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Rookie of the Year
- Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves – “Maple Jordan” is still a runaway winner in my mind, even if the gap has closed a bit. The pursuit of other candidates has picked up, but Wiggins has performed very well, scoring more than 16 points per game on the season with solid defense and peripheral statistics. The 20-year-old Wiggins has carried a significantly bigger workload than any other member of the class (35.6 minutes per game), and the top overall pick has responded in kind. Wiggins is the only member of this class who already looks like a star on a regular basis, and you can’t overlook what he has been asked to do in year one.
- Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers – Noel’s defense has kept him in consideration for much of the season, but the offense is beginning to arrive. The big man is averaging 14.o points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.1 blocks per game in March (All-Star numbers), and Noel has visibly improved his offensive efficiency, including a jump to 51% shooting in that time. The groundswell of support for his ROY candidacy is admirable, and if he had operated on this level for the entire season, it may be accurate, but Noel still falls behind Wiggins on a season-long basis.
- Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic – Payton’s pure numbers (8.9 points, 6.3 assists per game) may not jump off the page, but he has been impressive in year one. The former Louisiana-Lafayette point guard is also averaging 4.2 rebounds per game in 29.6 minutes, and like Noel before him, his production has improved lately. Payton is averaging 13.2 points, 8.4 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game in March, and there is real evidence of improvement. Defense and passing ability will always be his calling card, but Payton’s development is clear.
Next: Most Valuable Player