Individual awards have never held a big attraction for this writer. Basketball is a team game and the greatest players are those who's teams have success. That said, we all pay attention to these things and you better believe NBA players do as well. So here's our predictions for Rookie of the Year for the 2011-12 NBA season.
Rookie of the Year: Last season it was a forgone conclusion that Blake Griffin, as a second-year pro but in his first season of play, would walk away with ROY. This season, things aren't nearly so clear. This rookie class has a lot of talent and some interesting players sprinkled across the lottery teams but there is no clear cut preseason favorite. Here's a look at the candidates:
- Kyrie Irving will get a ton of minutes with Cleveland which will help him put up numbers and he certainly has the talent to win the award. On the flip side, he's not blessed with a great supporting cast which will hurt his assist numbers and it will also allow defenses to key on him.
- Derrick Williams is in the completely opposite situation (from Irving) in Minnesota playing with another ROY candidate, Ricky Rubio, and a bunch of other talented players who will all need their shots. It's not in the least bit clear how much run Williams will get on a team with Kevin Love at the four and Michael Beasley AND Anthony Randolph filling the combo forward role.
- Enes Kanter is another possibility for ROY but will also be fighting for minutes on a team that's pretty loaded up front with Mehmet Okur, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors.
- Brandon Knight faces the exact same situation in Detroit but in a back court with Will Bynum, Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon.
- Jimmer Fredette has looked like he will have no problems scoring in the NBA but that Kings team has a LOT of mouths to feed which means Jimmer will have to win based on his point guard skills and not his shooting. Early word out of Sacramento is that he's a better distributor than college hoops fans saw, but it's still a lot to ask from a rookie to keep that mob in line.
- Kemba Walker is my final candidate for ROY. He has a good shot at supplanting D.J. Augustine as the starting point in Charlotte and we all know he can score. Walker was also considered a better pure point than Jimmer but he doesn't have the talent around him to help with his assist numbers and that Bobcats team will be lucky to win 15 games.
Prediction: I have to go with Irving to win Rookie of the Year for the 2011-12 NBA season but it's a choice made without a lot of conviction. This race is wide open.