Strong start for rookies; more observations from opening week
The 2009 rookie class looks like it will provide more meaningful contributors than anticipated. Eleven first-year players have averaged more than 20 minutes per game during the first week of the season -- and that's without top pick
It isn't just rebuilding teams stocking their lineups with rookies either. The Nuggets, who lost to the Lakers in last year's Western Conference finals, opened with three consecutive victories while deploying rookie point guard
The examples of Lawson and Blair demonstrate that even already successful franchises choosing late from a supposedly thin pool of talent can add a crucial component in their push for a championship. Not only do they provide welcome respite for grizzled cornerstone players like Billups and Duncan, but they also complement the surrounding personnel or shore up a glaring weakness. Lawson is an ideal catalyst for a Nuggets second unit that thrives in an up-tempo setting. And Blair, who led the NCAA in offensive rebounds last season, comes to a Spurs team that ranked last in that category last season. Don't be surprised if both players are logging meaningful minutes in second-round playoff action next spring.
Elsewhere, rookie point guards made a dramatic impact in the first week. A night after missing a triple-double by a single rebound and assist against Philadelphia,
Another interesting point about this freshman crop is the contribution of so many late selections. Led by Lawson (the 18th pick) and Blair (37th), 10 of the top 20 rookies in minutes were chosen 18th or later, including Atlanta's
Let's look at some other notable developments from the opening week:
• The clear-cut ranking of the three top dogs in the Eastern Conference goes Boston, Orlando and then Cleveland. The Celtics are way ahead of every other franchise in terms of quality execution at both ends of the court.
Beyond KG's health, the good news for the Celtics includes stellar play by lumbering big man
The Magic's depth was likewise on display as they went unbeaten despite the suspension of
In Cleveland, however, the Cavs have issues. Raise your hand if you expected
• Washington and Atlanta have reason to fantasize about joining the East's Big Three. The Wizards opened with a win at Dallas in which
A more reliable bet is ongoing savvy from Blatche's frontcourt mate
Atlanta handed Washington its first loss when the Hawks harassed Arenas into six first-half turnovers and blocked his shot five times -- four them by
• Is there a more fun team to this point than the Rockets?
• I know point guards are supposed to be distributors first, and that go-to scorers have to keep the faith through cold spells, but
By the way, Oklahoma City's signing of defensive-minded swingman
• The plot thickens in the Trail Blazers' unsettled point-guard situation. The ongoing drama seemingly is affecting
• On Monday, the same day the Timberwolves exercised their fourth-year option on his contract,