Top 10 NBA Rookies at Midseason

We are halfway into the 2014-15 NBA basketball season and it seems it was just yesterday that the season began with the thrilling game between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. Time is going

We are halfway into the 2014-15 NBA basketball season and it seems it was just yesterday that the season began with the thrilling game between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. Time is going by fast and it should because of the excitement in the league since the latter part of October. Pretty soon, the NBA finals will be upon us, but until then, the rookies are holding their own and pushing to get recognized by the NBA league, fans and the entire world.

Andrew Wiggins is already being noticed for his commanding presence on the basketball court. Other rookies have suffered injuries that have not allowed them the chance to shine. Such rookie players include Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid and Aaron Gordon. These are some of the top picks during the previous NBA draft. Going down early is probably not what was expected. Now that the rookies are halfway into the season, the competition is on to see who finishes best and who finishes at all. There have been a few surprises from rookies that have stepped up their game with promise to do even better than the top guns in their class.

Who will get the prestigious honor of rookie of the year? We don’t know yet, but there are several contenders vying for the title. There are some who possibly had landed in 7th place at the beginning of the season, but now have outplayed their rookie competitor who was in 3rd place. Taking a look at their performance in the season and not necessarily their long term game potential, we have assessed the top rookies who are currently shining right now in their games. Of course, there are some off nights, but for the most part, these have made the list with their hard work, dedication and above average performance.

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10 Marcus Smart

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart exploded in the month of January, shooting 40.8% on 3-pointers and seven points per game, while averaging just over 25 minutes a night. What's most amazing is his discipline, as his assist to turnover ratio is 5.40-1. It's quite impressive for a rookie to show that kind of care with the ball. Many are now arguing that Smart should be the Celtics' starting point guard and it's getting harder to argue against that. Boston's in rebuilding mode anyway and it'd be good for Smart to get the extra minutes.

9 Elfrid Payton

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Elfrid Payton, only 20 years old and playing for the Orlando Magic, has shown his skill on the basketball court. He has had a hard time making the adjustment from the Sun Belt Conference where he played the last three seasons to the Magic’s game. His scoring has struggled, which is something he did well while he was at Louisiana-Lafayette where he scored roughly 19.2 points per game. So far, he has gained a reputation in the NBA as a poor shooter, but he has lived it down because the young man has potential.

He is one of the 25 rookies to have been drafted that have been able to record several assists per game. His defensive game has also been great. Currently, he has a shooting percentage of 36, but averages 5.1 assists per game. He just needs to settle down on offense and work on his strides over the next several weeks to hold a position on the top of the ladder.

8 Kostas Papanikolaou

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Kostas Papanikolaou was drafted by the New York Knicks back in 2012. It wasn’t easy for him to make it to the NBA since he has been traded two times while he was stashed away abroad. He finally made it to the Houston Rockets.

The rookie has given the Rockets some unbelievable production. He has not been altogether consistent, but is on a roll at the moment. He finished the Lakers game on November 19 with 19 points and six rebounds. He is all over the floor, shooting, playing defense and driving the ball. Right now, he has a ranking of second place in making his three point shots each game. He is one to watch for the future as a good role player in the NBA.

7 Shabazz Napier

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Shabazz Napier is playing more minutes and making good use of it. In the November 20th game against the L.A. Clippers, he scored 17 points, which was a career high for him. In each of the last four games that he played, he has hit double digits. He does have certain limitations, but his opponents have to deal with this speed off the dribble and his ability to make shots from the perimeter.

He has been steady with his pull-ups for mid-range shots, but hasn’t done quite so well yet with shooting from downtown.  He could use some work on how he makes decisions as a point guard. He is valuable to his team for the offensive talent that he brings off the bench each night. If the coach continues to increase his role, he will find his comfort level and increase his production.

6 Nerlens Noel

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Like any other basketball player, Nerlens Noel has had some great games and some poor ones in his early days of playing in the NBA. He does have an understandable excuse for his bad play. In college, he sat out 18 months of basketball due to a torn ACL. He started playing in the NBA with a team that had little talent. So there was nothing much for him to play with. His average points per game is 6.6 and his rebounds is an average of 6. He gets about 1.3 blocks per game with 28.1 minutes of playing time.

He has a disappointing statline of 42.3% on field goals. You can blame that on the poor setup of playmakers in the team’s lineup. However, he has unique athleticism, which translates to a lot of potential. The Knicks game on November 22nd could be a prerequisite of what to expect down the road with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

5 K.J. McDaniels

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K.J. McDaniels was overlooked and had to settle for being a second round pick for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has since emerged as a good steal for the 76ers. If you happened to have seen his basketball game at Clemson, you know what drives him as a professional basketball player. He has earned his reputation as a distinct defender, having been leader in block shots during his time in the ACC.

McDaniels is 6-foot-6 and that translates somewhat to his abilities as a defender. Currently, he is tied as one of the leading rookies in blocked shots despite mostly playing in the two-guard position on the Sixers roster. He is shooting well, even though his offensive game was a struggle in college. The outlook for the future looks good for him, if he maintains or improves his game.

4 Aaron Gordon

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Gordon has suffered a broken bone in his foot with extended time on the bench. However, this rookie, before his injury, led the rookie roster in the highest player efficiency rankings. His injury shouldn’t take this ranking away from him. He has already shown his offensive strength as an elusive player and finisher.

Before his injury, he had 58.1% field goal stats, even making half of his 3-point shots (4 of 8). He is versatile defensively and this will be important to his long term worth. He had a great game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, scoring 17 points, 2 blocked shots and 6 rebounds including some clutch points down the stretch that helped win the game. Due to his injuries, he may be out for a while, but expect a lot when this rookie graces the basketball floor again.

3 Bojan Bogdanovic

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Bojan Bogdanovic is like any other NBA player who have hit a cold streak in multiple games. His was two games, but prior to those games, he scored a total of 41 points, while converting 15 of 27 shots from the field. He had 8 out of 16 three point plays in prior games. He brings a lot of other things to the table for the Brooklyn Nets. He is a solid player. His role as a rotational forward and his overseas experience as a basketball player offer a high level of value to the team. His value to the franchise is enhanced even more because he is 25 years old, anxious to hold the basketball and has a deal for $3 million each year until 2017.

2 Andrew Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is an impressive offensive player, from his mid-range game to his long-range game. He creates his own pull-up shots, spot-up shots and step-back jumper shots. He delivers extraordinary plays every night. With the lightning speed in his first step, he will explode as long as he has a lane to attack. He also contributes a lot to the defensive plays with a combination of lateral speed, length and size.

As the season continues, the coach may want to give him more playing time to help his confidence rise. When Kevin Martin sat out several games due to a broken wrist, Andrew Wiggins was his replacement. On November 22, the first night of replacing Martin, Wiggins exploded with a 29-point game versus the Sacramento Kings. To the franchise, he offers the most long term potential among the other rookies in the league. Keep on watching for him to climb the ladder.

1 Jabari Parker

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jabari Parker is noticeably consistent in this play as a basketball player. He is the first to show extraordinary talent in his game as a professional basketball rookie player. Even though he is still working on his long-range shooting game, he has had some success with his mid-range game. With his massive frame of 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, Parker has the physical body to defend down low.

He is also elusive off the bounce, making him a tough one to face on the basketball court. He is easily the most refined rookie of all, from his physical skillset to his basketball intelligence. He had double figures score in 14 of his first games played and without a doubt, he has earned his place on top of the rookie ladder.

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Top 10 NBA Rookies at Midseason