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TrueHoop TV on ROY (and we react)

Henry Abbott had David Thorpe join him on TrueHoop TV to discuss the race for rookie of the year. Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis dominate the conversation, which we have no issues with. But then Andre Drummond and Dion Waiters started getting mention, prior to the Bobcats’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist…

So, we started talking about it: While we don’t think MKG should be in the lead, we were a bit surprised he wasn’t even in the conversation. Here’s a quick stat rundown of the candidates mentioned, plus MKG:

Damian Lillard 18.2 points 6.5 assists 3.6 rebs 16.55 PER 42.1% FG%
Anthony Davis 13.0 points 7.7 rebs 1.8 blocks 19.75 PER 49.8% FG%
Andre Drummond 7.1 points 7.3 rebs 1.6 blocks 21.95 PER 59.7% FG%
Dion Waiters 14.8 points 3.2 assists 2.4 rebs 12.81 PER 38.5% FG%
MKG 10.6 points 1.7 assists 6.5 rebs 16.10 PER 48.3% FG%

What are everyone’s thoughts on MKG so far? I feel like he started stronger, and has been struggling a bit lately (shooting just 39% in January himself). Rookie wall? Opposing defenses taking away his points in the paint? Cold stretch? I feel like the Bobcats drafted a good player, with a lot of potential, but let’s hear from the rest of the QCH crew:

Jeff Hess:
Well you certainly cannot dock Damian Lillard for what he’s done on the court this season. 18 points and 6.5 assists per game leads all rookies and has made 88 3-pointers already this season, 6th in the league. Most rookies, whether it is muscle mass, fatigue, or what have you, will struggle from the 3 point line. The last rookie to have this good of a season from 3-point land was Steph Curry, who people are already talking about breaking Ray Allen’s record. No offense to LaMarcus Aldridge (who should be an all-star again but that’s a different story) but Lillard is stealing the show in the Rose Garden. And will for years to come.

We all knew Anthony Davis would be in this category since he declared for the draft. With such a lengthy frame and natural basketball instincts, he will be the cornerstone of this New Orleans franchise. Yet, we’ve heard this all before. What you haven’t heard is someone saying he does not deserve the ROY award. Before you Davis lovers close the article, let me explain. As of right now, he is hovering around 13 points and 8 rebounds per game. The last ROY to average those numbers was Amar’e Stoudemire in 2002-03. It took Amar’e, and all big men for that matter, time to adjust to the NBA. These guys go in the trenches each night and bang with the biggest bodies in the league. It takes a toll. Davis already has a lanky frame and a very under-developed offensive game. He does his part on the defensive end and on the boards, keeping him in the ROY race.

Why does a guy who only averages 13 a game in the ROY race? Well, who else is there? Bradley Beal won the Rookie of the Month in the east for December and continuing his hot streak with 17 points per game so far in January. Unfortunately for Beal, John Wall just came back to the lineup and is sure to take the star’s usual 20 shots per game. It will be interesting to see how Beal’s numbers are affected by the return. Being a Cleveland native, I hate to say this, but Dion Waiters should not even be in this conversation. He may be averaging a healthy 15.8 points per game, but on that Cavs team, he can jack up as many shots as he wants. And he does. David Thorpe was correct in saying he takes way too many step-back jumpers and awful 3-pointers that sometimes make you want to send him to the D-league. Then he’ll have a night where he scores 33 and gets to peek his head out of coach Byron Scott’s doghouse. When he is not scoring, he is more of a liability than anything.

So what about our own MKG? Well he hasn’t earned a spot in the ROY conversation yet. He has shown some flashes of brilliance in his short career so far, but lacks the consistency on both ends to be considered for ROY. He is such a versatile player, I think both he and Coach Dunlap are trying to find out how he can best help this Cats team. He is slumping in his shooting percentage and defensive productivity, with only 2 blocks total in the month of January so far after averaging over 1 per game prior. Yet, the bright spot for MKG has been his increased rebounding bumping his average to 7.3 in January, 6.5 for the season. One thing we do know about this kid is he has one hell of a motor and will never quit. And, at times in the game, I want him to take the reins from Kemba Walker and lead this team. He’s just got to show consistency and prove that he is worthy of that #2 overall pick. And he will. It takes time, not to mention playing a position where he has to go up against guys like LeBron, KD, Pierce, and others. He may miss out on ROY, but I’ll take it if it means he could be in the conversation for MVP in a few years.

