A month and a half into the season is a good time to take a first look at the performance of the NBA's rookie class. It's obviously much too early to draw definitive conclusions about what these players will contribute the rest of this season, let alone the rest of their careers, but consider this a progress report that can show warning signs or positive indicators. I'll look at the 2012 Draft in three groups. After looking at the lottery and the rest of the first round, we wrap up today with notable second-round selections. All stats are through Wednesday's games.
THE GUYS WHO ARE PLAYING
34. Jae Crowder, Dallas (.464 Win%, 0.5 WARP)
A Prospectus favorite at Marquette, Crowder briefly started earlier this season before settling into a smaller role. Crowder's energy has translated at the defensive end, especially in terms of steals. However, he's been used primarily as a spot-up shooter on offense, and that's not an ideal role at this stage of Crowder's development. More than half of his shot attempts have been threes, which he's making at a middling 31.7 percent clip. Spending so much time on the perimeter has kept Crowder from having an impact on the offensive glass. If Crowder develops a consistent outside shot, he could be a terrific 3/D role player for the Mavericks.
35. Draymond Green, Golden State (.336 Win%, -0.7 WARP)
Green was the other obvious choice from the early second round to contribute early, and injuries to Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson have opened up an important role for him. Green longs for Crowder's relatively hot shooting; he's making 20.8 percent of his threes and just 32.7 percent of his tries inside the arc. Yet Green has still been a positive presence thanks to his defense and rebounding. Green crashing the glass from the wing like the undersized power forward he really is has been one reason the Warriors lead the NBA in defensive rebounding. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Golden State grabs nearly 80 percent of available defensive rebounds with Green on the floor. Green slipped in large part because teams questioned what position he could defend. Turns out the answer is all of them; Green has matched up with a variety of different opponents, including LeBron James down the stretch of Wednesday's win in Miami. Already, Green ranks second behind Andre Drummond among rookies in Jeremias Engelmann's RAPM calculations. Just imagine how good he'll be when he starts making shots.
46. Darius Miller, New Orleans (.360 Win%, -0.4 WARP)
The lowest-drafted player seeing regular action, Miller has served as a backup wing with Eric Gordon out indefinitely. Miller apparently believes rookies are to be seen and not heard from, at least offensively. He's using just 8.1 percent of the Hornets' plays, which explains his poor rating. Miller has made enough threes (8-of-22) to keep defenses honest, and he's been part of a second unit that has played well defensively, so he seems to have a future as a role player.
42. Doron Lamb, Milwaukee (.217 Win%, -1.0 WARP)
With Beno Udrih sidelined by a sprained ankle, Lamb is the Bucks' top guard off the bench at the moment. That role has stretched him. Despite a reputation as a sharp shooter, Lamb has taken just 12 threes in 188 minutes and has shot 40.8 percent on two-point tries because he relies too heavily on two-point jumpers. There's also a case that Lamb might be the league's worst rebounder among regular players. 3.6 percent of available rebounds is about the minimum rate possible.
33. Bernard James, Dallas (.464 Win%, 0.5 WARP)
Even with Dirk Nowitzki out of the lineup, James has had a tough time cracking a veteran frontcourt rotation with Elton Brand, Chris Kaman and Brandan Wright. He's done his part when on the floor, making nearly 49 percent of his two-point attempts and pulling down 16.5 percent of available rebounds.
40. Will Barton, Portland (.271 Win%, -0.6 WARP)
So far, Barton has been unable to boost a historically poor Blazers bench. There have been flashes of the skill Barton showed at Memphis. He had a 12-point game at Detroit and a pair of seven-point efforts on Portland's most recent road trip, though the team responded by sending him briefly to the D-League before injuries to Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews necessitated his return. As expected, Barton hasn't been shy about creating shots. He'll have to hit them at a higher percentage to win over Terry Stotts and usurp Sasha Pavlovic's role in the second unit.
31. Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte (.365 Win%, -0.7 WARP)
UPDATE: Because of a spreadsheet error and my oversight, this list initially did not include Jeffery (don't call me Jeff!) Taylor, who not only was the first pick of the second round but also has played more minutes than any other second-round pick to date. As with Green, there's a discrepancy between Taylor's individual numbers and his team impact, though this one was more predictable. Taylor's strength is his perimeter defense, and indeed the Bobcats have allowed 9.4 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, per 82games.com. This doesn't show up in Taylor's individual numbers in large part because he's a terrible defensive rebounder. He also still needs some work on the "3" part of the 3/D equation that was his pre-draft selling point, having made just 30 percent of his regular three attempts thus far.
THE GUYS WHO HAVE SPENT TIME IN THE D-LEAGUE
While those seven players are the lone second-round picks to see even 100 minutes of NBA action thus far, a handful have gotten on the court during D-League assignments. Darius Johnson-Odom is averaging 20.4 points and more importantly 5.6 assists for the L.A. Defenders, though that hasn't merited any discussion as an option at point guard for the Lakers (and it probably shouldn't). Kris Joseph's 20.8 points per game are a lot less impressive in the context of his 3-of-16 three-point shooting and sub-50 percent accuracy inside the arc. Utah's Kevin Murphy has flashed outside shooting (38.9 percent on threes) and little else. Consider him a specialist at this point of his career.
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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