Dime’s Rookie Report: The 10 Best Freshmen In The NBA, Vol. IV

By: 03.19.12
Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving (photo. D.L. Anderson)

Vol. III: unranked
I’ve loved watching Faried play since writing about him last year at Morehead State, when his game tapes from the Ohio Valley Conference could have been sold after each game as rebounding clinic DVDs. In the pros he’s shown the efficiency of a Toyota Prius with the motor of a hot rod. He works best when given burn in shorter bursts, but statistically, he’s possibly the most valuable person on the floor when he’s out there.

According to John Hollinger of ESPN.com, Faried has the ninth-highest PER of any player at 23.64 (the league average is at 15). Needless to say he owns the highest of any rookie with nine points and a rookie-best 7.3 board average. And doesn’t every coach tell his rookie, don’t f*#$ up? Well George Karl must love this: Faried’s turnover percentage ranks 63rd lowest out of 73 rookies. Plays hard, boards harder, barely turns it over, if he was asked to bring your concessions to your courtside seat, he’d do that too.

Vol. III: No. 5
Once the domain of Ricky Rubio, the No. 2 spot is again headed by a guard, and this time it’s also from up north. Unlike Rubio, Knight plays on a team you don’t want to watch and that’s going to overrate any “sleeper talk about him.” He’s been having big nights all season, it’s just few are watching as he gets 3.7 assists (fourth among rookies), 12.5 points (third among rookies) and 3.3 boards.

What stands out is that he’s been so productive playing alongside Rodney Stuckey, a good player who nonetheless needs to be holding the ball to be as effective as possible. There was offseason turmoil brewing with Stuckey’s contract in December but the Pistons ultimately stuck with him. If Knight had been a year into the league doing things like Wednesday — 10 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, zero turnovers — I’m not sure Detroit goes the same direction.

Vol. III: No. 1
The No. 1 pick’s play is stunning. The second-best rookie PER, the best rookie points per game at 18.6, second-best rookie assists at 5.6 (now best among current players with Rubio’s absence for the rest of the year) and his estimated wins added (6.2) actually doubles the second-best rookie. Consider that he’s doing this while being given really the only green light (and the heaviest expectations) of any peer in his draft class this season, and it cuts to the heart of the matter: In a league now run by guards, Irving is the latest greatest.

You can’t say all that without giving a nod to his turnovers, including his seven while dropping 28 on Milwaukee last Wednesday. I’d go back to what the consensus was with arguing away Jeremy Lin‘s turnover stats, which is playmakers need to be given the freedom to make mistakes. That’s not the same thing as not caring about his errors, but both Derrick Rose (2.5 TO’s per game) and Chris Paul (2.5) as rookies were in the same position. They will go down as the highlights go up, and wins will follow.

Did I get this list right?

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