The NBA season has officially reached its midway point with All-Star weekend happening later on this week. Over the past few days there have been some huge performances by the rookies showing that they’ve come to play every night. One of the most standout plays came just a few nights ago when Mylez Turner blocked a dunk attempt from Lebron James. As well as a lot of these rookies have played only eight of them were selected to the Rising Stars challenge including: Jahlil Okafor, Karl Anthony-Towns and D’Angelo Russell for the U.S. team. Kristaps Porzingis, Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic are Mario Hezonja are the standout rookies for the World Team. Karl Anthony-Towns will also be competing in the Skills competition as one of 3 centers (4 if you want to count Anthony Davis) stepping into the spot light for a competition normally reserved just for the league’s up and coming, as well as established guards.
Two names that are most notably absent from this game are Miami Heat’s Justice Winslow as well as Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker. Winslow has established himself as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and that might just be his down fall when it comes to things like All-Star selection. Winslow doesn’t put up big numbers in the box score. In fact, he’s only averaging 5.8 ppg. It’s his tenacity on the defensive end of the ball which makes him a standout player and he usually guards the other team’s best scorer giving them fits up and down the court. With Winslow’s age only being 19 he has a lot of time for his offensive game to catch up with his defensive one. The other snub for this game would be Devin Booker. Now Booker isn’t a total All-Star weekend snub as he will be up in Toronto competing on Saturday night in the Three-Point shooting contest. However Booker’s snub most likely comes from his offensive surge coming late in the first half of the season. In the months of October to December, Booker averaged at best 7.6 ppg. However the turn of the calendar year seems to have breathed some life in the rookie’s games as he exploded offensively in the month of January averaging 17.3 ppg and although the month just started is up over 20 points per game in February. In a loss to Toronto on February 4th, Booker had a monster game with 27 points and 5 rebounds. If Booker keeps up this level of play his name will definitely be thrown into some rookie of the year talks as a dark horse.
At this point in the season everyone knows the best 3 rookies from a stats point of view are Anthony-Towns, Porzingis and Okafor. However caught in the midst of these great rookies are the quality, not as flashy ones that contribute something to each of their teams. Bobby Portis heads this group of “under the radar” players with his contributions in Chicago. The injury to Joakim Noah has given Portis a chance to show the coaches and league what he can do. Portis has gotten his season average to just under 7 ppg and provides quality minutes off the bench for the Bulls. Frank Kaminsky the standout big man from Wisconsin isn’t putting up numbers like back in Madison but is still offering his services in a number of ways for the young Hornets team. Frank the tank has had a few 20+ point games and was a consistent rebounder during the month of January. Someone who definitely takes a back seat in his position is OKC guard Cameron Payne. Payne has become a key part of the Thunder’s second unit with just over 5 ppg and is good for a couple of assists a game. Look for Payne to be a key factor in OKC’s playoff push as someone providing adequate rest minutes for Westbrook or Waiters. Some people may not know this but the Sixers have other rookies on their team besides Big Jah. Point Guard TJ McConnell has seen his play time diminish with the Sixers’ acquisition of Ish Smith. TJ is still 2nd amongst rookies in assists and has the makings of a solid back up point guard. Stanley Johnson is another rookie who some believe got snubbed for an All-Star appearance. Johnson who has developed into a solid defender is not putting up tremendous offensive numbers but has scored in double digits in his last 4 games, as well as posting 15 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists the other week against the Cavs. Rounding out “The Other Guys” is Nikola Jokic from the Denver Nuggets. Jokic is in the top 10 of rookies scoring wise putting up just under 10 points a game. He had his career best performance against Toronto on the 1st of the month dropping 27 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Jokic shows scoring spurts like this but is still vastly inconsistent. The rookie duo of Mudiay and himself gives way to a lot of promise up in the Mile High city.