those awful Christmas arenas ads where everyone looks like they’d rather be doing anything other than actually celebrating Christmas, or most importantly, hitting the “F— YOU!” killer shot in the fourth quarter, I’m taking Kemba every time. He has a history of it… and he plays with a smile all the while.

Walker isn’t shooting the ball efficiently right now – just 39 percent from the floor, only 27 from three – but he’s putting up 11.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 dimes a night. Three times he’s already dropped at least 13 points. He also made Michael Jordan giggle. That definitely counts for something.

The main reason why I’m sticking Kemba above Knight for now? I know Walker is a point guard. Knight? I wasn’t completely sold in college and still have a few questions. Would you take 3.5 assists coupled with 1.3 turnovers a night? Or three assists with 2.8 turnovers? That to me is the difference between the two right now.

5. Markieff Morris
In 20 minutes a night, Morris has played like perhaps Phoenix’s best interior big man. Of course, that’s like asking which apple tastes the best in a batch of leftover rotten ones, but it’s a start. The Suns have the look of a team ready to slide off a mountain, but Morris actually has the highest PER (22.24) on the team. Better than Marcin Gortat. Better than Grant Hill. Better than even Steve Nash.

While he’s only middle of the pack in rebounding amongst frontcourt draftees, Morris is finishing inside and has hit six threes already. Still, you know it sucks to be a Suns fans right now when one of your only bright spots is a rookie coming off the bench, averaging nine and five.

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