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Parker's injury stings Bucks, but creates new ROY race

Rookie Ladder: Week 8

POSTED: Dec 17, 2014 9:40 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Andrew Wiggins (right) may be primed to take over the No. 1 spot after Jabari Parker's season-ending ACL tear.

The news that Jabari Parker will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL was a brutal development for a player 25 games into a bright NBA future and head-shaking bad for the Bucks, a prospect (and a team) denied the chance to see how Parker's pairing with fellow forward Giannis Antetokounmpo would develop through a possible playoff run.

GameTime: Parker Out For Season

Greg Anthony and Isiah Thomas discuss Jabari Parker's season-ending injury with a torn ACL in the left knee.

But there is Rookie of the Year fallout as well. It's not close to Parker's personal health or the impact his injury has on an entire organization on the list of implications. As well, it's far behind measuring the potential long-term hit this puts on the Bucks' roster-development plans. But ROY is a big deal and Parker was the guy the rest of the class was chasing.

The race course is now officially a maze. Just when it appeared the medical bulletins could not get much worse for 2014's lottery picks -- with the strong likelihood No. 3 pick Joel Embiid will sit the entire season, No. 4 pick Aaron Gordon will miss extensive time and No. 7 pick Julius Randle is done after one appearance -- they got a lot worse. Parker, the No. 2 pick, was easily the most consistent of the first-year players and he lasted all of 30 percent of 2014-15.

Not merely the leader for the award, he was the clear leader. And then he wasn't. Parker hurt the left leg hurt Monday night in Phoenix making exactly the kind of play that made him unique: grabbing a defensive rebound, turning up court to lead the break himself and getting into the lane to find an open teammate.

Jabari Parker Injury

Jabari Parker leaves the game with a left knee sprain and does not return.

There will be a change at the top of the Ladder at some point, probably soon, and then he will drop from the top 10 all together. For now, though, Parker holds at No. 1 because the injury has yet to cost him a game and because he has been the best rookie. Andrew Wiggins, K.J. McDaniels, Nikola Mirotic and others will pass as Parker watches from the sideline, until the next time goes through a grinder, but until then:

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

Twenty-five games, second in rookie scoring, third in rebounding, third in shooting, fourth in steals, a starter at small forward and power forward, and averaging 29.5 minutes a game on a team with a winning record. That's something to build on in 2015-16.

2. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves (3)

Kia Awards: Andrew Wiggins

The Timberwolves' rookie, Andrew Wiggins is a nominee for the Kia Western Conference Rookie of the Month.

He has been good enough to climb, just not actually that good. The scoring looks shiny -- 21, 23, 18 and 16 in a four-game run that ended Sunday -- but Wiggins is doing it as a volume shooter, not a skilled one. He hasn't broken 39 percent in three outings, is at 36.7 in his last 12 games, and that doesn't get into having as many turnovers as assists in his last five games. Against better competition, he might have gone backward. Against this group, he just moved into prime ROY position.

3. K.J. McDaniels, Philadelphia 76ers (2)

Cleaned Up by K.J.

K.J. McDaniels soars in for the mean put-back stuff.

McDaniels just had his worst stretch of the season, clogged with the latest round of poor shooting to drop all the way down to 40.3 percent. That may not have been enough to cost him No. 2 because the Ladder is about the season as a whole and not a week-to-week temperature reading. But that, plus Wiggins' scoring surge, is enough to switch spots.

4. Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls (6)

Nikola Mirotic
Nikola Mirotic has become a steady contributor.

His shot has disappeared after a very good run, but Mirotic continues to rebound. In short, he is consistently contributing to a 15-9 team that doesn't have time to play rookies unless they can step up. Getting 17.8 minutes on a front line with very good depth outweighs his 41.4 percent shooting.

5. Tarik Black, Houston Rockets (5)

Talk about capitalizing on opportunities. Black had already gone from undrafted to making the Rockets to making the rotation. Then, he averaged 6.8 rebounds in 19.8 minutes over 12 games as Dwight Howard's replacement in the starting lineup. Near the end of the recent run of 11 games in a row as a starter, Black had at least nine boards in three of five outings despite not getting more than 27 minutes.

6. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (7)

Dunk of the Night - Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel crashes in with the nasty put-back slam in traffic.

Among rookies, he's No. 1 in rebounding, No. 1 in steals (and 12th in the league as a whole), No. 2 in blocks, No. 4 in shooting and No. 6 in scoring. Noel can make a case for being higher on the Ladder. In that case, good thing he has an ideal opportunity to move up, with Black's role expected to decline with Howard back in the lineup and Parker about to fall out of the rankings.

7. Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets (4)

Losing the job as starting shooting guard to Sergey Karasev, after being in the opening lineup the first 19 games, was a hit. Then it got worse when Bogdanovic's minutes dipped to 17, 17, 19 and 15 (he hadn't played less than 22 all season before that). The counter is that he is shooting 43.8 percent in his last nine games, practically Hall of Fame credentials in this class.

8. Kostas Papanikolaou, Houston Rockets (9)

He's missed four straight games (and couting) because of the sprained knee, but no one has come up strong enough from behind to push him off the Ladder. If anything, sitting quiet and letting a lot of others around him step in holes has been a plus. The big picture is still strongly in his favor: recent inactivity or not, Papanikolaou remains one of the 10 best rookies, and the injury is not expected to sideline him much longer.

9. Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic (10)

Payton Finds Vucevic

Elfrid Payton lobs it to Nikola Vucevic who finishes with the alley-oop layup.

While the shooting remains a big problem --37.8 percent -- Payton is the rookie leader in assists (4.8), has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.17-to-1 and the ability to impact on defense with size (6-foot-4) and athleticism. He has spent weeks living on the Ladder bubble, with the possibility to move up again with one good run or fall out of the top 10 again.

10. Shabazz Napier, Miami Heat (8)

The reduced role could be seen coming. The surprise was that the reduction was all the way to the NBA D-League. This is the same guy who led all rookies in fourth-quarter minutes and who was tied for first in shooting among guards heading into Tuesday night? That keeps him on the Ladder ... for now.

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

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