Jake's Take: A Look Toward the Future - 02/18/11

February 18, 2011
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]

Rookies vs. Sophomores

Rookies 148, Sophomores 140
Box Score
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  • The Rookie-Sophomore game has been my favorite part of All-Star Weekend pretty much ever since its inception. I'm easily distracted by shiny new objects and this is the game where those players are put on full display. It's certainly not a game oozing with fundamentals, but it's always fun to look toward the future and attempt to forecast what will become of the NBA's youngest of guns. What players from these squads will develop into one of the league's all-time greats? What players will be out of the league in a few years? Who falls in between?

    Over the past 10 years, 135 players have played in this contest either has a rookie, sophomore or both. Is this game a precursor for future greatness? Have these players fulfilled the immense promise they showed as underclassmen? Not necessarily. Some have gone on to greatness, some goodness and others badness.

    Of the 135 players who have played in this game the last 10 years, 37 of them have gone to play in at least one All-Star Game. That goes all the way back to Wally Szczerbiak as a member of the sophomore team in 2001 and extends to this year and Kevin Love, who played on the sophomore team just a year ago. The team that boasted the most future all-stars was the 2001 sophomore squad that featured Elton Brand, Richard Hamilton, Baron Davis, Steve Francis, Shawn Marion and the aforementioned Szczerbiak.

    I would categorize seven other alumni as players with legit potential to be named to an all-star roster at some point in the near future. This list includes Andrew Bogut, Eric Gordon, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Monta Ellis, Josh Smith and Al Jefferson. It could be argued that each of these players could've already made an all-star game.

    Below that group is a level of guys who either haven't reached their full potential yet (i.e. Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans) or just aren't quite good enough to be a part of that exclusive 12-man roster. These are very good players who will likely be long-time starters on their respective teams, but are no better than a third-wheel on a good team. This group goes 34 deep and includes the likes of Andre Iguodala, Paul Millsap and Luol Deng.

    This list gradually tapers off until you come across a surprisingly-high 21 players who are no longer even in the league. Some players -- Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa and the unforgettable Saranus Jasikevicius -- chose to take their talents overseas. Others, and I won't name names, simply couldn't cut it after promising debuts. Let's just say one is better known for his wispy mustache, another was hindered by his doughy physique, and yet another inexplicably found himself a super model and decided to call it a day. Those must've been some weak rookie classes.

    So what does this mean for Milwaukee rookie Larry Sanders, who wasn't invited to participate in the weekend's festivities? Does his exclusion eliminate all probability of a trip to a future All-Star Game? It does not. There have been five players drafted over the last 10 years who never played in the Rookie-Sophomore game who would go on to don the red and blue of All-Star Weekend. The overachievers: Gerald Wallace, Zach Randolph, David West, Mo Williams and Mehmut Okur.

    Maybe it's a bad case of undiagnosed adult-onset ADD, but I routinely find myself getting bored with the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. I've had ample opportunity to see what they can do. I need to be kept on my toes. I need the John Walls and Serge Ibakas of this weekend to give me something new and exciting to look forward to. That's why I so enjoy this wildly chaotic and disorganized exhibition.

    In-game Musings

    • It took about two minutes for me to realize that Chris Webber is a broadcasting superstar. I enjoyed his work during the Summer League and he always chimes in with some nice one-liners on the TNT set, but he's stepped up his game for tonight. He's got great energy and even better wit. I'm sure most of his early stuff has been pre-written, but it's clever nonetheless. His line about DeJuan Blair -- "He forgot to bring his ligaments to the game" -- cracked me up.
    • I'm a big James Harden fan, but I don't think he's ever going to reach his full potential in Oklahoma City. He's always going to be the fourth option behind Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. He's played the team game and blended in to the Thunder rotation, but he could do so much more. Put him in another situation and he'd thrive. He's got a good shot, he can pass and he's sneaky athletic. Don't let the old man's game fool you. Harden can turn it on when he needs to.
    • Blair comes across to me as a poor man's Charles Barkley. The most obvious comparison is the undersized power forward that just happens to be a rebounding menace. Blair, like Barkley, has the kind of athleticism that defies his body type. Both Blair and Barkley are and were portly, to put it nicely, yet pull of some pretty serious aerial feats.
    • Why does DeMarcus Cousins look so angry right now? This game is supposed to be the most fun he'll have all season, yet he looks like he wants to roundhouse kick the world. The guy's got crazy talent, but it's being beaten down and suffocated by this intense anger. Having a chip on one's shoulder can be beneficial, but his chip is almost too much. A typical chip is a cute cuddly mogwai. Cousins' chip is a mogwai that's been drowned in water.
    • Blake Griffin suppresses any outward gestures or emotions. Instead, he carries himself with this quiet cockiness. Griffin's got this way that he glides down to the other end of the court after throwing down one of his trademark dunks. He's a little like Barry Sanders in that way, with his been-there, done-that mentality.
    • Are we sure Greg Monroe isn't a 14-year left tackle in the NFL? He's 20-years-old yet moves around like he's had a dozen knee surgeries and suffers through a severe case of arthritis. Monroe is definitely a guy that's going to need to survive on guile and craftiness.
    • Landry Fields may redefine the term "glue guy" when all is said and done. I doubt he'll ever come close to being an All-Star, but he's going to play significant minutes on a championship team at some point. He does all of the little things that role players do on championship teams, and he does them really well. On top of that, the smarts exemplified by his Stanford education point to him eventually becoming a highly successful head coach. I can't shake the feeling we'll be seeing Fields in some NBA role for a good couple of decades.

    Closing It Out
    The rookies may only be in their first year in the NBA, but they showed some impressive poise down the stretch against the veteran sophomores. The second-year players fell apart down the stretch when the players were actually trying while the rooks drained shot after shot. In a way, though, the rookies had an advantage with Griffin on the squad. Griffin really belongs with the sophomores since he was in their draft class, but his lost inaugural season placed him with the rooks. Either way, credit should be given to the rookies.

    The highlight of the night belonged to Griffin and Wall, who set a record with 22 assists. Their connection on the bounce-pass alley-oop was nothing less than sublime. Harden also had some impressive throw downs on his way to a sophomore-high 30 points while Gary Neal looked like the real deal with some clutch shooting in the game's final minutes. It's hard to give too much credit to anyone, though, since little to no defensive effort is exerted through the game's first 35 minutes.

    It'll be interesting to see which of this year's players will be in Sunday's showcase next year. Griffin seems like a lock to be back, but finding a second could be more difficult. Wall, the game's MVP, seems like the next best choice, but he'll need to surpass Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo, among others, to receive that honor. After Wall, it's a toss-up, but I look forward to finding out how it will be. Who knows, we might not come across the next first-time All-Star until next year's rookie class.

    Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.