Fans would expect Brandon Knight to be playing exasperated and running on “E” after playing three intense games in three nights. The regular working man or woman would shrug at a 48-minute working day. But those 48 minutes, or 25-30 depending on how important the game and the player is, include monstrous physicality, bodies crashing and then subsequently hitting the hardwood at incredible velocity. It sounds quite harsh but you should believe it is not an activity that always does the body good.
Needless to say, a rookie playing in this shortened season has been tested and tried tremendously, specifically those who were drafted into fruitless franchises like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons. Brandon Knight has been tried early on and his play against the New Jersey Nets only shows that the consideration for rookie of the year should not just stop at players like Kyrie Irving. Knight sits in the top five rankings of the rookie guards in the league and coasting into the top ten rookie players in the league.
- 5. Norris Cole, Miami Heat, PG – Norris Cole opened a lot of people eye’s to the fruits that can be reaped by drafting a player from Cleveland State. Those who came into the league before him from Cleveland State may not have provided the proper blueprint or a timespan longer than six years, but the potential Cole has shown already proves he will be around much longer.
Miami has installed him into their offensive system already and the fact that he has already made a name in an established organization like the basketball team in South Beach shows how strong his future will be and how strong his present already has been. Ever since that clutch performance against the Boston Celtics early on in the season, everyone has been waiting for him to be Miami’s messiah, forgetting that he is only a rookie. But, he is still a rookie that can score 20 on any given night and can make those detrimental plays whenever his team needs him to.
- 4. Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons, PG – Despite Brandon Knight’s seemingly sour face when his name was called by David Stern as he was drafted by Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons, he has been making the most of his time in Motown thus far. Knight is getting more reliable for new head coach Lawrence Frank and the dwindling in relevance Pistons’ squad.
It took him a moment to get adjusted to playing in a professional league with and against men who have been doing this for years, but now that he is acclimated, things will only get better. Things are a little shaky in Detroit right now and when the team looks to rebuild, adequately, they will look to him as one of the team’s centerpieces to build around.
- 3. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats, PG – After being told by his coach, Coach Paul Silas, that it was well overdue for him to become a pass-first, shoot-later point guard, Walker achieved his first career triple-double. He silenced many of his coach’s concerns, if any of the questions he had about Walker were truly concerns or purely based on his rookie status.
This was, however, one of the bigger issues with Walker coming out of Connecticut where he had to be the commander-in-chief at all times. He was walking into a situation in Charlotte where he would not be immediately looked at as “numero uno” and it may have taken him a few games to get used to it. Needless to say, 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds may prove to a few people that he is a bit more ready than anyone expected him to be.
- 2. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves, PG – Coming into the league after an extended leave had Ricky Rubio on either side of the common fan’s extreme. Either he was going to be the perfect ingredient to make Minnesota viable contenders in the regular season or he was going to be an ultimate bust. There was no middle ground for his career. It was either going to be bang or bust and luckily, at least for the moment, for Kevin Love, Rubio has given the Timberwolves an element that they had not had before.
There is no way that he could have taken any of the shine away from Love, Minnesota’s love child, but he most definitely made a huge impact on how the franchise is viewed at his position this season. Rubio has crazy handles, great body control and a nice stroke to couple his insane body movement and court vision. He will only grow in the league which is nothing but music to Minnesota’s ears. The only question hanging in the balance is whether or not Love will be there to share in his experience.
- 1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers, PG – Can we give up the notion that Kyrie Irving is going to make the Cleveland Cavaliers forget about LeBron James? He was the best player in the franchise’s history and unless the Cavaliers plan on sucking for many more years to come they will probably not draft another instantaneous talent like him again. But, there is one comforting thought for the Cavaliers that Irving has brought to the table. He is not LeBron James. Remember all the greatness the man brought to your city, but remember the Finals’ failures and disappointment he brought as well. It is Irving’s time to take this franchise by the reins and prove how loyal and victorious he plans on being in Cleveland.
So far he has done a great job implementing Byron Scott’s game plan and instilling a certain confidence back into the Cavaliers’ offense and most importantly their transition game. Against the Miami Heat, specifically, they were pulling off those easy transition buckets that the Heat usually get away with. Irving’s pace puts his future in the league in the conversation with a talent like Chris Paul and that is one of the grandest compliments a young player in the NBA can get right now.