With the second half of the NBA season underway, it’s worth taking a look at the emerging stars of this year’s rookie class and the potential impact they could have on their teams moving forward.
Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers are considered by most to be at the head of this season’s freshman class. They have consistently played the best basketball among this year’s rookie crop and will need to be accounted for when making any further NBA predictions.
Beal has regained his top form since returning to the starting lineup after being sidelined for five games because of a wrist injury. He poured in 28 points in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks last week and added 25 points in a loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. He is averaging 13.5 points a game this season and was named the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for both December and January. Those honors were accrued mostly without having point guard John Wall in the lineup, who has since returned and provided a spark to the Wizards.
Given its poor straight-up record, Washington has been largely disregarded by bettors and that has resulted in an excellent 31-19-2 record against the spread this season. Beal’s continued emergence as a top rookie, combined with a healthy Wall, should continue that positive trend for the Wizards.
Lillard is the de-facto NBA Rookie of the Year at this point following a brilliant first-half that’s seen the point guard from Weber State average 18.4 points, 6.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds a game for the Blazers. He’s helped keep Portland on the periphery of the Western Conference playoff race, but it remains to be seen whether the small-college product can continue this type of production for a full rookie campaign.