Kia Rookie Ladder
Kia Rookie Ladder: Unanimous win for Doncic seems unlikely now
Week 20: Ranking the top five rookies in the NBA
Drew Packham, NBA.com
Early in the season, it looked like Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic was on his way to becoming the sixth unanimous Rookie of the Year winner.
The last unanimous winner was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, who in 2016 became the fifth runaway winner, joining the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (2013), the LA Clippers’ Blake Griffin (2011), the San Antonio Spurs’ David Robinson (1990) and the Houston Rockets’ Ralph Sampson (1984).
But the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young has had such an impressive second half of the season, the chances of Doncic grabbing 100 percent of the first-place votes are becoming less likely.
* Blogtable: Who are the favorites for Kia Rookie of the Year?
Young’s post-All-Star numbers have tightened things up so much it’s worth looking back at a few of the more memorable Rookie of the Year votes.
There have actually been co-winners three times: Boston’s Dave Cowens and Geoff Petrie (1970-71), Dallas’ Jason Kidd and the Detroit Pistons’ Grant Hill (1994-95), and the Chicago Bulls’ Elton Brand and Houston’s Steve Francis (1999-2000).
Here’ a look at a few of the more memorable tight races over the last 15 or so seasons …
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2009-10: Tyreke Evans over Stephen Curry
The Sacramento Kings’ Evans edged out the Golden State Warriors’ Curry by taking home 491 points to Curry’s 391. Evans got 67 first-place votes while Curry got 43. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Jennings grabbed 12 first-place votes. Evans’ best season in the NBA was actually his rookie campaign, in which he averaged 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 72 games. Curry, meanwhile, put up averages of 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting 46.2 percent from the field (43.7 on 3s).
2003-04: LeBron James over Carmelo Anthony
LeBron and ‘Melo both had impressive rookie seasons, but the No. 1 pick ended up taking home the hardware by grabbing 78 first-place votes to Anthony’s 40. LeBron put up 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, while ‘Melo had similar stats, going for 21 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 2.8 apg. Anthony’s case could be bolstered by the fact he led the Nuggets to the playoffs, while the Cavs fell short of the postseason.
2002-03: Amar’e Stoudemire over Yao Ming
Yao Ming, taken with the No. 1 pick by the Houston Rockets, averaged 13.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 49.8 percent. Stoudemire, whom the Suns took with the 9th pick, had almost identical numbers at 13.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. Amar’e, however, helped Phoenix edge out Houston for the final playoff spot in the West, which may have given him the final edge.
It will be interesting to see how the votes shake out in this season’s race. Will Doncic’s season-long numbers and big shots be enough to overcome Young’s late surge? I certainly don’t expect a unanimous vote, but just how close will the final tally be?
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1. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Last week: No. 1
Young struggled with his shot a bit this week, but still managed to have some big moments. He fought through on off shooting night (5-for-19, 2-for-9 on 3s) on Sunday, but still dished out 16 assists and scored the game-winning bucket at the buzzer to stun Milwaukee in OT. After another off night in San Antonio (5-for-15 shooting, 0-for-6 on 3s), Young tallied his seventh 30-point, 10-assist of the season in the Hawks’ 130-122 win over the Sixers. Young finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists, and just two turnovers (he has just seven total in his last five games) while finishing 12-for-18 from the field in one of his most complete games of the season.
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Last week: No. 2
After missing two games this week with a right thigh contusion, Doncic returned only to come up short while passing up a potential game-winning shot against the Wolves. With Dallas trailing by two, Doncic — who scored 27 points with 12 rebounds and six assists — deferred on the final play of the game after a beautiful stepback, setting up Jalen Brunson for a potential game-winner instead of taking the shot. Brunson missed the shot (he had to hurry and may not have even got it off in time) and Doncic stood behind his decision. “For me it’s not a question. I trusted him. The whole team trusted him. It was a great shot. Sometimes it’s not going to go in.” For the record, Doncic finished March 22.5 percent from 3-point land, so maybe he was gun shy.
3. Marvin Bagley, Sacramento Kings
Last week: No. 3
In three games this week (all losses), Bagley III averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 27.6 minutes per game. The No. 3 pick missed Sunday’s contest with a stomach illness, but returned Tuesday night to put up 19 points on 7-for-28 shooting along with eight rebounds. The Kings’ playoff hopes ended this week, but the future remains bright with Bagley likely taking a bigger role next season as Sacramento’s young core looks to take the next step.
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers
Last week: Not ranked
The Clippers are one of the league’s hottest teams, having won 13 of 15 in March, and Gilgeous-Alexander is a big reason. In four games this week, he averaged 17.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 4.3 apg and 2 spg. In March, he put up some ridiculous shooting numbers, shooting 52.3 percent overall and 59.4 percent on 3-pointers. He finished the month +4.1 and his true shooting percentage was 62.4 percent. It was a good month for him and the Clippers will need more of the same if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs.
5. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers
Last week: No. 4
In three games this week, Sexton averaged 22 ppg on 45.6 percent shooting and will likely end the season as just the third rookie to score 2,000 points, average 16 ppg and shoot at least 40 percent on 3-pointers. The others: Larry Bird (ROY in 1980) and Stephen Curry (2nd in ROY in 2010).
Just missed the cut:
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Hat tip to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, who dug up this statistical gem, which shows Ayton’s efficiency in the paint: Ayton is just the second rookie (Ben Simmons was the first) in the 23 years for which we have shot location data to shoot 70 percent or better on at least 300 shots in the restricted area. In his lone game this week, Ayton had 17 points and 13 rebounds before spraining his left ankle in the Suns’ loss to the Grizzlies. Ayton also sat out Wednesday’s loss to the Jazz and it’s not likely the Suns will risk pushing their prize center to return with just three games remaining.
Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks
The Knicks’ big man had a big week with 13.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg and 2.8 bpg in 33.7 mpg. Despite struggling Wednesday night, Robinson still managed to get two blocks to extend his streak of games with two-plus blocks to 26. It’s the second-longest streak by a rookie behind Hall of Famer David Robinson.
Landry Shamet, LA Clippers
Like Gilgeous-Alexander, Shamet has been crucial to the Clippers’ incredible March, in which they went an NBA-best 13-2. For the month, Shamet averaged 11.4 ppg while hitting 45.7 percent of his 3s (taking 6.7 per game). After missing a game last week with an ankle injury, Shamet returned to the starting lineup and averaged 10 ppg in four games this week.
Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers
With Darren Collison (groin) and Wesley Matthews (hamstring) out, Holiday saw big minutes in back-to-back wins over the Pistons. The point guard had 10 points and five assists in 25 minutes Monday night, then had seven points, six assists and two steals in 29 minutes Wednesday night. It’s been an inconsistent season for Holiday minutes-wise, but Holiday could be a key contributor off the bench in spot duty during the playoffs.
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(All stats through Wednesday, April 3)
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