As the halfway point of the NBA season approaches, 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.
Let’s start in Detroit, where two first-year pros could continue to emerge. The struggling Pistons have gotten no better since the trade of Tayshaun Prince a week ago—in fact, they’ve dropped three straight games since that swap. Perhaps that means theirs room to grow.
Detroit feature a pair of rookies—Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond—that could improve the bottom-line results for the Pistons in the second half as they continue to gain game experience. While Singler is still finding his way at the shooting guard position, his scoring has been on the rise and it should continue to improve. Drummond, a 6′-10” center, has been a rebounding machine while playing just limited minutes to this point. However, the UConn product could see increased playing time with the departure of Prince and that could be a good thing for the Pistons.
Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers are the other two standouts worth keeping an eye on. They have been perhaps the two best rookies of this NBA season to this point and will need to be accounted for before making any further NBA predictions.
Beal has missed the last five games dealing with a wrist injury, but prior to this break he was averaging 13.2 points a game at shooting guard to help be named the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for both December and January. That came largely minus point guard John Wall in the lineup, who has since returned and sparked the Wizards (13-35) to consecutive wins over the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers.
Given its poor straight-up record, Washington has been largely disregarded by bettors and that has resulted in an excellent 29-17-2 against the spread this season. Beal’s return, combined with a healthy Wall, should continue that positive trend.
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 3.3 rebounds a game for the Blazers (25-24). He’s helped keep Portland in the playoff race, but it remains to be seen whether the small-college product can continue this type of production for a full rookie campaign.