Rooks and Kings

by Alex Boeder
Bucks.com Writer

If you are over here or over there, if you are anywhere or just somewhere, you are probably voting for Jabari Parker as Rookie of the Year right now. And that feels August Good.

But even if the vote doesn’t go this way again nine months from now, things just… May Be Fine.

***

Poll for basketball-watching humans:

Adam Morrison or Paul Millsap?
Andrea Bargnani or LaMarcus Aldridge?
Walter Herrmann or Rajon Rondo?

***

If you picked the first name in each group, then maybe it is 2006 and you just cast a ballot for Rookie of the Year. That seems unlikely. But the first player in all three options did finish ahead of the second player in rookie voting that year.

Therein lays the peril of assessing a rookie after one season.

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Look at this another way…In the past 20 years, how often have the top three rookies turned out to be the top three players from that class? (Say: Never)

Approximately never. That is the correct answer.

Never in the past 20 years have the three best rookies turned out to be the three best players from that class. And we are not talking about the exact order matching 1-2-3. We are talking any order. It may have happened at some point in history. It might happen again. But it has not happened in the past 20 years. (To be fair: It is too early to say for the past two years, so this is counting 18 different classes.)

***

So, what is the point here?

I guess it is that we probably don’t really know as much as we think we know after a full season of rookie play. Whereas we mostly know that we don’t know anything before a rookie class hits the regular season for the first time, it seems like we think we have a real feel for how things will play out following their first year.

We often don’t.

We usually don’t really know what we are getting, even after Year One.

***

That was the case with Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlian and Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders and John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

And maybe it will be different for Parker. It is supposed to be different.

Maybe maybe is all we need to have for now.

Zero of the three best rookies turned out to be a top three player (0/3)

1995

Rookie of the Year

1. Damon Stoudamire
2. Arvydas Sabonis
3. Joe Smith

Best Actual Careers

1. Kevin Garnett
2. Rasheed Wallace
3. Michael Finley

Reaction

Stoudamire was my favorite hooper back in 1995. He was the best rookie, going for 19 and 9 on the expansion Raptors. For better or worse (worse), one of my rare on-point player comparisons arrived 15 years later when I likened my then-favorite player Brandon Jennings three months into a dynamite rookie campaign to Stoudamire. Somewhat unfortunate for all of three of us.

Also: KG ranked sixth in rookie voting, while Wallace didn’t even register on the final tally. Granted, all three of the top rookies carved out nice careers, and Sabonis in particular gets a pass because he debuted in the NBA at 31. But still, zero for three.

1996

Rookie of the Year

1. Allen Iverson
2. Stephon Marbury
3. Shareef Abdur-Rahim

Best Actual Careers

1. Kobe Bryant
2. Steve Nash
3. Ray Allen

Reaction

Iverson was an MVP. Pretty much any other class, he makes it top three. And you can make the case he belongs, and that would be perfectly fine with me. Allen gets the nod here thanks to playing 400 more games (the equivalent of almost five full seasons) while doing so with similar production and efficiency.

But that is not really the point here. Plenty of people were also very high on Kobe, Nash and Allen after their first year. But those first three – Marbury and Abdur-Rahim included – were on the Hall of Fame fast track as well. Fun conclusion: Kerry Kittles appears in the rookie voting. Kobe, Nash and Allen do not.

2006

Rookie of the Year

1. Brandon Roy
2. Andrea Bargnani
3. Rudy Gay

Best Actual Careers

1. LaMarcus Aldridge
2. Rajon Rondo
3. Paul Millsap

Reaction

If not for injuries, Roy would probably still be top three here.

But that is too sad to talk about. So here is the fun from the rookie voting that year: Adam Morrison (4) over Paul Millsap (6). Andrea Bargnani (2) over LaMarcus Aldridge (7). Walter Herrmann (10) over Rajon Rondo (12).

For emphasis: Walter Herrmann (10) over Rajon Rondo (12).

