Kyrie Irving is not the rookie of the year.

As always the numbers come via Patrick the NBA Geek (@nbageek) and the fantastic player comparison engine.

I’ve been reading over some Rookie Ratings (such as here and here). The #1 and #2 spots seem are pretty much Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio with Irving taking the top spot. The truth is that Irving is turning out to be a very good rookie. Young players tend to be below average. Irving has been playing better than an average NBA player and is in fact a better rookie (thus far) than LeBron James was his first year in the league. The truth though is if we want to be serious about the Rookie of the Year race (through January 31st 2012) there are really only four names that should be considered. I’ll include Irving for good measure though.

#1) Ricky Rubio (and for comparison Kyrie Irving)

Ricky Rubio rookie stats through January 31st 2012 (stats are per 48 minutes)
Stat Ricky Rubio Kyrie Irving Average PG
WP48  0.208   0.152 0.099 
 Wins 3.1   1.7 1.0 
 PTS 15.9   30.3 19.5 
 TS% 50.0%   59.9 52.4% 
 ORB 0.6   1.6 0.9 
 DRB 6.6   5.8 4.9 
 AST 12.3   8.2 8.2 
 TO 4.5  5.6 3.7 
 BLK 0.3   0.8 0.4 
 STL 3.1   1.3 2.0 
 PF 3.3   4.2 3.3 

Irving is a very impressive scorer. While he doesn’t have many weaknesses, the few he does are glaring. His turnovers are very high, especially in regards to the number of assists he gets. He’s also pretty foul prone. Rubio’s scoring has not been that impressive. At a 50% TS clip he’s essentially breaking even every time he takes a shot. That said, his assist rate is off the chart and he’s also remarkably good at stealing the ball while keeping his fouls own. Like Irving his turnovers are a bit high, but given the number of dimes he’s passing out we’ll forgive him.

The Rubio vs. Irving debate comes down to a popularity contest of sorts. Rubio is really good at playmaking and getting the ball. In short, he’s fitting the prototypical PG role to a tee. Irving is really good at scoring, with a few weaknesses many are ok overlooking. When it comes down to it both are good players but Rubio is currently the better of the two. Unfortunately scoring is what the voters notice Irving will likely end the season with more accolades (at least if both players keep their current play up)

#2) Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard rookie stats through January 31st 2012 (stats are per 48 minutes)
Stat Kawhi Leonard Average SF
 WP48  0.212  0.099
 Wins 2.4 0.9
 PTS 14.4 18.8
 TS% 48.6% 51.6%
 ORB 3.7 1.7
 DRB 10.4 7.4
 AST 1.6 3.3
 TO 1.3 2.5
 BLK 0.7 0.8
 STL 2.3 1.6
 PF 2.3 3.5

Did you notice the Spurs were still good? Did you think it was because the trio of Duncan-Parker-Ginobili were still pulling the load? Duncan’s production has fallen off a cliff and Ginobili has been sidelined with injury. One of the key pieces behind the Spurs continued success is Leonard. He’s not that impressive on the scoring front but when it comes to getting the ball his offensive rebound rate is ridiculous and his steal rate is high too. He also is good at not turning the ball over or fouling. Some might describe these as the little things that help teams win. I’ll agree they help teams win but I’ll say they’re pretty big things as Leonard’s WP48 is ridiculously high for a rookie.

#3) Jon Leuer

Jon Leuer rookie stats through January 31st 2012 (stats are per 48 minutes)
Stat Jon Leuer Average PF
 WP48  0.208  0.099
 Wins 1.3 0.9
 PTS 19.6 19.3
 TS% 59.9% 52.5%
 ORB 3.9 3.3
 DRB 10.0 11.2
 AST 2.4 2.4
 TO 1.3 2.6
 BLK 1.8 1.5
 STL 1.0 1.4
 PF 5.3 4.7

Leuer is probably the closest on the list to a complete player. His defensive rebounds are a bit low, but as those are somewhat of a team stat that’s not a huge deal. His fouls are a bit high and his steals are a bit low but neither is that far from the average big. His insane scoring and otherwise complete game have helped the bucks out tremendously. In fact, if the Bucks could find a center and stop playing Stephen Jackson and give more minutes to Leuer they could probably sport a winning record.

#4) Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter rookie stats through January 31st 2012 (stats are per 48 minutes)
Stat Enes Kanter Average C
 WP48  0.179  0.099
 Wins 1.0 0.9
 PTS 16.6 17.5
 TS% 52.0% 53.3%
 ORB 6.8 4.1
 DRB 17.2 13.4
 AST 0.5 2.2
 TO 2.8 2.8
 BLK 1.9 2.0
 STL 0.9 1.3
 PF 4.2 4.8

Kanter is simply insane when it comes to getting rebounds. I’ve heard his scoring game criticized. While it’s true he’s below average in regards to getting points it’s not by that much compared to an average center. Kanter has helped the Jazz keep a formidable front court and I might go so far as to say they may want to consider trading Jefferson to find a way to bolster their backcourt.

Summing up

The rookies that are helping their teams out the most this year are those that do things that help win games. Whether that’s playingmaking (Rubio), getting the ball (Leonard and Kanter) or scoring very well (Leuer and Irving) these players are making a difference on their roster. Of course when it comes down to it scoring points is what tends to get rookies noticed and Irving is winning on that front (Leuer is getting neither the shots or the minutes to compete) I would like to end that thus far we’ve had some very impressive rookies. With three rookies playing like stars, Kanter playing very well and Irving putting up impressive numbers I’d say the current All-Rookie squad would be a formidable starting five for any team. Of course, the season is young still and we should note it is very rare to have a super talented rookie in a single season, let alone multiple. So when the dust settles it may very well turn out that Irving will be the undisputed Rookie of the Year and these other players just had a hot start to the season.

-Dre

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