No matter what you call the team he plays for, New Orleans Hornets forward Anthony Davis, Jr. is a force to be reckoned with. (So is his unibrow.) (Photo : Reuters)
Michael Jordan. Patrick Ewing. Shaquille O'Neal. Jason Kidd. Tim Duncan. Pau Gasol. LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving.
Most of them are NBA Champions. Some were even league MVP winners or candidates.
The one thing that links them all?
They were all past winners of the prestigious NBA Rookie of the Year award.
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Now, with a fresh crop of newcomers ready to go as the NBA season kicks off next week-no doubt eager to follow in the footsteps of those stars that won the trophy in the past-Latinos Post runs down our pick of the Top 5 rookies to watch this season:
1. Anthony Davis, forward/center, New Orleans Hornets:
Right now, there is no other rookie more talked about, or with higher expectations, than the 6'10", 220-pound former University of Kentucky star.
Anthony, who led the Wildcats to the NCAA Championship in 2012, also made a splash with Team USA in London's Summer Olympics this year. And with the regular season just days away, expectations are sky high for this 19-year old blue chipper.
Well, according to the recent league poll among 39 incoming rookies, Anthony's peers selected him as the odds-on favorite to walk away with Rookie of the Year honors.
Already the new face of the Hornets franchise, Anthony will have to shoulder the load on a Hornets team desperate for a winner again after Chris Paul departed via trade to the Clippers. But if he meets those expectations, the young man with the unibrow, a 7-foot-4 inch wingspan and long range shooting touch could emerge not only as the top rookie for 2012-13, but as one of the league's best big men for years to come.
Anthony's scouting report can be seen here on the NBA's web site.
2. Damian Lillard, point guard, Portland Trail Blazers:
If there is anyone aside from Anthony that could be considered a favorite to win Rookie of the Year, it would have to be the young 6'3" 22-year old point from Weber State University.
His draft scouting report on NBA.com shows Lillard to be a strong three-point shooter, excellent free-throw shooter and a good penetrator strong enough to absorb contact in the lane.
Drew Packham of NBA.com was impressed by Lillard's showing in the Summer League, although he knows that many a rookie have started strong only to fizzle out when the season starts; Lillard, he argues, will be the exception to the case.
"Lillard looked polished, though, and should establish himself as the point guard of the future in Portland," Packham wrote. "If he plays like he did in Vegas, he'll be a serious contender for top rookie."
Already averaging 17 points and 6 assists in five preseason games for Portland, if Lillard continues this pace into the regular season, he won't be just a serious contender for Rookie of the Year-he may win the whole darn thing.
3. Thomas Robinson, forward, Sacramento Kings:
The No. 5 draft pick in the 2012 NBA draft looks to be solid this preseason, averaging 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the last six preseason games for the Kings.
Teaming with DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento can only help the University of Kansas star Robinson, who 11.8 percent of NBA rookies picked-tying him with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-to win Rookie of the Year.
Already possessing an NBA-ready body and great rebounding skills, if Robinson maximizes his talents this year, he and Cousins could be the building blocks for a young, solid frontcourt in Sacramento.
4. Michael Kidd-Gild, small forward, Charlotte Bobcats:
Teaming with Anthony on that Kentucky Wildcats NCAA title team in 2011-12, Kidd-Gilchrist impressed the Bobcats enough for them to pluck him at No.2 in the draft.
It won't be easy helping to turn around the Bobcats, who finished last year at a dismal 7-59, the worst record in NBA history. But if there is any good place to start the rebuild, it's with Kidd-Gilchrist, who at 6'7", packs an explosiveness in getting to the basket and is listed as an exceptional rebounder in his NBA scouting report.
" He'll excel at the next level because of his superior athleticism, but just as important, his will to compete," the report says. If that will can help him guide the Bobcats back out of the doldrums and into playoff contention, that in itself might be enough to grant him consideration for top rookie honors.
5. Harrison Barnes, small forward, Golden State Warriors:
When 39 NBA rookies were asked in a league survey which among them would have the best NBA career, 40.6 of them picked Davis as No.1. Who finished with 12.5 percent of the vote to place No.2 on that list? You guessed it-Harrison Barnes.
Fresh out of the University of North Carolina, the 20-year old, 6'8" Barnes is already making quite the statement in the preseason, averaging 10.4 points and 3.3 rebounds over the last eight preseason games for the Warriors, who are expected to be making a bid at least the eight seed in the playoffs out West.
Whether they can get there may depend on how Barnes develops his game. His scouting report lists that he needs to work on scoring off the bounce in addition to getting bigger and stronger, but also lists Barnes as a solid defender, good rebounder and a shooter that doesn't shy away from making big shots down the stretch when the game's on the line.
If he can hone those gifts and add in some physical presence to his game, Barnes might be able not only to win the top rookie award, but to propel the Warriors right into the postseason. Only time will tell if he can, though.