The NBA season is still young, but the rookies have been fascinating already, with the caveat that their games, like Kahwai Leonard’s progressively impressive rookie season a year ago, can evolve by leaps and bounds in the season. Let’s take a look at how the young guys have started.
Anthony Davis: Despite missing a couple games with a concussion, Davis is showing literally everything people wanted … and possibly a little more. Davis is, of course, an excellent rebounder, shot blocker, and defensive anchor already, but his offense is off-the-charts good. He’s already scarily efficient, scoring in the paint, getting to the free-throw line, and showing remarkable touch on his jumper. If for whatever reason you doubted Davis, you should probably start hedging those idiotic comments you made to your buddies about him.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: You may, however, have doubted Kidd-Gilchrist. You would have been wrong, too, but that’s okay. MKG cannot shoot – his biggest knock coming in – but so far, he hasn’t needed to. He’s slashing and cutting his way to efficient scoring; he already looks like a lock to at least score 15-17 a game, which is a big boon to everything else he does. He’s a phenomenal positional rebounder, and an impact defender who understands the art of team defense while also blocking shots and stealing the ball. He’s somebody worth watching.
Dion Waiters: Waiters has been all over the map. At first, Cleveland seemingly reached for him with the fourth pick, considering he came off the bench at Syracuse. Then advanced stats came out about how Waiters was off the charts and compared favorably to Marquette Dwyane Wade. Then he showed up to Cleveland out of shape and in the coach’s doghouse. Now he’s starting and playing very well. He’s athletic, and gets to the hole effectively (though he must learn to finish in traffic). Waiters’ knock was his shooting, both ugly in form and unremarkable in college, but now he’s nailing 3s on a nightly basis. He has rough moments, to be expected, but his early flashes of on-ball defense, and ability to run the pick and roll, make him a very interesting backcourt mate with Kyrie Irving.
Damian Lillard: Lillard’s preseason put a lot of hype on him, and so far, he’s playing up to it. He looks poised and capable running the point while his shooting stroke has been marvelous. Even eventual great shooters don’t usually hit 40 percent on 3s in their rookie year, a great prospect for Lillard’s future. He’ll learn to take better care of the basketball, and will continue to learn playing pick and roll in the NBA – a huge task for a point guard – but early indicators is that the kid from tiny Weber State is for real.
Bradley Beal: Beal was considered somewhat of a sure thing coming into the season. He’s not going to be Dwyane Wade, but Beal will be a very valuable NBA starter (Ray Allen-ish), or so the thinking went. So far, Beal has looks as if he belongs; he’s just not playing very well. Waiters is winning the early shooting guard battle, but Beal has a lot of pressure on him without an injured John Wall in the lineup. Beal is having to create offense on a hapless offensive team, but again, he doesn’t look out of his element. Once his shooting comes to him and he 0smooths over the rough patches, Beal should be fine.