One of the three best rookies turned out to be a top three player (1/3)

1997

Rookie of the Year

1. Tim Duncan
2. Keith Van Horn
3. None

Best Actual Careers

1. Tim Duncan
2. Tracy McGrady
3. Chauncey Billups

Reaction

This is the only year that lists just two players in the rookie voting. But this also means that someone (someone who was allocated funds to report on sports) gave Keith Van Horn a first-place vote over Tim Duncan.

Keep in mind: Duncan averaged 21.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while playing all 82 games as a rookie. He finished fifth in MVP voting. Deservedly. 

Van Horn played 62 pretty good Van Horn games.

1999

Rookie of the Year

1. Elton Brand
1. Steve Francis
3. Lamar Odom

Best Actual Careers

1. Shawn Marion
2. Elton Brand
3. Jason Terry

Reaction

Please note that Manu Ginobili was drafted in 1999 (with the 57th pick by the Spurs, naturally), but didn’t debut until 2002, so he is listed under that year.

Somehow, Brand played exactly 19 minutes in each of his three games against the Bucks last year, while Francis has been out of the league for six years. Odom had some wonderful moments, but his career fell off a bit. Terry gets the tiebreaker over Andre Miller in the three spot for a killer playoffs and Finals performance in 2011.

2000

Rookie of the Year

1. Mike Miller
2. Kenyon Martin
3. Marc Jackson

Best Actual Careers

1. Mike Miller
2. Jamal Crawford
3. Michael Redd

Reaction

Redd was the best scorer in this class, and the best player here at his peak. Unfortunately, injuries have Redd approximately 300 regular season games behind each of Miller and Crawford.

You could also make a case for Hedo Turkoglu here.

Marc Jackson averaged 13.2 points as a rookie and never averaged 13.2 points again.

2001

Rookie of the Year

1. Pau Gasol
2. Richard Jefferson
3. Andrei Kirilenko/Jason Richardson/Jamaal Tinsley

Best Actual Careers

1. Tony Parker
2. Pau Gasol
3. Zach Randolph

Reaction

In review: As rookies in 2001: Jamaal Tinsley > Tony Parker.

Also. Tyson Chandler and Joe Johnson could make a case for the three spot on the career list (sadly, Gilbert Arenas cannot).

Update: Tony Parker > Jamaal Tinsley

2004

Rookie of the Year

1. Emeka Okafor
2. Ben Gordon
3. Dwight Howard

Best Actual Careers

1. Dwight Howard
2. Andre Iguodala
3. Al Jefferson

Reaction

The Okafor/Howard debate was still a real debate after one year. Okafor was really, really good in college, and just about that good as a rookie, going for 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds and a 16.4 PER. He never scored like that again.

Gordon was actually a very nice two guard in Chicago, but ultimately both he and Okafor peaked at age 23 or 24, while the Iguodalas and Jeffersons of the world are still going strong.

2005

Rookie of the Year

1. Chris Paul
2. Charlie Villanueva
3. Andrew Bogut

Best Actual Careers

1. Chris Paul
2. Deron Williams
3. David Lee

Reaction

Once upon a time, that Villanueva/Bogut frontcourt pairing was a very worthy pursuit.

Paul pulled away from the field very early on here, Williams almost caught up for a little while, but in the end this class is all Paul, Paul is all class, and so on.

2007

Rookie of the Year

1. Kevin Durant
2. Al Horford
3. Luis Scola

Best Actual Careers

1. Kevin Durant
2. Joakim Noah
3. Al Horford

Reaction

Fun rookie voting notes: Al Thornton (4) over Thaddeus Young (7). Jamario Moon (6) over Mike Conley (8).

Wild: Nine rookies received votes, and none of those nine were named Joakim Noah.

2008

Rookie of the Year

1. Derrick Rose
2. O.J. Mayo
3. Brook Lopez

Best Actual Careers

1. Russell Westbrook
2. Kevin Love
3. Derrick Rose

Reaction

As rookies, not so long ago, Mayo rated higher than Westbrook, Love and Marc Gasol. On that note, this class has a rather swell top four in Westbrook, Love, Rose and the aforementioned Gasol.

