The Top 10 Rookie Of The Year Candidates: Vol. 4

There was a lot of movement in the top 10 since our last rookie ladder. As the season picks up into high gear, few have been able to keep up with the pace. Guys like Austin Rivers and Kyle Singler have fallen off the radar while guys like Jared Sullinger and John Henson are opening eyes.

It’s beginning to look more and more like it’s Damian Lillard‘s award to win, with Anthony Davis and Dion Waiters both working to get back in rhythm after their injuries. At this point in the season, each player has a role on their respective team, and an identity. Now that we know – for the most part – what each rook is capable of, it makes it interesting to see who could really come alive in the middle of the season.

While the rest of the pack has been struggling a bit, the top three rookies are playing extremely well. Consistent scoring numbers and clutch performances have Bradley Beal higher than he’s ever been on the ladder, but it’s going to be interesting to see how John Wall‘s return affects his numbers.

Here is our top 10 for volume 4 of the Rookie Ladder.

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10. HARRISON BARNES – Last week: 9.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 24.5 mpg
Vol. 3 rank: 9
Although Harrison Barnes struggled a bit through December, he’s beginning to play pretty well again. His hot shooting from long range makes it difficult for Mark Jackson to keep him off the floor for too long. Although Jarrett Jack still takes his minutes at the end of games, Barnes still has a lot to offer for the Warriors while he’s on the court. On Saturday against Boston, Barnes had 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting, hitting 3-for-4 from long range, and eight rebounds to go along with it. If he can keep up the hot shooting he’ll keep his name on the ladder.

9. JARED SULLINGER – Last week: 9.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 26.2 mpg
Vol.3 rank: N/A
Very quietly, Jared Sullinger is having a solid season for Boston. He’s flying under the radar in the rookie race so far but it’s about time he gets some recognition. Doc Rivers really believes in him. He’s played good minutes all season and he’s finally beginning to make the most out of them. On Wednesday against Phoenix, Sullinger scored 12 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. That’s the type of work he’s capable of doing. All he has to do is keep it up.

8. JOHN HENSON – Last week: 8.5 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 22.5 mpg
Vol.3 rank: N/A
John Henson has finally started to reach his potential. Back in November he had a breakout game at Miami, scoring 17 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. With that performance, Milwaukee knew they had a diamond in the rough. It was only a matter of time before they gave him another chance to play significant minutes. But they didn’t come right away. He played an average of 6.5 minutes in December before coming alive in the New Year. In January, Henson has provided a solid contribution for the Bucks, and recently against San Antonio, he scored 20 points going 10-for-11 from the field while pulling down nine rebounds. He’s kept that momentum rolling too, averaging 10.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in January.

7. MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST – Last week: 11.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 27.7 mpg
Vol.3 rank: 5
Kidd-Gilchrist has been up and down too often this season. Every time he has a big game you expect him to keep it up, but he just can’t seem to be consistent with it. Every few weeks, he has one of those 25-n-10 type of games that show you how good he could really be. Then, he reverts back to playing timidly. The moment he strings together a few games of his best work he’ll be right back in this thing. He’s averaging 11 and eight so far this month, but there’s no reason why he can’t turn that up to 15 and 10 in the next few weeks.

6. ANDRE DRUMMOND – Last week: 8.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 24.0 mpg
Vol.3 rank: 7
Drummond has loads of potential. He plays hard every night and it shows on the stat sheet. He’s averaging about nine rebounds and three blocks this month, and he’s shooting 64 percent from the field. Offensively, his size and quickness makes him a difficult matchup. If he can start being more aggressive on the offensive end and attack the basket more often, he’ll become an offensive weapon for the Pistons, who need production anywhere they can get it.

5. ANTHONY DAVIS – Last week: 9.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 19.0 mpg
Vol.3 rank: 2
Anthony Davis has fallen off since returning from his injury. His minutes have been up and down but you have to imagine he’ll get back in the swing of things soon. Eric Gordon is finally suiting up, so hopefully that opens things up a bit for him. Recently he just hasn’t been aggressive. He needs to be more physical on the glass. Another key for Davis is getting back to being an intimidating figure defensively. For him to really make the Hornets a better team, he must block shots. But at the end of the day, it’s points, rebounds and wins that will give Davis a chance at Rookie of the Year.

4. DION WAITERS – Last week: 12.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 28.6 mpg
Vol.3 rank: 4
Dion had a rough end of the year. After returning from his injury, he only averaged 12 points a night in the month of December. So far in January, he’s getting back in rhythm. Waiters is one of the rookies that you know what he’s capable of. While most other rookies struggle with playing aggressively, Philly’s finest doesn’t hesitate to attack. He’s the perfect backcourt mate for Kyrie Irving because he’s so dangerous when you leave him open. He’s capable of going off for seven or eight triples on any given night. Once he gets in rhythm, the sky is the limit for Waiters. His ceiling is just as high as any other rookie.

3. ALEXEY SHVED – Last week: 11.6 ppg, 5.6 apg, 4.3 topg, 37 mpg
Vol.3 rank: 6
For the most part this season, Shved has been Mr. Consistent. He’s been playing so well that it’s become expected of him. He proved that he can be relied on to hit shots. On top of his impressive scoring numbers, he showed he can be a decent facilitator as well. However, now that he’s become more of a factor for Minnesota, his turnover numbers are increasing. He’s averaging four turnovers a game in the month of January while averaging only 4.8 assists. For Shved to really hit the gas on the rest of the group and catch Bradley Beal at the two spot, he must keep scoring and fix that assist-to-turnover ratio.

2. BRADLEY BEAL – Last week: 18.3 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.6 rpg, 42.3 mpg
Vol 3. Rank: 3
Bradley Beal is slowly emerging as a star. He’s finally becoming the big time player that many expected him to be. After averaging about 13 points a game in the month of December, he’s jumped it up to 18 this month, including two of his biggest performances all season just last week. First, he proved he had the clutch gene against Brooklyn, hitting a deep three to send the game to double-overtime. Although Joe Johnson eventually upstaged him and hit the game-winner, Beal showed that he could play big in the closing minutes of a game. He proved it again by hitting the game-winner against the Thunder on Monday, scoring 22 points and hitting 5-of-7 from long range.

1. DAMIAN LILLARD – Last week: 14.7 ppg, 8.0 apg, 3.7 rpg, 40.2 mpg
Vol. 3 Rank: 1
Nobody has come close to knocking Damian Lillard off the top of the ladder since Anthony Davis got hurt. Lilard is averaging 16 and eight in the month of January, and has only scored single digits twice this year. It’s going to take a really impressive season for anyone under him to catch up. He’s been coasting through the season so far and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to slow down anytime soon. With Davis and Waiters slowing down, it’s really Lillard’s award to win.

Who’s the best rookie no one is paying attention to?

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