Patrick McCaw is playing for the Golden State Warriors as a rookie.
Maybe it reads too much like a basic statement when the actual phrasing should be:
Patrick McCaw is playing for the Warriors as a rookie!
Not a lot – 12.2 minutes in 26 appearances. And those minutes have come largely in blowouts, those feast moments for reserves deeper in the Golden State rotation. But the 6-foot-7 guard has gone from No. 38 pick to getting in nearly 80 percent of the games before missing the last two with flu-like symptoms. It’s a big enough role that McCaw didn’t get sent down to the NBA Development League affiliate in Santa Cruz until last Thursday, and then for all of one day.
“He earned it, really starting in the summer,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He was one of the best players in summer league and playing a position where we have some need. He had a fantastic training camp. He had a huge game in Denver in the preseason where he made the game-tying three and then a game-winning two at the buzzer in overtime. Rookies don’t normally do stuff like that. He’s got a good feel. He’s a smart player and he fits what we do well and we trust him.”
Even Kerr concedes he didn’t expect his rookies, McCaw or No. 30 pick Damian Jones, to play much. Neither has, especially Jones, as the ex-Vanderbilt star has been on a regular commute to Santa Cruz while getting in one NBA game for nine minutes. But McCaw showed he was “definitely beyond his years in terms of his readiness” after just two seasons at UNLV, Kerr said, and has capitalized on the opening.
To this week’s rankings:
1. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Last week: No. 1
Talk about him as an Eastern Conference All-Star seems like a long shot with coaches able to fall back on knowing Embiid will be in New Orleans for the Rising Stars game and with the Sixers potentially at the bottom of the standings at the time of the vote. He will likely have to settle for still lapping the rookie field, even at 24.8 minutes per game heading into the new year. More than time limits may become a factor, though -- he has five or six fouls in three of the last six outings.
2. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
Last week: No. 2
He lost out to Embiid for Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors, but only after shooting 51.8 percent overall and 50 on 3-pointers while averaging 9.1 points per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.71-1. That included the finish of a 15-point, 12-assist, 11-rebound triple-double on the final day of 2016. While Brogdon’s minutes have been understandably on the rise anyway, he has jumped to 33, 39 and 32 minutes while starting the last three games while Matthew Dellavedova is sidelined by a hamstring injury.
3. Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers
Last week: No. 3
He leads all rookies in total rebounds by a surprisingly long distance, with 26 more than second-place Embiid, a notable accomplishment as the season reaches the 40-percent mark even with Embiid being held out of 10 games for rest. Remove the time limits on teammate Embiid and Saric is still second in rebounding average, at 5.9, decent production for a rookie who has faced bigger bodies at power forward and played away from the basket at small forward. Saric is also second in scoring and seventh in 3-point shooting.
4. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Last week: No. 5
The No. 6 rookie on Dec. 14 hasn’t surged up two places so much as remain upright while others wilted amid the intense Ladder spotlight. Siakam did put himself in position to climb, though, while second in field goal percentage, second in blocks, sixth in rebounding and 12th in Defensive Rating. This is probably his ceiling, barring either a big jump in production or a big fall or serious injury from Embiid, Brogdon and Saric in the top three.
5. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Last week: No. 4
Between what appears to be a slight groin injury and a shooting problem that is not so slight, Murray had not played 20 minutes in six consecutive games. The 24.1 minutes and 41.3 percent of November turned into 18.9 and 35.4, respectively, in December as part of 12, 13, 12 19 and 14 the last five outings. While Siakam does not have an overwhelming grip on fourth place, Murray appears closer to another drop than reclaiming his previous spot.
6. Isaiah Whitehead, Brooklyn Nets
Last week: No. 6
Good perspective from coach Kenny Atkinson, via the New York Post, on Whitehead’s unexpectedly quick development: “I’m thrilled with his progress, where that first week you were like, ‘Man this is going to be tough, is he going to be ready?’ Now it’s like, ‘Let’s throw him out there,’ and we’re comfortable with that.” Whitehead has come farther faster than even the Nets envisioned, in other words. The No. 42 pick is third in assists, fourth in blocks, 12th in shooting, ninth in steals, ninth in scoring and seventh in minutes.
7. Andrew Harrison, Memphis Grizzlies
Last week: No. 8
Harrison has at least six assists in four of the last seven games, a nice run no matter what but especially since one came in 20 minutes and another in 19 as part of an offensive contribution that included rare nights of making shots. The seven-game totals are 30 assists against nine turnovers in the latest statement of his impact for a winning team. Harrison is second among rookies in assists, first in steals, second in minutes, tied for fifth in blocks and ninth in scoring.
8. Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans
Last week: Not ranked
The preseason No. 1 returns to The Ladder for the first time since Nov. 16 after a December of 43.5 percent shooting overall, 47.8 percent behind the arc, 10.6 points and a deserving win as Rookie of the Month in the Western Conference. The voting within the league office may not have been close. Hield is up to third in scoring, with leader Embiid far in the distance but second-place Saric in sight, seventh in 3-point percentage and 13th in shooting. If Hield maintains anything near the same pace, he almost certainly makes another move.
9. Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns (10)
Last week: No. 10
Making at least one three-pointer in nine consecutive games, Dec. 13 to 29, was a glimpse of the future that many teams projected would include shooting range with elite athleticism at power forward in a formidable offensive package. For now, Chriss is 18th in the class behind the arc, along with eighth in scoring and 10th in rebounding. The nine-game run was the fourth-longest by a Phoenix rookie, behind only Devin Booker (14 and 10 in 2015-16) and Leandro Barbosa (10 in 2003-04).
10. Willy Hernangomez, New York Knicks
Last week: No. 9
Still getting very inconsistent minutes, still in the top three in three key categories: first in field goal percentage, second in PIE and third in rebounding, along with being ninth in blocks and sixth in Defensive Rating. Maybe the choppy role eventually costs him, as it did once before. For now, he beats out Brandon Ingram for the final spot on the strength of a much better PER and a much better defensive rating and because a grouping of top-threes matters.
Dropped out: Brandon Ingram (last week No. 7)
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting