The National Basketball Association is a little beyond the first quarter of its 2012-2013 season and individual players are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the crowd. While many different rookies have been given the opportunity to contribute to their respective organizations, a few have stood out among the rest as the best of the first year players. These individuals would make a solid starting five during the upcoming Rising Stars game in February.
Damian Lillard – Point Guard
The Portland Trailblazers were lucky to uncover this find that went undrafted this past summer. Lillard has started all 26 games for Portland and while averaging nearly 38 minutes a game, he’s been very efficient during that time. His 18.6 points per game and 6.5 assists are very high ranked among all point guards; let alone the players in their first year. His shooting percentage sits at 42 percent and but he is very efficient with his shot selection. His 17.62 player efficiency rating is well above average for all players across the league and ranks third among all rookies. Lillard would be more than capable to run a team of rookies.
Dion Waiters – Shooting Guard
Playing next to Kyrie Irving is truly a plus to the first year that Dion Waiters has been in the NBA. Irving is not only emerging as a star in the league, but he is making all of those around him much better as well and Dion is reaping the benefits. The former Syracuse player has started all 21 games for the Cavaliers while averaging nearly 32 minutes an outing. During that time he’s averaging 14.7 points a game and 3.5 assists. As with most rookies in the league, there is room for improvement in Waiters’s game and right now, that is in his shooting efficiency. He’s only shooting 37 percent from the field which includes 31 percent from three point range and a mediocre 74 percent from the free throw stripe. As Waiters matures he will improve in these areas but as a rookie he is playing well enough to be considered a standout during his debut season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Small Forward
Charlotte Bobcats fans do not have much to look forward to when their team takes the court at this point in the year, however, they can get to watch the development of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, also known as MKG. After staring at Kentucky, the 19 year old small forward has transitioned well into the NBA. With 11 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, Kidd-Gilchrist is very productive on the court. He’s shooting 50 percent from the field which is one of the highest within the whole rookie class.
Anthony Davis – Power Forward
This starting five wouldn’t be complete with the number one overall pick that has been playing up to the roll at this point in the year. He’s averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, but where Davis has struggled is actually getting on the court. Due to injuries he has only appeared in 14 games for the New Orleans Hornets and started in 10 of those at this point. While this is an unsettling start for Davis, he has shown to have the abilities to be a star in this league, but we’ve seen health problems derail other top picks before, so we all hope that does not affect Davis in the same manner.
Jonas Valanciunas – Center
Lithuanian rookie, Jonas Valanciunas has been an effective center since his debut in the league this season. In starting 28 games for the Toronto Raptors he’s only been able to bring in 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a game however he’s taking up space as a defensive presence which is just as important at this level of basketball. He’s averaging a little more than one block per game and those numbers are expected to increase as his playing time goes up. While he’s started all of the games this year, he’s only playing 22 minutes per which aren’t much even in comparison to other centers throughout the league.
The Rising Stars basketball showcase during the NBA All-Star weekend may not be the most popular event over the 72 hour period; but it does give fans an opportunity to hop on the bandwagons of some of the developing stars in the league. If these individuals keep playing how they have through this point of the year, do not be surprised if we see them on the court that Saturday evening.