It’s that time of year again. Let’s try to figure out who will win this year’s Rookie of the Year…
Brandon Jennings jumped out in the ROY race with a 22-4-6 average in October and November, while shooting 43% from the field and 50% from three-point land. This included an epic 55-point outing against the Golden State Warriors in which Jennings hit 21 of 34 shots, including 7-for-8 from behind the arc. Since then, he is averaging 14-3-6 and is shooting just 35% from the field and 36% from 3PT. He has struggled with scoring from inside the arc, but he leads all rookies in assists and has a pretty nice assist-to-turnover ratio — 2.41, but he has posted a 2.72 ratio since the start of December. Maybe most importantly, the Bucks are 41-32 and are in the #5 spot in the East.
Tyreke Evans overtook Jennings with a 22-5-5 December and hasn’t looked back. On the season, he is averaging 20-5-6, and is shooting 46% from the field. He’s on the verge of joining LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only players to average 20-5-5 in their rookie seasons. However, the Kings have the 6th-worst record in the league and have been out of the playoff hunt for some time. This is both good and bad for Evans’ stats. On one hand, the Kings are so bad that he has to be the clear focal point of the offense — unlike Jennings, he doesn’t have to get the ball to Andrew Bogut or John Salmons — but the fact that the Kings are so bad means that defenses can focus on stopping him.
And then there’s Stephen Curry, whom NBA.com’s Drew Packham lists first in his rookie rankings. Since the start of December, he has averaged 18-5-6, while shooting 47% from the field and 44% from long range. And he keeps getting better. In February and March, he averaged 21-5-7. But at 21-52, the Warriors are even worse than the Kings. In fact, Golden State is tied for
second third in fewest wins this season.
One thing that pure averages don’t account for is a team’s pace (i.e. the average # of possessions a team has during the course of a game). Is it fair to compare Jennings’ numbers to Curry’s when the Bucks are #18 in overall pace and the Warriors are #1? Using the league average of 95.15 possessions, here is a look at the pace-adjusted numbers for each player, along with John Hollinger’s PER:
All due respect to Mr. Packham, I think this is a two-man race between Evans and Jennings. Evans’ numbers are better than Curry’s and his team is a little better, so if we’re going to go with a good player on a bad team, it should be Evans.
As for Jennings, his case depends how much importance we place on a team’s record and how responsible the player is for that record. It’s funny — a good record is crucial in winning the league MVP, but for ROY, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much. Why is that?
In the end, I think Evans will win Rookie of the Year. Given the history of the award, if a player clearly has the superior numbers, winning just doesn’t matter. That’s the case here.
Photo from fOTOGLIF