5 NBA rookies to keep an eye on in 2010-11

1. Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers- that’s right, the #1 overall pick in the 2009 draft is the top rookie in the 2010 season. After missing the 2009-10 season with a knee injury, the 21 year old will make his professional debut this year, and will be considered a rookie. At 6’10” and 250 lbs, the power forward will provide an immediate improvement to Los Angeles’ other team’s frontcourt. Griffin is an elite rebounder who averaged 15.8 per game during his sophomore season at Oklahoma. Griffin also displayed above average passing skills, with the ability to kick the ball out to open shooters on the perimeter. But the most exciting part about Griffin is his ability to run the floor at his size. On a team that features Baron Davis and Eric Gordon, Griffin will certainly fit right in, and give the Clippers one of the most exciting offensive attacks in the league this year. And although he didn’t play at all last year, Griffin got the unique opportunity to adjust and adapt to the grueling NBA schedule. Expect Griffin to get plenty of touches, and look for him to help the Clippers make a turn around and potentially contend for the last playoff spot in the West.
2. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards- generally the top pick in the NBA draft is the top pick for rookie of the year, but due to the situation with Griffin, Wall might not be the favorite. That said, this young man is an electrifying basketball player. Wall is faster with the ball than most players are without. Usually when a young player goes at such high speeds, you worry about turnovers and poor decisions, but Wall has demonstrated an ability to maintain control. Wall will immediately be one of the elite finishers above the rim in the NBA, but the reason why he is below Griffin in these rankings is his shaky jump shot. That said, the only real issue with his shot is how flat it is, which can be easily fixed with repetition and practice, something the coaching staff will certainly give him. With the talent void on this roster, expect the Wizards to put him in position to make plenty of plays, and he should be a player to keep an eye on.
3. Greg Monroe, F/C, Detroit Pistons- last year, the Pistons departed from their defensive mindset that earned them six straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, and the result was a forgettable season that netted them the seventh overall pick. With that pick, they took this extremely talented center from Georgetown. Watching Monroe, at times you might think his unorthodox jump shot and somewhat clumsy style would result in frustrating turnovers and generally poor play, but Monroe has made it work. The 6’11” Monroe has a versatile offensive arsenal, with the ability to play back to the basket, or face up and shoot over less athletic big men. The most impressive thing about Monroe is his advanced passing and ballhandling skills, which at his size draws comparisons to Lamar Odom. The Pistons are deep in the middle of a rebuilding project, and with very little other talent in the frontcourt, Monroe should be a top option on offense.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Sacramento Kings- Cousins goes from a young and promising Kentucky Wildcats team to a young and promising team in Sacramento. He will be paired with another one of John Calipari’s one and doners in 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. At 7 feet, Cousins’ athletic ability is nothing short of amazing. Cousins’ outstanding footwork in the post will mean that his game will translate well to the professional ranks. Cousins will get a chance to learn from veteran defensive standout Samuel Dalembert, although there will be little for him to learn about crashing the boards. Cousins and Evans should form an extremely potent inside-outside combination, and watch out for a dangerous fast break in California’s capitol this year.
5. Xavier Henry, G/F, Memphis Grizzlies- Henry is one of the more intriguing selections of the NBA draft. Memphis already has a young rising star at shooting guard in OJ Mayo, and a franchise player they recently gave a max contract to at small forward in Rudy Gay. So why they would select Henry left many puzzled. Henry’s playing time might not be as consistent as the players listed before him, but his game may be more suited to the NBA than any other rookie guard besides Wall. Henry is a lights out shooter, and when he plays with focus, can be a shutdown defender. In addition, Henry’s likely spot on the bench could be exactly what he needs to develop as an NBA player. Despite his natural talent, Henry struggled for long stretches at Kansas, and with the attention focused elsewhere in Memphis, he has the perfect opportunity to focus on improving his game.