At the conclusion of the regular season, the NBA will hand out its Rookie of the Year award. Unlike the league’s Most Valuable Player, the award is not necessarily predicated on team success, but on a combination of outstanding statistics and the player’s impact, both on his team as well as on the league. The field for this season’s
However, in any given year, the NBA’s Rookie of the Year is not necessarily the league’s Most Important Rookie. Very rarely does a
Team outlook- What is the team playing for? If even making the playoffs is a pipe dream, the significance of a rookie’s contribution is diminished, as the team would have been lottery-bound with or without him (sorry O.J.!). Any rookie making vital contributions to a playoff run earns big MIR points; big bonus for any rookie that contributes to a title contender.
Playing time- In addition to the obvious measure of average minutes per game, late-game minutes are particularly significant. It’s noteworthy any time a rookie on a quality team is trusted by his coach to be on the floor in the game’s vital moments. Production in these situations is especially key.
Significance on the depth chart- Even if a rookie earns significant minutes on a quality team, there is generally at least one veteran that can be relied upon if needed. A rookie that fills an important role for team with little or no veteran insurance behind, be it because of injury or the implicit trust of his coach, must be considered an MIR candidate.
Based on this criteria, a group of this year’s rookies must be considered for Most Important Rookie. Here is a ranking of the NBA’s top 5 Most Important Rookies, along with a pair of rookies that didn’t make the list, but are certainly deserving of honorable mentions:
Greg Oden (C,
Courtney Lee (SG, Orlando Magic)- Very quietly, the Magic have posted a 20-6 record to start the season, and find themselves just four games behind the white-hot Boston Celtics and a game-and-a-half behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Magic are two-deep at the point guard and have Superman in the middle, but have far less room for error at the “2” and “3” positions, with Hedo Turkoglu, Mickael Pietrus, Keith Bogans and Lee holding down the fort. With Pietrus,
#5 Brook Lopez (C,
#4 Rudy Fernandez (SG, Portland Trailblazers)- Fernandez is not only one of the NBA’s most popular rookies, he’s been the offensive spark for the Blazers’ second unit all season, and is the only true backup to Brandon Roy. Rudy has scored in double figures in 18 of
#3 Mario Chalmers (PG, Miami Heat)- Chalmers has been Miami’s starting point guard, playing alongside Dwyane Wade, from Day 1, and has yet to play fewer than 24 minutes in a pro game. In 24 NBA games, Chalmers is averaging 10.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2 spg (44.4% FG; 37.4% 3-pt) for the Heat, who at 12-12 are currently tied New Jersey for #6 in the East and figure to contend for a playoff spot at season’s end. As he gets more NBA reps, Chalmers should develop into an excellent lead guard- he’s already well on his way. A durable, experienced PG, with a championship track record in college- on a better team, Chalmers would easily be #2, and receive strong consideration for #1.
#2 George Hill (PG, San Antonio Spurs)- Simply put, Hill is San Antonio’s best option at the point behind Tony Parker, and he’s already shown what he can do. Hill was called into action in just his fifth pro game, when Tony Parker was injured in
#1 Derrick Rose (PG,