As the NBA season finished with the inevitable (I’m not even impressed with myself that I called this 3 years ago when I said Heat would win 4 out of 5 of the next championships, or that I was 100% positive Miami would win in 7 even after they went down 3-2), I wanted to bridge the treacherous gap that is the off-season, with weekly season recaps. Each week I will come out with a new “Top 5 who Impressed” list ranging anywhere from rookies to coaches. Let’s start with the Rookies:
Top 5 who Impressed: Rookie edition
5 – Pablo Prigioni
35 year old rookie. Think about that – he came into the NBA having studied one type of game in Europe, and coming in anew at 35! Anyhow at first it seemed that Pablo was a little waste of space, but then he started becoming a reliable contributor to the Knicks. With all the injuries (mainly to Tyson Chandler) Knicks fans unfortunately never got to see the team that was supposed to play the Heat in the Semi’s and give them a run for their money. And what they would have realized then was that the veteran leadership of Chandler, (coach) Jason Kidd, and Prigioni was what got them there. They have the star and they have the instant offense, they needed stability and Prigioni surprisingly was the one that gave them that.
4 – Alexey Shved
Everyone is going to debate whether his second half demise showed us he’s not really that good (he had plenty of downs when he played in Europe), or that he just needs to adjust to the long NBA season. My honest opinion is that he has showed lots and lots of brilliance. Sure he plummeted halfway through the season, but through the first half I was very impressed. He’s a do it all guy who will just work harder than you, and those are the type of guys who will stick around even if they’re not that great (think someone like a Boris Diaw). Also, the longer he stays in the league, the more we might see some different hair styles out of him; rumor has it he misses his hair.
3 – Patrick Beverly
(Huh? You’re seriously not going to say someone like Dion Waiters, Bradley Beal, or Harrison Barnes?)
Remember the title of this list; “rookies who impressed”. I’m not that impressed that guards can score and shooters can shoot and defenders can defend and pick up easy buckets when they’re not the main guy on the floor. Yes, they were incredible, and the Wall Beal backcourt vs. the Irving Waiters backcourt is something I cannot wait to see over the next few years. However, I’m not as impressed as I am with Beverly, I mean he singlehandedly made sure the Heat would win the championship when he took out Westbrook! No but for real, to go from not having a job to becoming an annoying pesky backup point guard is actually impressive. And in a league where the bench plays such a big role, it’s important to have a guy like Beverly. He could have a long career as a perennial 6th man of the year candidate.
2,1 (tie) – Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard
(Up until now I have selected players who were impressive even though they weren’t the best rookies out there. These two guys not only were the best rookies out there, but the amount they surpassed everyone else and became the faces of their respective franchises, that was equally impressive.)
Ok, so Damian won the ROY and I’m a die-hard Blazer fan. So how could I have tied these two players? Truth be told, my Blazer blood might have been the only thing keeping me from ranking Davis ahead of Lillard. Don’t get me wrong, Damian is at an all-star level; already. He’s a proven player who will make the big shot and make the right decision at any point in the game. He knows the game so well and he plays with such poise that one wonders how the Blazers were the only team to realize that Brandon Roy and Damian Lillard would be incredible NBA players immediately. But here’s the problem, where would I rank Lillard amongst the rest of the PG crop in the NBA? 1st tier is Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose (if he ever returns), Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall 2nd tier is Derron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holliday, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Steve Nash. Catch the trend? Every team (but Miami) has a really really good player at the PG position. So Damian Lillard is great, but so are so many other PG’s that he was less impressive to me than Anthony Davis.
Anthony Davis battled injuries and thus inconsistent playing time throughout his inaugural season, but when he was on the court, he affected everything. It was almost impossible to watch a Pelicans clip without seeing him do something; a block, a rebound, a come out of nowhere defense. The thing with Davis is that he became a menace singlehandedly. And who wouldn’t want a guy that energetic and active manning your paint. Undersized and underweight, sure, but you can be assured if you attack the rim or even pull up for a jumper against the Pelicans next year, Anthony Davis, his arms, or his unibrow, will be in your face. That’s impressive for any player, and he’s just a rookie.