2009

Rookie of the Year

1. Tyreke Evans
2. Stephen Curry
3. Brandon Jennings

Best Actual Careers

1. Stephen Curry
2. James Harden
3. Ty Lawson

Reaction

Evans was a 20/5/5 rookie. Today, Curry and Harden are superstars, top-seven scorers in the league and could be the two leading scorers on Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer. As we know, the Curry/Jennings argument was a real argument for a couple years.

Jonny Flynn received rookie votes. DeMar DeRozan did not.

Two of the three best rookies turned out to be top three players (2/3)

1993

Rookie of the Year

1. Chris Webber
2. Penny Hardaway
3. Jamal Mashburn

Best Actual Careers

1. Chris Webber
2. Sam Cassell
3. Penny Hardaway

Reaction

Both geniuses on the court, both plagued by injuries, both with impressive careers anyway, Webber and Penny were the elite talents here. Still, Cassell is the one with the title, the most games played, the bright years in Milwaukee, the best dance.

1994

Rookie of the Year

1. Grant Hill
1. Jason Kidd
3. Glenn Robinson

Best Actual Careers

1. Jason Kidd
2. Grant Hill
3. Eddie Jones

Reaction

The new coach played more than twice as many games as Robinson, and sixth-most in NBA history. Almost all of those games were quite good. Remember when Grant Hill was going to have a short career due to injuries? He played until he was 40.

1998

Rookie of the Year

1. Vince Carter
2. Jason Williams
3. Paul Pierce

Best Actual Careers

1. Dirk Nowitzki
2. Paul Pierce
3. Vince Carter

Reaction

If you could be a 12 year-old basketball fan forever, that would be great for a long, long time. The only thing better would be to be a 12 year-old basketball fan when Vince and White Chocolate happened to be rookies. So things were pretty good for 12 year-old me. The YouTube footage is a touch grainy now, but there have never been two rookies in the same year with more contrasting and complementary flair, no matter how old you are.

2002

Rookie of the Year

1. Amare Stoudemire
2. Yao Ming
3. Caron Butler

Best Actual Careers

1. Manu Ginobili
2. Amare Stoudemire
3. Yao Ming

Reaction

Ginobili didn’t come out of nowhere here. He actually ranked fourth in rookie voting. But it was a distant fourth behind Butler. And keep in mind that Ginobili debuted at age 25, so he was three years older than Butler and pretty much everyone else in this class. Obviously, he is now by far the most accomplished player.

2003

Rookie of the Year

1. LeBron James
2. Carmelo Anthony
3. Dwyane Wade

Best Actual Careers

1. LeBron James
2. Dwyane Wade
3. Chris Bosh

Reaction

This is close to a three for three. I am just giving the narrow edge to Bosh over Carmelo right now. I understand that many would probably disagree.

The more important point: Kirk Hinrich ranked higher in the rookie voting than Bosh.

2010

Rookie of the Year

1. Blake Griffin
2. John Wall
3. DeMarcus Cousins

Best Actual Careers

1. Blake Griffin
2. Paul George
3. John Wall

Reaction

Another close call on a three for three. Griffin was actually drafted the year prior, but joins this class because he sat out his first season.

Gary Neal and Landry Fields received rookies votes. Gordon Hayward and Lance Stephenson did not.

2011

Rookie of the Year

1. Kyrie Irving
2. Ricky Rubio
3. Kenneth Faried

Best Actual Careers

1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Kyrie Irving
3. Kenneth Faried

Reaction

Concluding with this: Kawhi Leonard (4) and Iman Shumpert (5) as rookies were really quite comparable three years ago.

Things change.

Three of the three best rookies turned out to be the three best players (3/3)

Never (Since 1994)

Reaction

Crazy.

Maybe 2012 will get here someday. The 1-2-3 voting went like this: Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal. That looks promising, though you figure one of Andre Drummond (easily the best bet), Terrence Jones, John Henson, Harrison Barnes, or even Terrence Ross finds a way in there.

The 2013 class? Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo, and Trey Burke. Of course that looks reasonable now, but we are just one year out, so of course it does.

Here’s to Giannis making that look silly soon.

 

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