Good to go
Ten rookies poised to play leading roles in '07-08
Posted: Thursday October 25, 2007 8:44AM; Updated: Thursday October 25, 2007 12:59PM
Remember when high-impact NBA rookies were all peach-fuzzed kids right out of college? Those days are long gone. As the 2007-08 season gets set to tip-off, the top rookie is just as likely to be a world-weary European free agent sporting full facial hair and maybe a championship trophy or two from some international competition.
Last year Jorge Garbajosa of the Raptors played as big a role in his team's success as any rookie over the first half of the season. Had he not broken his leg last March, the 6-foot-9 Spanish small forward might have threatened Portland's Brandon Roy for the Rookie of the Year award.
This year's crop of rookies features two more experienced international newcomers, including one we think will make the biggest impact of all. Here then is our list of 10 impact rookies to watch for in the season ahead, listed in reverse order:
10. Acie Law, Hawks
The 6-3 point guard from Texas A&M has shown flashes in the preseason of a Chris Paul-like breakout in Atlanta, but he might not log enough minutes. Hawks coach Mike Woodson is under pressure to win now, which means he'll probably go with veterans Anthony Johnson and Speedy Claxton for the bulk of the QB duties.
9. Yi Jianlian, Bucks
The 6-11 Chinese phenom has the potential to make a big impact, especially since he's probably really 22 or 23, as opposed to his listed age of 18. But he's been up and down in preseason, and the Bucks already have Charlie Villanueva at the power forward position. With the Bucks seeking to return to the playoffs, the guess here is that Yi finds himself in the same limited role as Law.
8. Joakim Noah, Bulls
He probably won't get a ton of minutes on a Bulls team that is vying for the top spot in the East, but the 6-11 former Florida standout will be a factor. He has the experience and savvy to step in and play immediately, and his length gives Chicago a needed dimension. His impact likely will be in terms of intangibles, more than points and rebounds, but as a contributor on a top team he will get noticed.
7. Marco Belinelli, Warriors
A possible sleeper for ROY honors. This 6-5 Italian guard can really stroke it, as he showed in the Las Vegas Summer League when he erupted for 37 points on 14-of-20 shooting in one contest. He should thrive in Don Nelson's wide-open system. But he has shot poorly while struggling on defense so far in the preseason, and he could encounter playing-time issues behind Monta Ellis at shooting guard.