Making a case for an ROY not named Tyreke

What's in store for Stephen Curry later on in the NBA?

Almost all NBA experts and fans have resigned themselves to the fact that the Sacramento Kings point guard Tyreke Evans will be crowned this season’s Rookie of the Year. The truth is, they’re probably right in their predictions. That said, amid outstanding performances from players like Brandon Jennings, Marcus Thornton, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, and DeJuan Blair, is it fair to write everyone else off right off the bat?

The truth is, in place of Evans, I wouldn’t name any of the aforementioned players the ROY award. Instead, it would go to Stephen Curry.

Get this straight, though: Looking at the statistics of the two players over the course of the entire season, Evans has put up a more productive campaign than Curry. He’s scoring three more points per game and outdistances Curry by about two-and-a-half points in PER. But the Davidson alumnus’s marks are nothing to scoff at.

He’s scoring 17 a game and adding 6 assists, 4 boards, and 2 steals. In addition, his shooting percentages are fantastic: 46 percent from the floor, an alarming 43 percent from long range, and 88 percent from the charity stripe. Those numbers, if not for a minutes minimum, would have garnered Curry a spot on John Hollinger’s Greatest Shooters Ever list. That’s pretty amazing.

But everyone knew Curry could shoot coming into the league. He lit up the scoreboard from any distance in college. Where he has really shined is in his ability to make good passes and lead an offense. No one was really sure whether he had the distribution skills to play the 1, and he lacks the size to effectively play the 2, so he has helped himself in that way.

Since the beginning of February, Curry has nine double-doubles, including one triple-double. Over that span, he’s averaging over 7.7 assists to go along with just over 21 points. His second-half play has led David Thorpe to suggest that Curry could be the next Steve Nash in his NBA Rookie Watch.

To recap, Stephen Curry has shown signs of being a top-10 shooter of all-time and comparing to Steve Nash, one of the finest point guards in NBA history, according to two of the NBA’s leading experts. That’s quite a résumé already.

Sure, he doesn’t play defense, but how can you really expect him to on the Golden State Warriors. Maybe with a new owner and coach he will develop some skill on that side of the ball.

As for Evans, he’s playing the point-guard position, but should he be? He succumbs to what Hollinger calls tunnel vision — he drives to the hole, looking for an assist as only an absolute last resort. He is a prolific scorer, but to take his name to the next level, he needs to learn to find his teammates for easy shots, else he risks drawing routine double teams and alienating his peers to the point where it becomes an issue in the locker room. Curry is already a step ahead of him in that respect.

But to solve this debate requires a specific definition with respect to the Rookie of the Year award. Is it given to the player who shows the most promise, or is it given to the player who has the most effective rookie season? The answer is the latter, or at least it should be (Derrick Rose edged Brook Lopez for the prize last year undeservedly, but that’s another story). Accordingly, the winner of the award should be Evans. He undoubtedly put up the better numbers over the course of the entire season.

Regardless, it will be fun to watch these two guys develop, and I’m sure losing out on the award won’t discourage Curry from playing to the best of his ability in the years to come. It’s just too bad we won’t see either of these guys in the playoffs this season; watching Rose nearly upset the heavily favored Celtics in a number of multiple-overtime games was incredibly exciting. Alas, their teams are both lottery bound in May.

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Expectation Series: Part 4 (Most Surprising Players)

Over the next four days, I’ll be writing on what I call my Expectation Series — a four-part set of rankings for the following: most disappointing teams, most surprising teams, most disappointing players, and most surprising players.

Hornets point guard Darren Collison has filled in brilliantly during Chris Paul's absences this season.

For every player who underachieves each season, there is another who exceeds expectations to compensate. And this year is no exception. In selecting my top five, I tried to avoid rookies (who really don’t have clearly defined projections), though I couldn’t help but include my No. 1. So here’s the list.

No. 5 — Kevin Durant

Everyone knew going in that Kevin Durant was a fearless and unstoppable scorer. But who really thought that we’d be seriously considering him as MVP if LeBron James weren’t playing? Durantula added four-and-a-half points to his per-game scoring rate and may very well win the scoring title. In addition, he’s nearly flawless at the line, has improved his rebounding, and can hit the big shot. And believe it or not, he can still improve. If he can get his field-goal percentage over 50 percent and shoot over 40 percent on threes, he’ll truly be in the elite category. Let’s see if he has the ability to lead his team to victory in the playoffs this year.

No. 4 — Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche’s performance has gone more or less unnoticed because of his playing on a terrible, terrible team. If you look at his per-40-minute averages, they are rather impressive. He’s posting nearly 20 points and nine boards per 40 minutes. As a starter, he’s averaging over 20 points a game. While Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison were in town, he didn’t have a chance to shine. Maybe while Washington is rebuilding, he can let the world know he’s ready to stand out at the highest level with the right playing time.

No. 3 — David Lee

David Lee’s improvement this season has come mostly in the scoring department. He could rebound last year, and he has carried that over to this season. But he’s scoring over 20 a game, and his high PER reflects that, all while playing out of position at the 5. Hopefully he can sign with a serious team next year and wreak some serious havoc when the games actually matter.

No. 2 — Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut is what situated the Milwaukee Bucks in prime playoff position for 2010. Now that he’s out for the rest of the season, they don’t stand too much hope of advancing beyond the first round. The former first-overall pick began to justify his draft selection, adding 16 points and 10 rebounds a contest to his team’s line. Moreover, his defense was stellar. He contributed 2.5 blocks a game and began to develop a Dwight Howard-esque effect on opponents’ shots whenever they were foolish enough to enter the paint. Bogut will be back next year with a healthy Michael Redd, so he should be able to do the same again for the Deer.

No. 1 — Darren Collison

As I mentioned above, it is tough to include rookies on this list because their abilities aren’t really evident with no experience in the league. In this case, what chance does a point guard playing behind Chris Paul have of succeeding in his first professional campaign? That said, Darren Collison, the 21st-overall pick out of UCLA, has played magnificently this year. Paul has missed a lot of time with injures, and Collison has capitalized. His per-game averages over the course of the season aren’t terribly impressive, but if you limit the scope to the games he’s started, it becomes more glaring. His stat line in games started: 18.4 points, 9 assists, 3.6 boards, 1.4 steals, 47 percent shooting, 41 percent from deep, and 85 percent from the charity stripe. The dude needs to get out of New Orleans, because he doesn’t deserve to be playing behind CP3; he’s way too good.

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