Three Rookie of the year candidates have separated themselves as clear frontrunners for the award.
Two should come as no shock, respectively the first and second picks in the 2015 NBA draft, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor.
Meanwhile, a man with nearly no hype to his name has come out and established himself as perhaps the most exciting prospect in this year’s rookie class.
Taken at pick four in the draft, New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is performing at a level that has many analysts clambering as they label him the next Dirk Nowitzki.
Dynamic play has forced a sudden readjustment from speculation that branded the unknown, 20-year-old Latvian a wasted high pick. Misinformation that had some Knicks fans booing his initial selection.
Those same fans are now clutching at hopes that Porzingis will become their next Patrick Ewing and help Carmelo Anthony finally get the results that they are desperate for.
Boasting an already impressive collection of highlight reel material, including two dominant put-back dunks over established NBA Superstars in LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love. Not to mention an incredible skillset that combines the aforementioned power in the post, with the ability to jump shoot, shoot the 3-ball, block and rebound, it is easy to see why Porzingis is turning heads.
All of these gifts were on display against the Rockets on November 21, when Porzingis led the Knicks to a W, finishing the night with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks.
The first time a Knicks Rookie has had over 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in a game.
Simply put, Porzingis is showing that he could be a player that not only has potential, but could be generational.
Sharing the same technical traits as Nowitzki, with bigger size and more presence is not only enough to draw comparison, but plenty to let the imagination wander.
But what about the top two picks in the draft? They haven’t exactly been slouches.
Hidden behind the smoke created by the Porzingis hype train, Towns and Okafor have both been performing at an incredibly impressive level.
Not to be overshowed by their compatriot, Towns and Okafor are also showing their league readiness and limitless potential.
Starting with the NBA’s top pick, the Timberwolves must be incredibly happy with their selection as Towns has been an immediate success.
The former University of Kentucky Center has been exceptional, averaging 13.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
Since the start of the season the powerful 20-year old has been able to score and rip down rebounds at a an exceptional rate, currently sitting comfortably in the NBA’s top 10 for double-double’s.
Looking at his stat line it is actually almost identical to Porzingis’ who is averaging 13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
By the numbers and the immediate ability to adjust to the big league, Town’s is easily Porzingas equal.
As for Jahlil Okafor, he is having perhaps the best statistical year out of the three rookie standouts.
Duke is known for producing NBA ready players, but what this 19-year-old is doing for Philadelphia is absurd.
Averaging 17.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for a centre in his first year in the league is unheard of in this day.
Okafor is averaging the most points for a rookie centre since the start of the Diesel himself, Shaquille O’Neal.
His moves down low and ability to score have been on display since day one, not to mention he crushed Town’s in the two Centres first NBA encounter despite the Timberwolves getting the win.
Okafor is another legitimate star in the making.
So we have three big men, three statistically solid years and an already amazing mixtape for the Rookie of the year compilation.
Separating a favourite is going to be much like pinning the tail on the donkey – really you’re sticking your hand out guessing where it will land.
Hoping to stab that pin right on that Donkey’s arse – right now, Porzingis looks to be leading the race.
The Knicks power forward has been able to have the most impact on his team, with the Knicks looking much better than last year.
If we look at the Sixers, Okafor has only helped them to reach the largest active losing streak in American major league sports history.
Meanwhile, Towns and the Timberwolves have admittedly been better than last year, but much of that improvement has to go to the never-debated young talent on that roster. Not to mention a young man by the name of Andrew Wiggins who is showing exactly how devastating a scorer he will become.
Okay, okay, you could also bring the Knicks improvement down to forecasted developments thanks to Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher’s fine work – but really we should just give the praise to the X-factor slapping us in the face.
With Porzingis the Knicks have look to have much more dimension on the floor – at both ends.
No longer does Carmelo have to piggy-back a noticeably average roster, with his Latvian lion carrying a fair share of the load.
An 8 – 10 record is just the start, the Knicks look to be a genuine sleeper in the East and would not look out of place in the playoffs.
Importantly, no matter who the winner will be, the NBA looks to be in good hands for the next decade.
After all with Kobe Bryant having just announced his retirement, while Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki look to be on their last legs, not to mention Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and alike all looking very old against the new breed, we will need something to fill the void.
Whether it’s Porzingis, Towns or Okafor, we have some guys that we can be in awe of for years to come.
Written by Juan Estepa @EstepaJ