With the NBA announcing rosters for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge on Tuesday, I thought it might be worth a look at the WARP leaders among the rookie and sophomore classes.
Player Tm Ps Win% WARP Blake Griffin lac PF .633 8.0 Landry Fields nyk SG .513 3.1 John Wall was PG .488 2.0 Greg Monroe det C .495 1.8 Ed Davis tor PF .518 1.5 Paul George ind SF .574 1.3 Gary Neal san PG .461 0.9 Jeremy Evans uta SF .645 0.7 DeMarcus Cousins sac C .435 0.5 Derrick Favors njn PF .440 0.5 Wesley Johnson min SF .406 -0.2 Eric Bledsoe lac PG .400 -0.4
I wouldn’t describe any of the rookie omissions as egregious. Ed Davis probably has the best case, since he’s outperformed DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors while playing a key role in Toronto since returning from knee surgery. There’s a natural desire to see highlight top draft picks in this game, and Cousins and Favors have played well enough, so it makes sense they would be selected. The same effect helps explain Wesley Johnson being selected despite below-replacement performance thus far. Paul George has played well at the same position, but in limited minutes. This effect does make it all the notable that Evan Turner (.351 Win%, -1.5 WARP) was left out despite having been the No. 2 overall pick. That’s how much Turner has struggled to date.
As for Eric Bledsoe, the reasoning behind his presence on the roster is simply the lack of depth among rookie point guards. Too bad the teams can’t trade, since the sophomores could use some of the rookies’ bigs and there are a couple of excellent points who were squeezed off the sophomore roster.
Player Tm Ps Win% WARP Stephen Curry gsw PG .614 5.5 Jrue Holiday phi PG .515 3.4 Serge Ibaka okl C .552 3.4 Ty Lawson den PG .534 2.8 James Harden okl SG .519 2.6 Brandon Jennings mil PG .548 2.5 Wesley Matthews por SG .488 2.4 DeJuan Blair san PF .528 2.3 Chase Budinger hou SF .510 1.7 Toney Douglas nyk PG .493 1.7 Tyreke Evans sac PG .463 1.5 Taj Gibson chi PF .468 1.1 DeMar DeRozan tor SG .351 -2.2
There has definitely been something of a sophomore slump this year, which has taken down Tyreke Evans and to a lesser extent Brandon Jennings. So, despite his own problems with recurring sprained ankles, Stephen Curry reigns as far and away the most valuable second-year player. Evans ranks just outside the top 10 in sophomore WARP, yet is still a no-brainer pick because of what he accomplished during his Rookie of the Year campaign. Taj Gibson also moves up the list because he’s the third-best big man among the sophomores.
The dubious choice here is Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan’s scoring average (15.4 ppg) marks him as a rising score, but it’s an empty number. DeRozan doesn’t get to the free throw line enough to make up for the fact that he has no range at all (he’s made two three-pointers all season), so his True Shooting Percentage of .523 is barely passable. DeRozan is a poor rebounder and doesn’t make plays for others. He’s not an impact defender. As damning as any of his individual statistics is the fact that DeRozan has the worst net plus-minus on one of the league’s poorer teams. DeRozan is only 21, so he’s still got plenty of time to improve, but at this point in his career he is hurting his team much more than he is helping it. James Harden, who is playing more and more minutes for a playoff team and does basically everything better than DeRozan save use plays, was the better choice.