Andrew Wiggins And Jordan Clarkson Highlight The All-Rookie First Team

The rookie class of 2014-2015 didn’t live up to the immense hype that accompanied it for so many months before last June’s draft. Even if this season’s crop of first-year players hadn’t been ravaged by injuries, that likely still would have been the case. Modern rookies, frankly, are ill-equipped to make a consistent impact during their professional debut befitting their long-term potential.

But the lengthy absences of lottery picks Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh and Doug McDermott certainly contributed to the feeling that this group is underwhelmed. Joel Embiid and Julius Randle combined for 14 minutes of play in a single game, too.

Don’t let the overarching national narrative fool you, though. The rookie class was solid at the very least, and has a chance to become one of the best in recent memory as the league finishes this decade and embarks on the next one. It’s the former notion, unsurprisingly, that is most reflected in the 2014-2015 All-Rookie Teams.

Rookie of the Year winner Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves headlines the First Team, receiving the maximum amount of first-place votes from 130 balloters across North America. The Chicago Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic, Philadelphia 76ers’ Nerlens Noel, Orlando Magic’s Elfrid Payton, and Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson round out the First Team honorees.

The Second Team comprises the Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart, Timberwolves’ Zach Lavine, Brooklyn Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic, Denver Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkic, and New York Knicks’ Langston Galloway.

Voting tallies of the selected players are below.

The separation between Clarkson and the initial four First-Team members is warranted. That quartet stood headand shoulders above their peers this season from the standpoints of  consistency and peak performance. Mirotic, Noel and Payton placed second, third and fourth, respectively, behind Wiggins for Rookie of the Year, and the point totals here further support their superiority.

It’s Clarkson’s selection that will ruffle feathers – while elating millions of purple-and-gold clad fans across the country, of course. The 46th pick of the draft emerged as Los Angeles’ lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal season upon being named a starter in late January. Exhibiting keen pick-and-roll understanding as a scorer and playmaker and explosive athleticism around the basket, Clarkson averaged 15.8 points and five assists per game as a starter with an acceptable true shooting percentage of 53.3.

The Missouri product’s issues came on the other end of the floor, which is exactly where the biggest perceived “snub,” Smart, made his biggest impact. The inevitable frustration of Boston fans isn’t entirely unjustified, either. Smart was the best perimeter defender among rookies this season, flashed a surprisingly accurate jumper from long-range in December and January, and was a consistent fixture of Brad Stevens’ rotation when healthy. His debut campaign was very promising.

But numbers and highlights rule the day for postseason honors of a more granular nature, and Clarkson simply compiled more of each. Had his appointment as a starter come one month later, perhaps the sample size used for evaluation wouldn’t have been enough for him to surpass Smart in the rookie pecking order. As it is, though, the discrepancy in playing time between the Celtics and Lakers guards simply isn’t big enough to rationalize a different conclusion.

We agree with these teams for the most part. Our lone quibble is that Rodney Hood of the Utah Jazz wasn’t awarded a Second-Team slot. The lefty sharpshooter came on like gangbusters for Quin Snyder over the last two months of the season, helping the Jazz to a post All-Star record of 19-10 with floor-spacing and surprising off-dribble effect.

The reason for his omission, though, is obvious: Hood played only 50 games compared to Bogdanovic’s 78, and they were spread out over the full calendar as opposed to Galloway’s 45 consecutive appearances once he was called-up from the D-League. It bears mentioning that Hood was first among other players receiving votes, too.

Congratulations to the 2014-2015 All-Rookie selections! Maybe even more promising for this class going forward than them, though? The players who missed out on the honor due to injury, a true testament to the overall strength of the league’s latest batch of players.

(Via Gary Kester)