To be a rookie in the NBA is a daunting role. Not only do you have to learn an entirely new system, make sure your ego is in check, and deal with daily reminder about your status on the team, an NBA rookie must contribute as best he can to prove he was worth drafting by an NBA franchise.
This year’s rookie crop had its players who stood above the rest such as Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin, and some who didn’t live up to the hype such as San Antonio Spurs’ Tiago Splitter. However, there were a few in the middle who provided their individual teams that spark whether it be on the offensive or defensive end.
There is no doubt Griffin will receive the Rookie of the Year Award. Currently, he is putting up 22.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, and shooting 50% from the field and giving Clippers and NBA fans a reason to cheer.
Same goes for Washington Wizards’ John Wall and Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins. Each played fantastic for their respective teams. Wall dealt with an early season injury only to come back and average 16.5 points, and ranks sixth in the NBA in assists with 8.4. Cousins has proven to be the best Kings player – despite his antics – and is averaging 14.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Aside from those three, there was plenty of focus on other rookies such as Gary Neal of the Spurs, and Utah’s Gordon Haywood but there were a few other rookies who meant a lot for their respective teams who have gone unsung. In particular, Landry Fields and Jordan Crawford.
New York Knicks, Landry Fields
He may have hit the rookie wall recently and his numbers have dipped as the regular season ends but what he did for the Knicks early in the season was a huge reason for the Knicks breaking a seven-year playoff absence.
Keep in mind he was a steady force for the Knicks pre-Carmelo Anthony. He won the NBA’s Rookie of the Month award in back-to-back months (November/December), played in all of New York’s games and, per game, he currently averages 9.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, shoots 49% from the field, 39% from the three-point line, and 77% from the free-throw line.
However, what sets Landry as a crucial cog for the Knicks, is how he increases his averages on the road. In 40 road games, Landry averages 10.3 points, shoots 51% from the field, 39% from the three-point line, and two assists.
Add the fact Landry ranks second behind Miami’s Dwayne Wade in guard rebounding at 6.3, sixth in field goal percentage among guards at 49%, and first in the NBA in fourth quarter three-point field goal percentage at 58%.
As a rookie, he has started for a playoff team, has a significant role for New York and demonstrated poise during the Anthony trade saga when his name was tossed in as a potential trade piece.
“At the end of the day, you just have to focus on your own game and you can’t worry about any external stuff like that.”
This versatile rookie has shown the teams who passed him up for 38 picks in the 2010 NBA draft that he can play at the highest level and odds are he will be key for the Knicks in the playoffs.
Washington Wizards, Jordan Crawford
Talk about transitioning into the NBA and then some.
Jordan Crawford was drafted by the New Jersey Nets, then shortly was traded to the Atlanta Hawks and then traded to the Wizards late in the season in the Mike Bibby deal.
Yet through all the switching of jerseys, and living in the shadow of fellow rookie John Wall, Crawford seems to have finally found a home in Washington and has been on a tear of late.
Since March 8, he has averaged 20.3 including a career high 39 points in a loss to the Miami Heat on March 30 and recorded a triple-double against the Cleveland Cavaliers with 21 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. In addition, Crawford is averaging 20.2 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.7 rebounds in 17 starts with Washington and has scored 20 or more points 10 times since joining Washington. He is the reason the Wizards have been winning of late.
Crawford has been playing fearless and head coach Flip Saunders has taken notice.
“Jordan continues to impress and amaze,” coach Flip Saunders said after the 123-107 loss to Miami. “Whatever you ask him to do, whatever responsibility, he has no fear.”
Clearly he is taking advantage of the opportunity Washington has given him and the franchise has a budding one-two punch with Wall and Crawford in the making.
The Wizards’ future is bright. With players such as Wall, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, and Nick Young, Crawford will surely be a major factor in Washington’s return to prominence.
There are plenty of other rookies this season who deserve their credit such as Houston’s Patrick Patterson and Detroit’s Greg Monroe. However, Fields and Crawford have meant much more for their respective teams. Whether it be in the immediate future for Fields as his Knicks team enters the playoffs, or long term plans as Crawford and the Wizards look to build a franchise.