I’d agree that he deserves a spot in the discussion just after Lillard, Davis and Drummond. Waiters is getting a little bit of airtime because he’s playing better as a reserve recently — in seven games off the bench, he’s increased his scoring average (18.0 points vs. 14.0) and his efficiency (47 FG% vs. 36 percent) in less minutes per game.

Kidd-Gilchrist, for better or worse, is a guy whose perceived value will usually be tied to team success. He’s not a scorer, and wing rebounding isn’t something that gets people excited. As far as his defense, that mostly doesn’t show up in the box score. When the team was a surprising 7-5, more people were paying attention and noticing the little things that MKG does. Now that they’ve sunk back into the abyss, it’s hard for him to get attention when he doesn’t have eye-popping numbers like Lillard.

As far as his recent slump, I think it’s a combination of the rookie wall, the team’s recent poor play in general, and some growing pains as he tests out his mid-range game a little more. It isn’t very pretty (or effective), but I’m OK with him taking those shots to get more comfortable.

The nicest thing about MKG, for me, is that I’m not really that worried about him. Even if he only makes marginal improvements over the next few years, he seems like a solid enough player that he’ll be a clear starter. You could argue that we should expect more from a No. 2 pick, but for a roster with so much in flux right now, that’s pretty comforting.

Certainly seems a little bit unfair that Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t getting any mention when it comes to the ROY conversation, but he lacks something that almost all ROY winners of the past have had — offensive flash. When we go back and look at the winners since the year 2000 they all had a dynamic presence on the offensive end that everyone knew would only grow stronger. Well, except for one. Ironically, Emeka Okafor in 2004-05 probably is the weakest of all these winners offensively and he was in Charlotte then.

2000-01: Mike Miller (Orlando)
2001-02: Pau Gasol (Memphis)
2002-03: Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix)
2003-04: Lebron James (Cleveland)
2004-05: Emeka Okafor (Charlotte)
2005-06: Chris Paul (New Orleans)
2006-07: Brandon Roy (Portland)
2007-08: Kevin Durant (Seattle)
2008-09: Derrick Rose (Chicago)
2009-10: Tyreke Evans (Sacramento)
2010-11: Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers)
2011-12: Kyrie Irving (Cleveland)

MKG just doesn’t remind me of any of these past players in the sense that he has a dynamic aspect of his game on the offensive end of the floor that is going to resonate with the masses. MKG is a ‘dirty work’ kind of player — he’s going to be a scrapper on the defensive end, on the boards, sprint to both ends of the court and be the first guy to dive on the floor for a loose ball every night.

MKG has a high basketball IQ, but as a rookie that may come across to some as being passive and non-aggressive on the offensive end. In reality, I believe it’s simply a sign of a very young kid understanding his game and strengths. MKG knows he’s got teammates that are better at putting the ball in the hoop than he is at this point in his young NBA career.

To me, all this boils down to an idea that Kidd-Gilchrist simply doesn’t have the ROY type of game. If he starts doing more of this http://youtu.be/xtq8t-4WSKk, then maybe he has a chance to get into the convo. Until then, I’ll take a 19-year old who arguably plays and hustles as hard as anyone in this league every night.

I would currently place MKG 4th in the running for ROY behind Lillard, Davis, and Drummond. Waiters should not get considerable mention at this point. All in all, I have been very satisfied with MKG’s rookie campaign. Given he’s not a polished offensive player at this point, his contributions are not the most marketable for a race such as ROY. That’s probably why you hear Waiters mentioned in front of him.

Although MKG has struggled recently, he is still having a fine rookie year at the ripe age of 19. His PER currently stands at 16.1, a testament to his all around game considering his contributions on the offensive end are relatively limited at this time. When comparing his season to the rookie campaigns of other current and former players who are often mentioned as comps for MKG, it is apparent he stacks up quite well to date:

Player Efficiency Rating (PER)

Shawn Marion 17.1
Thaddeus Young 16.5
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 16.1
Luol Deng 14.3
Andre Iguodala 13.5
Gerald Wallace 13.3
Scottie Pippen 12.9

Each player was very young when they came into the league, relying primarily on athleticism and effort in order to make their initial contributions. Personally, I would not be disappointed if MKG ended up with the career (or career to date) of any of these players.