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February 1, 2011, 08:01 PM ET
Rookie Challenge by the Numbers

by Kevin Pelton

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.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

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