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One month in, and these rookies have yet to truly shine

Rookie Ladder: Week 6

POSTED: Dec 3, 2014 1:23 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Neither Jabari Parker (left) nor Andrew Wiggins have firmly grabbed hold of their place in the rookie hierarchy.

Jabari Parker's current nice stretch of games can't save the rookie class. Neither can K.J. McDaniels, even as he's deep in his charge-in-progress from 2014 second-round pick to one of the top rungs on the Ladder. Nor can the unexpected depth in this year's class, courtesy a pair of Rockets, soften the blow.

This group of first-year players is off to a bad start. Really bad. Worst-in-at-least-10-years bad.

No. 3 overall pick Joel Embiid was injured before the season started. Julius Randle, picked No. 7 overall, made it all the way until late in his first game. No. 4 pick Aaron Gordon lasted 11 games, but three of the first seven picks from the 2014 Draft going down before the end of November wasn't the only issue. There was also the little matter of the players who were healthy.

No one is tracking close to the level of recent winners of Rookie of the Year, with three clarifications in fine print: Some had games in October, some did not, so the numbers don't necessarily represent a first full month. Kyrie Irving debuted as part of the lockout season, so his first full month is January. And, Brandon Roy had two short months while coming back from a heel injury, so his 2006-07 is tossed out and another season is added at the end.

Michael Carter-Williams, 2013-14 -- 12 games, 36.2 minutes, 16.8 points, 6.8 assists, 38.6 percent from the field.

Damian Lillard, 2012-13 -- 15 games, 36.9 minutes, 18.1 points, 5.5 assists, 42.4 percent.

Irving, 2011-12 -- 17 games, 29.2 minutes, 18.9 points, 4.7 assists, 53.5 percent.

Blake Griffin, 2010-11 -- 15 games, 35.9 minutes, 20.9 points, 11.7 rebounds, 54 percent.

Tyreke Evans, 2009-10 -- 12 games, 37.5 minutes, 20.3 points, 5.1 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 45.4 percent.

Derrick Rose, 2008-09 -- 15 games, 39 minutes, 18.9 points, 6.1 assists, 49.6 percent.

Kevin Durant, 2007-08 -- 16 games, 34.5 minutes, 20.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 41.4 percent.

Chris Paul, 2005-06 -- 14 games, 36.7 minutes, 16.4 points, 6.8 assists, 42.2 percent.

Emeka Okafor, 2004-05 -- 13 games, 34.8 minutes, 13.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 48.4 percent.

LeBron James, 2003-04 -- 15 games, 40.9 minutes, 16.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 40 percent.

Compared to the current category leaders: Parker in scoring at 12.4, Noel in rebounding at 6.5, Elfrid Payton in assists at 5.0, Aaron Gordon in shooting (minimum 10 games) at 58.1 percent and Bojan Bogdanovic in minutes at 31.1. What had been apparent is now official. The 2014-15 rookies are off to a very slow start.

The best of the class anyway:

1. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks (Last week: 1)

Rookie Duel: Parker v. Wiggins

Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, the two top picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, faced one another for the first time in the regular season.

The offensive numbers -- No. 1 in scoring among rookies (12.4 ppg), 47.3-percent shooting -- would probably have been good enough to hold the top spot. His rebounding, though (6.2 rpg), is the new difference maker. Parker has grabbed at least eight boards in three of the last five games, including nine in 27 minutes and nine in 32 minutes, as part of the switch from small forward back to power forward. He's second overall in boards among rookies.

2. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves (2)

Lob to Wiggins

Mo Williams throws it up to Andrew Wiggins for the high-flying slam.

Not only is he failing to capitalize on the larger opportunity in the offense with the injury absence of Kevin Martin, Wiggins has slumped to where he had made 40 percent of his attempts once in the last eight games, and that was 40.9. He is down to 39.9 overall, a very bad look for a Rookie of the Year hopeful. The defense helps his case (1.1 spg, 6th among rookies), plus the fact that no challenger for the spot has made a consistent case. That could change because of ...

