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The Top 10 NBA Rookie Of The Year Candidates: Vol. 2

The rookie race is heating up as Anthony Davis made his return this week. Damian Lillard is still the top gun, but a healthy Davis is a force to be reckoned with. As each week goes by, it’s looking more and more like the top 10 is separated into two halves. The top half will get extremely competitive in the oncoming weeks. Bradley Beal proved that he’s still a top rookie, and when Dion Waiters makes his return, his running mate Kyrie Irving will be right there to assist him.

The bottom five is really wide open. Alexey Shved might just have a chance at cracking the top five before anyone else if he can make the most of his upcoming opportunity. Austin Rivers finally gets some love after a solid week, but to stay on the ladder he’ll have to continue to be more aggressive. Jonas Valanciunas falls off the ladder after a very pedestrian week, including a one-point game against the Clippers on Sunday.

Minutes played still prove to be the key factor in the rookie race, and unfortunately, Harrison Barnes has been losing his to Jarrett Jack. Once he can find a way to stay on the floor at the end of games it’s hard not to imagine him cracking the top five. Here is the top 10 for week two of our Rookie Ladder.

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10. AUSTIN RIVERSLast week: 10.7 PPG/2.5 APG/3.0 RPG/30.5 MPG
Although the Hornets are on a rough five-game skid, things are looking up for them. They just got Anthony Davis back this week and you can already tell he’s having a positive impact on the rest of the team. Austin Rivers jumps onto the ladder by having a pretty productive week last week. He played at least 30 minutes and scored double-figures in three of his four games, aside from a game against Miami on Saturday in which he only played 20 minutes and had five points. Things will be a lot easier on Austin with Anthony Davis back. If he can continue to keep that aggressive mentality he’ll be able to get in a groove and show people exactly why he belongs in the NBA. He still hasn’t had a real breakout game, so he’s pretty much due for one anytime now.

9. ANDRE DRUMMOND – Last week: 5.7 PPG/4.5 RPG/1.0 BPG/19.7 MPG
Drummond hasn’t really gotten a chance at consistent minutes yet. Some nights he plays about 15 minutes, and other nights he can play 25 or more. Minutes have proven to be the key factor in Drummond’s production. If he plays, he has a lot to offer. He’s aggressive on the glass and can really finish around the rim. Although he probably won’t see much of an increase in minutes behind Greg Monroe, he still contributes efficiently enough to be considered as a top 10 rookie. His potential is just as high as any other rookie big man, he just needs the minutes and opportunities. For Drummond to climb the rookie ladder he’ll have to continue rebounding the ball like he did in his 11-board effort against Denver on Tuesday and take advantage of his scoring opportunities.

8. HARRISON BARNES – Last week: 5.7 PPG/2.5 APG/3.8 RPG/21.7 MPG
Harrison Barnes’ minutes have been a bit sporadic as well. His starting role at the small forward position is pretty much solidified, but he just can’t seem to stay on the court at the end of games. Jarrett Jack’s play has been a surprise for Golden State and they really benefit from his veteran court savvy, especially in close games. This month Barnes has lost his rhythm on the offensive end. Since he’s seen his second half minutes dwindling, he’s lost his aggressiveness. If he can learn to make an impact on defense and use that as a way to stay on the court in close games, he’ll pick it back up eventually. His numbers last week are a poor reflection of the type of player he’s capable of being.

7. KYLE SINGLER – Last week: 6.3 PPG/0.8 APG/2.5 RPG/29 MPG
Kyle Singler has established a pretty decent role on the Pistons. They’ve shown that they have confidence in him. He plays a lot of minutes, but some games he’s a lot less aggressive than others. All he really has to offer is bench scoring, and in that second unit he’s provided them with exactly that so far this season. He fell short of cracking double-digits last week but he still chipped in nine points against the Nuggets on Tuesday and the Cavaliers on Saturday.

6. ALEXEY SHVEDLast week: 7.5 PPG/3.5 APG/3.0 RPG/27.5 MPG
Shved started the second half against the Nuggets on Wednesday after Malcolm Lee hyperextended his knee, although he didn’t quite take advantage of the extra minutes. Coming off a really productive week and three back-to-back double-figure games, he’s earned the opportunity. Now it’s all about what he can do with his extra time on the court. So far, he’s been the biggest surprise rookie. With the extra minutes he has the opportunity to have a breakout game or two. If he can become a real factor on the Timberwolves roster and help lead them to some victories, he might crack the top five pretty soon.

5. DION WAITERS – Last week: N/A
Dion hasn’t played since December 1, but he’s still having a top-five worthy rookie season. He’s been out with a sprained ankle, which is usually a pretty speedy recovery. When he returns in about a week or so, you have to expect that he’ll pick up right where he left off. Irving has returned from his injury this week so you can expect the two of them to get back to their Batman and Robin tag teaming. Dion provides that extra outside threat that Cleveland needs. C.J. Miles has done a good job filling in, but Dion’s playmaking abilities have definitely been missed by Cleveland the past few games.

4. MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST – Last week: 11.0 PPG/2.8 APG/7.5 RPG/30.4 MPG
Although Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a productive week for the Bobcats, they’re on 10-game losing streak right now. For them to win games, MKG has to be a factor. Because they depend on him so much, Kidd-Gilchrist will most likely always be in the top three or ofur on the rookie ladder. He’s capable of putting up numbers across the board when he gets the consistent minutes – he just needs to make his production consistent as well. His best game last week was a 17-point, 7-rebound outing against Golden State on Monday in a losing effort.

3. BRADLEY BEALLast week: 17.5 PPG/4.8 APG/5.0 RPG/36.2 MPG
Bradley Beal is finally beginning to turn it up. Without John Wall, he knows he has to be aggressive for Washington to have a chance. He’s been getting major minutes as of late and has been much more efficient. He’s also contributed in other ways besides scoring. December is shaping up to be his best month so far. He’s scored in double figures in each game this month and seems to have finally found his rhythm. The jump in his production lands him in the top three of this week’s rookie ladder.

2. ANTHONY DAVIS – Last week: 12.0 PPG/6.0 RPG/2.0 BPG/26.5 MPG
Anthony Davis made his return coming off the bench for the Hornets in Tuesday’s loss to Washington. The key factor for him in the race to Rookie of the Year is to stay healthy. Before the season, a lot of people expected him to run away with the award, but things haven’t worked out that way for him so far. For him to really challenge Damian Lillard for the top spot, he’ll have to stay on the court and play with consistency. Lillard is no lock to win it, and despite what many people may think, Anthony Davis still has a great chance at winning Rookie of the Year this year. The Hornets are currently the worst team in the West. If he can turn the season around for the Hornets and get them in the playoff hunt, it’ll be his award for the taking.

1. DAMIAN LILLARD – Last week 16.6 PPG/7.0 APG/4.6 RPG/38.3 MPG
It’s lonely at the top for Damian Lillard right now. He’s separated himself from everybody this season. Guys have struggled with injuries and inconsistencies, but he’s stayed the course all year. Every time it looks like he may hit a wall, he bounces back with a huge game. He’s really shown resilience and is such a quick learner it seems as if he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. His maturity has been great for Portland but it hasn’t really translated to wins. The Blazers are now two games under .500 at 10-12, so until Lillard can really start winning games for his team he’s no lock. Once Davis and Dion Waiters get back in the swing of things, he’ll have to watch his back. Right now, nobody’s coming close to knocking Damian off the top spot of the ladder because each player’s team is struggling in their own right. He’s safe, for now at least.

Who is your leader for ROY right now?

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