If anyone knows this rookie class on an intimate level, it's the man they call The Hoops Whisperer.
Idan Ravin, a former lawyer-turned-personal trainer, puts such stars as Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul (to name just two) through notoriously grueling workouts, but his fingerprints are all over the 2009 Draft class.
Before last summer's Draft, Ravin held training sessions with five rookies currently in the league -- Stephen Curry, Jonas Jerebko, Wesley Matthews, Sam Young and Lester Hudson. All but Hudson have had immediate impacts on their teams. Curry has been impressive in Golden State and continues to improve with each game. Detroit's Jerebko has been the biggest steal of the second round (or so I think). Matthews, who went undrafted, has been a diamond in the rough for the Jazz. And Young, whom the Grizzlies got with the 36th pick, has managed to average 8.1 points for a team loaded with scorers. All four are among the top 11 among rookies in scoring.
"With all those guys the thing that was most impressive looking back was their consistency and their effort level," Ravin said. "They were very serious in their approach and that is very important. A lot of these guys have impressive resumes and come in with high expectations, but they really put in the work and stayed humble."
In a recent phone interview, Ravin sounded like a proud father when talking about how well "his guys" have made the transition. Ravin's training regimen features high-intensity drills that put players through game-like situations that test a player's limits.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of the game is mental," Ravin said. "There's so much mental stamina required for these guys, when you consider that these guys have played their whole lives as a superstar and to come in and get DNPs is a big change for them."
Fortunately, Ravin's charges -- surprisingly for Jerebko, Matthews and Young -- are getting playing time, and making the most of it.
"A lot of those draft reports are hocus-pocus to me," Ravin said. "You could be ranked the second-best player in the draft, but if you go to the wrong system or to a team where you're not allowed to grow, you'll never succeed. I think all those kids went to places where it was a good fit and they went in with the right mindset."
Credit Ravin for instilling that mindset. Despite working with a plethora of superstars -- including LeBron James at one point -- Ravin enjoys seeing his young players find success at the next level.
"I treat every client like it's my first client and my last client," Ravin says. "By their success is how I measure my work."
If that's the case, this rookie class is making Ravin look pretty good.
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Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 4
When asked to name the rookie that's impressed him most, Radin didn't hesitate. "I like Tyreke a lot," Radin said. "I don't think people understand just how big he is. I've had more than one veteran tell me, 'I can't believe how strong he is.' When he's got the ball in his hands, he's just so hard to stop. Tyreke is a volume guy, he needs his shots, but he sure can score."
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 7
On Curry, Ravin had this to say: "He was under my umbrella the whole summer, so I had him working out with veterans. Guys like Kevin Durant, Carmelo, Chris Paul. He impressed all the vets. Everyone walked away saying, 'that kid's gonna be tough.' I told him, 'You know, you've got a long way to go, but just to let you know, you're earning the respect from these veteran guys.' What's interesting about him is there's no rookie transition. He's grown up around this game his whole life, so the cars and all these accoutrements don't influence him. Nothing was a surprise to him, since he's been around it his whole life. ... I truly believe he could be scoring 20 points a game. He could be Rookie of the Year if he wanted but he's playing within the system."
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 10
Besides getting burned on Twitter by a Jordan Farmar impostor (leading him to delete his Twitter account late Tuesday night), Jennings has seen his numbers slip as the Bucks have lost two of their last three. In three games, Jennings was just 10-for-44 from the field (22.7 percent) while averaging 9.7 points and 6.3 assists. At a time when other players are stepping up, Jennings seems to be slipping.
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 23
Coming off a streak of four-straight, 20-plus scoring nights, Casspi finally cooled off last Friday. In the Kings' 108-101 loss to the Warriors, Casspi was just 1-for-8 from the floor (0-for-3 on 3s) for four points. Casspi bounced back with 16 points in a win over the Nuggets and closed out the week with his fourth career double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) in a blowout loss to the Magic. With Jennings struggling, Casspi had a chance to give the Kings the 1-2 spots, but his poor shooting (31.4 percent) did him in this week.
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 6
After 39 games, Flynn is still trying to find himself. Last Wednesday, Flynn had what he called one of his worst games, going 1-for-11 from the field for six points in the Wolves' 107-101 loss to the Warriors. In four games this week, Flynn was 14-for-47 (29.7 percent) from the field as the Wolves went 1-3. "You don't know where you fit sometimes during games," Flynn said last Thursday. "That's kind of where I am right now, not knowing my specific role at times. I'm still searching for that. Hopefully, I find it soon." Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis, as usual, isn't worried. "He's a rookie. You have to live with that. He will have great days and poor days. The main thing for me is that he continues to learn."
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 39
Ravin had this to say about Jerebko, who he trained the past two summers in preparation for the draft. "He has an amazing work ethic. He's incredibly humble and he wants to learn everything. He reminds me a little of Andres Nocioni, a very tough kid with a chip on his shoulder. Because who's gonna think this blond-haired kid out of Sweden can play? I think that's part of his makeup that he has this chip on his shoulder to prove a lot of people wrong. And he can play -- he's skilled, and he's smart. He's gonna be in the league a long time."
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 26
Gibson's production -- he leads all rookies in rebounding at 6.2 per game -- is even more impressive considering he's been battling a case of plantar fasciitis. "He's feeling a little bit better, but it's been bothering him most of the season," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said recently. "He really irritated it the other night in the (Minnesota) game. It's not a tear or anything, but he's got some inflammation in there so he needs some treatment."
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 3
Harden averaged 10.0 points in the Thunder's back-to-back wins to close out the week. More importantly, he had five steals in those two wins. Harden may not be doing anything flashy, but he's still sixth among rookies in scoring (9.6 ppg) and in the top 10 in almost every category. "I think that's what makes us different from other teams," Harden told The Oklahoman. "We stick to the easy plan, and we get the job done. It's a good thing. I guess that's the type of players that they want here in this program. ... My game is simple, getting the job done, going out there and making the easy play."
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 18
What some thought was a weakness has become a strength for the Nuggets rookie. Despite being a 47 percent 3-point shooter at North Carolina, many wondered if Lawson could still be successful with the NBA's additional four feet. Apparently, Lawson -- who is 23-for-52 (44 percent, which would be first among rookies if he qualified) -- has made the adjustment just fine. "From the moment training camp started and I got a chance to work out with Ty, and playing against him, he was a much better shooter than I thought he was in college," teammate Chauncey Billups told the Denver Post. "Like, a much better shooter. He can hit that. You can't just leave him open. He's getting his opportunity to prove that to everybody now."
Last Week: 10 | Drafted: FA
Matthews scored in double digits in three of the Jazz's four games this week, despite playing 16.5 minutes per game. On whether he was surprised to see Matthews go undrafted, Ravin had this to say: "Yes and no. Yes, because I thought, how can these teams not see what I see?' Then again, I don't really know what metrics they use for making decisions. But I talked to the kid and I knew he could play at the NBA level. ... It was almost a blessing he didn't get drafted because he could go somewhere he could fill a role. He understands that there's nothing personal and it's a business. What Wesley did well is that he identified that and it's a testament to his wisdom."
Honorable Mention: A.J. Price, Pacers: Averaged 16.3 points and 4.0 assists in three games this week while playing big minutes in crunch time; Jon Brockman, Kings: Played 38 minutes in first career start, scoring five points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the Kings' 102-100 win over the Nuggets. Has given the Kings a much-needed inside presence off the bench; Marcus Thornton, Hornets: Averaged 12.5 points in last two games while going 5-for-7 from three-point land; Serge Ibaka, Thunder: Averaged 6.0 points, 5.0 rebounds in three games this week.