3. K.J. McDaniels, Philadelphia 76ers (6)

McDaniels Rejects Belinelli

K.J. McDaniels chases down the Spurs' fast break and denies Marco Belinelli at the rim.

McDaniels has started to move from a complementary role to the forefront of the Philadelphia offense, and, no, not just because there isn't any other Sixer capable, OK, not entirely because of that. After not getting more than 12 shots in any of the first 14 games, McDaniels had 15 and 17 in consecutive outings in the last week. He went 15-for-32 and 4-for-8 on 3-pointers during that stretch, resulting in 39 points. Oh, and he had 19 rebounds, followed by nine the next outing on a down night offensively (10 points on 2-for-8 shooting).

4. Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets (3)

Small sample size, nothing. Making 11 of his last 23 field goal attempts was an important rebuttal after Bogdanovic had three games in a row without making more than two. If it's a sign he is back on a good path, the Nets have a valuable contributor at shooting guard again. If the recovery turns out to be temporary, he could soon be out of the top five, or worse.

5. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (4)

Up And Above

Alexey Shved runs the break and lobs it up to Nerlens Noel for the alley-oop jam.

Leading in an important category counts for something, even if it only takes 6.5 rebounds with inconsistent production despite big minutes to reach No. 1 in this class. Same with being tied for first in blocks, with teammate McDaniels, at 1.29. Plus, a recent shooting streak is found money -- Noel has made 25 of 43 field goal attempts in his last six games. Limited shooting range or not, going 6-for-11 against the Knicks, 6-for-7 against the Trail Blazers and 5-for-10 against the Mavericks recently is noteworthy.

6. Tarik Black, Houston Rockets (7)

He isn't much of a threat on offense and isn't a threat, period, as a shot blocker (0.1 bpg). He takes a hit for that as a center, but Black continues to rebound at a high rate. He has been especially effective on the offensive boards, getting Houston the second chances it can use to help compensate for the absence of Dwight Howard. Black has needed just 17 minutes to climb to third in rebounding at 5.2 rpg, compared to Noel at 6.5 in 30.5 minutes and Parker at 6.2 in 30.

7. Shabazz Napier, Miami Heat (8)

Though the backup point guard, Napier has yet to play fewer than 14 minutes for a team with a winning record. That's an underrated stat, and is now consistently logging in the high-20s/low-30s. He is repaying the confidence from coach Erik Spoelstra by shooting 45.5 percent, tops among rookie guards with at least 10 appearances. The assist-to-turnover ratio -- 1.02-1 -- remains a problem.

8. Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls (10)

Mirotic's Circus Shot

Nikola Mirotic pump fakes, draws the foul and somehow gets the scoop layup to fall.

Welcome to the Mirotic-Kostas Papanikolaou comparison, stretch fours arriving from Europe following international careers and playing large roles for playoff-bound teams. The Chicago rookie is slightly ahead in scoring and rebounding despite playing about eight fewer minutes per game and way ahead in shooting. Advantage: Mirotic. The latest is the big contribution on the boards as the Bulls played without Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, with Mirotic recording at least seven rebounds off the bench in five of the last eight games.

9. Kostas Papanikolaou, Houston Rockets (9)

Mirotic-Papanikolaou, continued: The Houston rookie has made an immediate impact with his defense, as Ladder director of analytics John Schuhmann noted last week in detailing the Rockets' overall gains on that side of the ball. If Papanikolaou can start closing in on 40 percent from the field, he undoubtedly climbs the rankings.

10. Dante Exum, Utah Jazz (5)

He takes a fall as several players behind him a week ago continue on an upward trajectory while Exum suffers through an extended shooting slump. The encouraging signs on defense and the assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.2-1 saves him... for now. But he's down to 36.7 percent from the field and heading into a week with four games before the next ranking. Time to step up.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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