I tell people all the time that I didn’t really pay much attention to college basketball last year. March Madness killed me. I hadn’t watched most teams play for longer than one half during the season, and for once I felt like one of those office chicks who were too stupid basketball-wise to do anything other than guess on colors and mascots and hope for the best. Some of it was work – the NBA took up all of my time. But most of it came down to one thing: I didn’t care about that draft class.
Let’s be honest, the NBA Draft might be the best night of the whole year. But this summer, it sucked because the group of players sucked. Sorry, it’s true, at least compared to next year. Comparing the 2011 NBA Draft Class with 2012 will be the difference between real Mexican food and that trash at Taco Bell.
I don’t want to bash anyone too much. In fact, there’s already been a few times this year where rookies have stepped up, probably none more memorable than Norris Cole swagger-jacking all of New England on national TV. And while I think players like Derrick Williams (definitely) and Jimmer Fredette (possibly) could become big-time soon, as of right now they don’t even make this list.
Hopefully, I’ll find the devotion to keep this thing up weekly throughout the season. For now, here’s our first rookie report on the top 10 freshmen in the NBA this season.
10. Greg Stiemsma
Who? Yeah, that’s what I said the first time I saw the George Christopher dude from Bored to Death rocking the green. Maybe part of the reason he doesn’t play like a rookie is because he’s 26 years old. The old man fits in perfectly in Boston for obvious reasons outside of his skin color. Last night, I watched him take out Rashard Lewis like a bowling ball on one of the first possessions of the game. It pissed Flip Saunders out so much the ol’ ball coach got tossed because of it.
Stiemsma isn’t the best rookie, but he has the best story. As ESPN Boston writes, when the big man passed up an open shot in practice in Boston, Doc Rivers stopped the scrimmage, and made him repeat the phrase “”My name is Greg Stiemsma and I’m a shooter” over and over again to his laughing teammates.
As perhaps the best defensive big man in this rookie class (That’s not a joke), if Stiemsma keeps dropping 13/7/2 lines like he did in his first career start last night, he won’t be unknown for long.
9. Kawhi Leonard
You could talk me into putting Jeremy Pargo here, but I’d rather not reward the Grizzlies for turning into a limping version of Winnie the Pooh, because in the third quarter of their destruction in Chicago, I felt like I was watching a D-League team with a very up-and-down Pargo holding the keys. That performance from Memphis was so bad, I wouldn’t have been surprised if even Chicago fans left.
Leonard is averaging 5.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in barely 18 minutes a night, and while he’s probably registered as a blip on maybe two percent of all fantasy leagues out there, the dude has quietly been decent during his time on the floor. With gigantic hands and a massive wingspan, Leonard could outrebound Chewbacca. His rebound rate is third among all rookies, and quite honestly, he might turn out to be the best rebounder amongst this entire rookie class. Popovich, give him more minutes…