NBA Rookies Feeling At Home


1) Damian Lillard, PG Portland Trailblazers

2011/2012 NCAA Per Game Stats:

MPG    PPG    FG%    3P%    FT%    REB    AST    TOV    STL    BLK
34.5     24.5    46.7     40.9     88.7      5.0      4.0       2.3      1.5       0.2

2012/2013 NBA Per Game Stats:

MPG    PPG    FG%    3P%    FT%    REB    AST    TOV    STL    BLK
38.5     18.3     42.1     35.8    84.3      3.3      6.5       3.0      1.0       0.3

Lillard was granted the rare opportunity to be the starting point guard and run the Trail Blazers from the first game he played in the Association. He had an incredible start to his career becoming the only rookie other than hall of famer Oscar Robertson to average at least 20 points and seven assists in his first three games. The Oakland native has turned many heads with his great poise and play, in the process has emerged as one of the front-runners for rookie of the year. Lillard played at small time Division 1 program, Weber State and did not attract much attention until his senior year. He was drafted 6th overall after a strong senior campaign, but had many doubters who felt his numbers were inflated from playing against weaker competition in the Big Sky conference. Damian has silenced the critics so far since his play has transferred well from college to the tougher competition of the NBA.

He plays a similar role for the Trailblazers this year as he did at Weber State in his final season and averages slightly more minutes as a rookie. Lillard was a great scorer who put up excellent shooting statistics in his last year of college. There has been a decrease in his PPG, FG% and 3P%. This is understandable given the better defense he faces and will force him to improve his shot selection. Scouts believed he wasn’t good enough as a distributor coming out of college to be a starting point guard. However he has notably increased his assist per game and shown a nice balance between setting his teammates up and scoring himself (although he is still more of a scorer). Lillard still remains a below average overall defender (Defensive rating: 110) and needs to improve on that end to match his great play on offense. Lillard’s game is reminiscent to former Trailblazer standout point guard Damon Stoudamire and if he keep progressing will be an integral part of bringing the franchise that has experienced considerable recent misfortune back to their winning ways.

Andre Drummond, C Detroit Pistons

2011/2012 NCAA Per Game Stats:

MPG    PPG    FG%    3P%    FT%    REB    AST    TOV    STL    BLK
28.4     10.0     53.8       0        29.5     7.6      0.4       1.5      0.8      2.7

2012/2013 NBA Per Game Stats:

MPG    PPG    FG%    3P%    FT%    REB    AST     TOV    STL    BLK
20.2      7.5      60.9    50.0     37.6      7.6      0.4        0.8      0.9      1.6

Several GMs must be regretting passing on drafting Drummond as he fell to the 9th spot because of fears that her was a long-term project, limited on offense and had a questionable mental makeup. Drummond has had an impressive start to his career proving critics wrong by exhibiting a quick learning curve and already strong impact on both ends despite his limited minutes. Andre remarkably ranks 11th in the NBA in offensive rating (118) and is tied for 5th in defensive rating (97). His defense is still far ahead of his offense at this stage, but he plays within his role taking efficient shots near the rim and converting on put backs. While he is still a teenager (19 years old) Drummond plays like a man amongst boys with his big frame and great athleticism for a player his size. He makes good use of his physical gifts and knowledge of the art of rebounding to excel in this area. He ranks in the NBA 2nd in offensive rebound percentage (16.4), and 9th in defensive rebound percentage (26.1). Rebound percentage is an estimation of the percentage of available rebounds a player secured while he was on the floor (via basketball-reference).

Drummond spent his sole season in the NCAA as a Husky at UConn. He was solid in his freshman year, but did not dominate as many expected despite being larger and athletic than opposing post players. UConn was in turmoil last year as their legendary coach Jim Calhoun was absent for long stretches and the team couldn’t find an identity or much success. It wasn’t surprising that Drummond didn’t excel in a difficult situation where he wasn’t utilized to the best of his abilities at the time. His numbers from college and the NBA don’t differ too much on the surface, but his increase in value to his unit especially on defense is evident in the advanced stats relayed earlier. The big difference between his play in his rookie year with the Pistons and with the Huskies is that he has been assigned a more appropriate role (often with the second unit) to match his ever-improving skillset. Judging by his rookie year Drummond will be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA for many years to come.

Jared Sullinger, PF Boston Celtics


2011/2012 NCAA Per Game Stats:

MPG    PPG    FG%    3P%    FT%    REB    AST    TOV    STL    BLK
30.4     17.5    51.9     40.0     76.8      9.2      1.2       1.9      1.2      1.1

2012/2013 NBA Per Game Stats:

MPG    PPG    FG%    3P%    FT%    REB    AST    TOV    STL    BLK
19.8      6.0     49.3     20.0     74.6      5.9      0.8       0.6      0.5      0.5

Jared Sullinger faced a great deal of adversity at a time when he was extremely close to reaching his lifelong dream of getting drafted to the NBA. The fear of every draft prospect became his reality he was given a medical red flag due to back issues that would apparently shorten his career. Sullinger subsequently witnessed his draft stock tumble from a likely top 10 pick to getting drafted 21st overall by the Boston Celtics. His fall in the draft couldn’t have worked out better for the Celtics as they snagged a good power forward prospect at a later pick than he should have been taken even with the medical risk. Although not being selected in the lottery lowers his initial NBA earnings, on the bright side he received the opportunity to start his career on a good team with savvy, eventful hall of famer Kevin Garnett showing him the ropes. Coming out of college scouts also criticized his game stating that he is undersized for his position and would have trouble scoring over taller NBA post defenders.

So far Jared has proven both the scouts wrong with strong play off the bench for the Celtics in limited minutes and lower usage than he saw in college. He has continued to score fairly well in the paint in the NBA utilizing several effective post moves and has as good offensive rating of (112). Sullinger has also been a good post and team defender with a defensive rating of (101). Another of Sullinger’s calling cards that he has brought with him from college is his strong rebounding ability. He has been a good defensive rebounder with a defensive rebound percentage of (22.6) and a great offensive rebounder ranking 14th in offensive rebound percentage at (12.5).

Ohio State was the school Sullinger called home for two years and where he established himself as one of the better rebounders and post players in the NCAA. By his sophomore season he developed an impressive array of post moves for a college player that left many defenders helpless. This season he is shooting less efficiently from the field than he did with Ohio State. This is most likely the result of a lower volume of shots and the better defenders he faces. It would be beneficial for Sullinger to continue to develop the range on his face up jumper in order to make himself more difficult to defend. At the time of writing the Celtics lost another key player to injury as they announced that Jared Sullinger would miss the remainder of the season to receive back surgery. This is an unfortunate setback for the rookie, but hopefully the surgery can permanently fix his back issue so that he may continue towards his potential as a good two way power forward.

Hasta la vista my fellow NBA aficionados.

*Statistics provided by


Lebron James at 04 Feb 2013

Good article! A few little zingers (humour) would make the article pop a bit more!

Guest at 05 Feb 2013

Great article, I was actually hoping you would do something along these lines, I wanted to know what your thoughts on the rookies were!

Guest at 05 Feb 2013

Nice highlight of some refreshing up and comers!

Guest at 05 Feb 2013

Great take on the issue. I needed some clarity on who really are the gems of this past draft class

007 at 13 Feb 2013

Interesting college ball insights, good stuff here!

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