Forget Rookie Of The Year, Here Are The Real Freshman Awards

The ability to progress forward or move backward; the chess rook and the NBA rook both follow a similar path. With the regular season nearing its end, teams are either gearing up for the playoffs, fighting to get in or prepping for the NBA Draft. With that said, now may be as good a time as ever for teams to take stock on their first-year experiments and weigh-in on their overall impact. Although the Rookie of the Year is all but wrapped up for Blake Griffin, I decided to bestow some unconventional awards on rookies who – like the aforementioned chess piece – either made strides forward or submitted to retreat this season.

Not Fitting-In Award
As the No. 2 overall pick, Evan Turner is not exactly living up to expectations. Though the Sixers are surprising everybody with their stellar play of late – especially with that big win over Chicago a couple nights ago – Turner is struggling to get minutes and is seemingly lost in translation. Philly is loaded with solid perimeter/wing players, but need a guy who can spread the floor and shoot a decent percentage from three; Evan Turner is not that guy. But I do think it’s definitely too early to designate him a bust. He has the ability to create for himself off the dribble, plays good D and can rebound well for his position. Maybe a new environment can bring out the best in him…

Most Valuable For A Playoff Push Award
With the Rockets two games behind Memphis for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race, Patrick Patterson will be crucial for them in their final eight games. In his last six contests with the Rockets, Patterson has put up averages of 11.2 points 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, helping catapult his team to a 5-1 record over that stretch. He exhibits a great inside game, brings plenty of energy and is an overall athletic marvel that has shown he can be relied on to step his game up – especially when Luis Scola was missing time with a knee injury. His Wildcats’ success must be rubbing off on him.

Post-Trade Emergence Award
Jordan Crawford‘s move to Washington may have been the best thing to happen to him in his brief NBA career. Drafted 27th overall by the Hawks (via a draft day trade with the Nets) onto a team that is deep at his position, Crawford was sent in a package with Mike Bibby to Washington in a trade deadline deal. He has clearly made the most of his time there, putting up a healthy 14.6 points, 3.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals since the trade, with a threefold increase in minutes from his time in Atlanta. More recently, Crawford was integral in getting the Wiz their second road win of the season, as he finished with 25 points and the game-tying shot with 4.4 seconds left in regulation against the Jazz. And who said he would only be remembered for dunking on ‘Bron in college?

Post-Trade Submergence Award
I guess it was only a matter of time before Landry Fields hit that rookie wall. It seems as though Landry is struggling to find his role on offense, and perhaps the ‘Melo trade triggered that. Whether it’s due to fatigue, playing in a new dynamic or just being caught up in his own stardom (Modell’s ad, Andy & Landry show, etc.), this is a different Landry than Knicks fans were used to seeing a little over a month ago. Playing reduced minutes – coming off the bench periodically – he seems a bit lost on offense and more hesitant to shoot when open. Frankly though, he’s a second-round pick and has far and away exceeded what anyone expected of him this season.

Still Growing Up Award
DeMarcus Cousins is the poster boy for rookie immaturity. There was that one incident against the Warriors where he made that choking gesture after Reggie Williams missed a FT with 19 seconds left on the clock; the Warriors ended up winning that game in OT and Cousins was subsequently benched and fined by the team. (Karma’s a bitch I guess.) And how could we forget the skirmish between DeMarcus and Donte Greene in the Kings locker room after a close loss to the Thunder back in February. Apparently Boogie was livid over that fact that Donte didn’t feed him the ball during the last play of the game when the Kings were down two. What happened to abiding by the mantra, win as a team, lose as a team? Coming off his most recent ejection against the Wolves, Cousins failed once again to take the higher road when he was provoked by Luke Ridnour and opted to get in the face of a guard half his size. Dude needs to work on taking smart shots, being a more efficient all-round player and maybe a little Tae Bo for that aggression.

What rookies have caught your eye this season?

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