Now that I have taken a look at those select NBA Rookies who have failed to set the basketball world on fire in year one, I find it only fitting that I acknowledge those who have not only made an immediate impact with their respective teams, but have continued to play at a higher level than many experts thought was even possible this early in their careers.
There are many rookies who could fall under this category, but in my opinion, these are the five gentlemen who have exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations to the highest degree.
5) G ALEXEY SHVED (Minnesota Timberwolves) *Signed from CSKA Moscow
2012-13 statistics: 10.2 points, 37% from the field, 2.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks
Not a lot of people knew what to expect from Shved as he joined the Timberwolves, as he wasn’t taken in the 2012 NBA Draft, so there was little to no hype surrounding him.
He signed with Minnesota during the offseason after playing for the Russian National team with teammate Andrei Kirilenko.
Needless to say, Alexey has turned quite a few heads since entering the NBA.
He’s an extremely versatile guard who can attack the rim, pass the ball and hit open jumpers. His shooting numbers won’t dazzle you (37% field-goal percentage), but that’s because he’s more of a rhythm shooter.
10 points and four assists off the bench are nothing to shrug your shoulders at. He’s provided the Wolves with a lot more in his rookie season than probably they even expected.
4) ANDREW NICHOLSON (Orlando Magic) *Drafted #19 overall
2012-13 statistics: 16.8 minutes, 8.3 points, 53% from the field, 3.6 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.4 blocks
Talk about your under the radar picks.
The Orlando Magic are in desperate need of some good fortune. The development of Andrew Nicholson has at least given them something to smile about for the time being.
He’s one of only two rookies to have played at least 50 games and be shooting 50% or better from the field.
Nicholson is already 23-years old, having stayed in college for a full four-year tenure. That’s given him a leg up on most of the other first-year players, as far as maturity and the development of his body is concerned. You may not realize just how big Andrew is, standing at 6’9 and weighing in at just over 250 pounds.
It’s been easy for him to exceed expectations, as not a lot was really expected of him right off the bat. He’s got terrific range for a big man, and his work-ethic is something to be admired.
Orlando has themselves a winner in Nicholson.
3) F/C ANDRE DRUMMOND (Detroit Pistons) *Drafted #9 overall
2012-13 statistics: 7.3 points, 59% from the field, 7.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.7 blocks
A recent back injury suffered at the beginning of last month will keep Drummond out four to six weeks, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was having one heck of a season up until that point.
Through 50 games played, Andre is averaging 7.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. Those numbers aren’t overly impressive, but if you factor in him playing just 19 minutes per game, then they look a heck of a lot better.
His Per 36 minutes averages are outstanding (13.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.1 blocks), so over the next few seasons when he undoubtedly gets even more playing time, Drummond could certainly put up some All-Star caliber numbers for the Pistons.
Many projected Andre Drummond to be more of a project in year one, and rightfully so. He’s only 19-years old, and he’s very raw as it pertains to his fundamental basketball skills. He’s got a tremendous build (6’10, 270 pounds), and he’s extremely athletic and versatile for a man of that stature.
However, with the year he’s having, injury or not, I believe those “project” labels are now officially out the door. He’s an important piece to the puzzle in Detroit for the present, and the long-term future of the franchise.