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Shaun Powell

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin's play in the preseason already has him pegged as a ROY favorite.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Wall, Griffin top rookie class that boasts plenty of depth

Posted Oct 22 2010 12:37PM

Could we see a rookie on the East and West squads in the All-Star Game? That's not so terribly far-fetched, considering how John Wall and Blake Griffin are drawing rave reviews from players, coaches and general managers. And the season hasn't even started yet.

Yes, maybe folks should stop hyperventilating. A little, anyway. Wall is playing one of the toughest positions to master in the NBA. And Blake is playing for the Clippers, where weird things have known to happen to guys like him (didn't it already last season?). But if anyone can overcome these odds in their first year, who better than Wall and Griffin?

If Griffin is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, then yes, he'll be in the All-Star mix. And if Wall is averaging double figures in scoring and assists and leading a Wizards resurgence in Washington, then he, too, will be up for discussion. Their numbers in the preseason were in that ballpark.

They'll start for their teams on opening night, although the same can't be said for many other rookies. Perhaps two others join them as starters. Here's a look at Wall, Griffin and those who'll at least get off the bench:

John Wall

The preseason showed Wall as advertised. A blur with the ball, looks for teammates first, poised under pressure, and can't consistently hit the outside jumper. He also has a flair for funky moves on the floor, giving him massive crowd appeal. He respects Gilbert Arenas, but also should understand he -- and not Arenas -- is the leader of the Wizards now. Wall should make young center JaVale McGee, among others, a better player.

Blake Griffin

From the very first practice, it was evident Griffin, after a year off with a bum knee, was already the Clippers' best player. He has the skills to take his man outside, or post-up. He goes for the blocked shot, too. And he runs the floor like Karl Malone. He and Wall will spend the season battling for top rookie honors. Should be fun to watch.

Jordan Crawford

Got plenty of minutes (32 a game) in the preseason, and his averages (14.6 ppg, 3.8 apg) justified all the playing time. As the 27th pick, Crawford is shaping up as the steal of the Draft. If he's for real, he'll give the Hawks an excuse to trade their other J. Crawford, because Jamal wants a contract extension and doesn't appear to be in the team's future plans.

DeMarcus Cousins

Kings wanted to bring him along slowly, but with Samuel Dalembert out another two weeks, Cousins' time is now. He's looked solid, averaging a team-leading 16.0 ppg and 8.7 rpg in the preseason, although his defense and fouls might be issues this season. Already developing a bond with Tyreke Evans and with Sacramento fans, who are gravitating to his Shaq-like personality.

Evan Turner

Where's Doug Collins going to play him? Turner would seem an ideal big guard, except he's shooting 32 percent. He can dribble well enough to play the point, but does he own the quickness it takes to defend other points? And small forward, again, requires a decent shooting touch. Right now he hasn't beaten out any out any of the Sixers' starters, but could get enough minutes backing up three positions.

Greg Monroe

The Pistons don't have enough big guys, so Monroe will be thrown to the fire by default, whenever Ben Wallace needs a breather. In the perfect world, given that the Pistons aren't going anywhere this season, Monroe will take Wallace's spot by February. Although judging by the early returns, Monroe needs to learn a lot more about defense from the knee of Big Ben before that happens.

Al-Farouq Aminu

Super-athletic and finishes with authority, but otherwise, his game showed holes both in summer league and the preseason. Given how reluctant Vinny Del Negro seems to give him minutes, Aminu might be an end-of-the-rotation guy to start the year, at best.

Xavier Henry

The first shot he ever took was an airball, but things got better from there for Henry in the preseason. The Grizzlies are talking him up plenty, which should scare O.J. Mayo a bit, although right now, Henry's not at O.J.'s level.

Cole Aldrich

So far the corn-fed rookie has shown a knack for setting picks and collecting fouls. He was drafted to shore up OKC's only true weakness -- interior defense -- but isn't ready to start at center for now. Until Nenad Krstic recovers from finger surgery, Thunder may turn to last season's first-round pick, former NBA D-Leaguer Byron Mullens, instead.

Derrick Favors

Not saying he's a bust, not at 19, but let's just say he can only go up from here. Has looked mostly lost in the preseason, some of which is understandable, since Favors has dealt with trade rumors involving Carmelo Anthony from day one. Fouled out in three preseason games and the Nets thought he'd be much quicker around the ball.

Gordon Hayward

Shooting only 38 percent in the preseason but will get rotation time for a team that isn't particularly strong at the swing positions, especially after losing Wesley Matthews to free agency. If Hayward can develop into a Jeff Hornacek role, the Jazz would be thrilled. He should see a reasonable amount of open looks with Al Jefferson in the post and Deron Williams drawing attention.

Timofey Mozgov

The Knicks night start him at center and keep Amar'e Stoudemire at his more natural power forward spot. Mozgov is a pure shot-blocker, but the rest of his game needs help, and in big spots, he'll probably be on the bench.

Wesley Johnson

He had a slow start, then upped his game a bit, especially showing a sweet stroke. But he's one of a million swing players on the Timberwolves, so unless there's a trade (Corey Brewer?), you wonder if he'll see consistent minutes.

Manny Harris

The Cavs haven't had a rookie this promising since LeBron James. OK, bad joke there, but the undrafted Harris, who can score, might squeeze into the rotation.

Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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