- David Thorpe, NBA
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Can you guess the two things the following players have in common?
Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Danny Granger, Kevin Martin, Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, Antawn Jamison, Zach Randolph, Joe Johnson, Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson, Michael Redd, Al Harrington and David West.
The first should be pretty easy to figure out: All of these guys are big-time scorers in the NBA, averaging 20-plus points per game, to be exact. And at 19.7 ppg, Corey Maggette is close to joining this club, too.
The other connection is that every guy on the list averaged less than 10 ppg as a rookie.
The teaching point is obvious: If a rookie is not scoring (or rebounding or defending) much now, it is not indicative of how his career is going to play out -- as long as the player continues to develop. Naturally, playing for the right coach and in the right system help a great deal, too.
Similarly, those rookies who are currently listed in the top 10 of our rankings aren't guaranteed to stay on the path to stardom just because they've enjoyed some success.
The formula is simple: (great work ethic + good attitude) x (great coaching + good system) = a productive player. Rookies can't control their coaching and system, but they can control their work ethic and attitude. So control them they should. Especially rookies who have had more downs than ups -- things can turn around quickly in this league.
Anthony Randolph, Warriors
Randolph is quietly enjoying his best month as a pro, averaging 10.6 points, 7.1 boards and 1.9 blocks a game in March. His 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals helped spark the Warriors to a win over Dallas on Friday. He may play with a chip on his shoulder too often, but that chip causes him to play with energy and competitiveness -- always a good thing in the NBA.
Anthony Morrow, Warriors
Morrow hasn't put up the monster numbers he produced when he got some run early in the season, but he's a rock in the rotation. He looks like he can be a valuable shooter off the bench in this league for years to come.
DeAndre Jordan, Clippers
Jordan has shown flashes as a shot-blocker -- he has two or more blocks in 10 games so far in 2009. He's a project to be sure, but the Clippers may have found themselves a second-round steal if Jordan can build on what he has done to this point.
Ryan Anderson, Nets
Anderson has seen his share of good times and decent minutes, averaging 9.2 ppg and 25 mpg in February. His minutes have dropped in March, but he still projects to be a 3-point-shooting specialist in this league, at the very least; he has the potential to be more than that.
Mario Chalmers, Heat
Chalmers is settling in as a solid point guard -- one who greatly benefits from playing next to D-Wade, of course. Still, his toughness and improved shot-making talent mean he'll get strong consideration to be Miami's point guard of the future. But that audition won't conclude until the summer of 2010 is settled, so he can't relax.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Bucks
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the class, Mbah a Moute is a solid wing defender -- which alone is very valuable for a team. But he is also smart on offense, taking good shots and finishing them with regularity (47 percent on the season). If he can learn to make 3s (0-for-4 this season), his value will skyrocket -- think Bruce Bowen and Shane Battier.
George Hill, Spurs
Hill has found a way to get rotation minutes over the course of the season, soaring early on when given 24 minutes per game, and making contributions even when playing 10 less minutes per game. He looks to be an excellent prospect for San Antonio -- he enjoys playing defense and adds an element of athleticism to a team that needs both.
Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers
A ball conveyor and a defensive presence, the Frenchman has started all but four games for the playoff-bound Blazers and is averaging a season-best 7 ppg in March. Like Mbah a Moute, developing a steady 3-point shot would do wonders for Batum's future. He has had mixed results from long range this season (34.7 percent).
Courtney Lee, Magic
Lee has a tightly defined role just like the handful of other rookies starting for playoff teams: Make open 3s (he's shooting 41.3 percent, third among rookies), play tough defense, move the ball and get back on defense. He is doing all of those things and should be able to show some of his scoring ability next season as well. However, he can not relax and assume the starting 2-guard position is his for the long term in Orlando.
Jerryd Bayless, Trail Blazers
Of all the lottery picks, Bayless has had arguably the most disappointing season, especially given his strong play during summer league. But in his defense, he has had few chances to really shine. However, he has shown enough potential in his limited minutes -- down to below 10 per game this month -- to give hope that he can be a strong starter in this league.
Kosta Koufos, Jazz
The big man has not appeared in a game since mid-February. Still, he showed enough talent when he was playing to suggest he'll have a place in the league for years to come. He still could be a starter for Utah in the future.
Donte Greene, Kings
Greene has some maturity issues to deal with, as evidenced when he took a prank too far with vet Bobby Jackson. And he's got a lot to learn about how to be a productive NBA player. But I love his spirit at every game. Oftentimes, spirit alone can be a foundation for a young player, especially one with the size and skills of Greene.
Kyle Weaver, Thunder
Weaver filled in admirably for the Thunder when Kevin Durant went down with an ankle injury. Weaver scored 10-plus points in four straight games and looked like he had some potential as a 3-point shooter. Considering that he was drafted for his defense, those are positive signs. He has a chance to be a nice bench option for the Thunder next season.
David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for Scouts Inc. and the executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., where he oversees the player development program for more than 40 NBA, European League and D-League players. Those players include Kevin Martin, Rob Kurz, Luol Deng, Courtney Lee and Tyrus Thomas. To e-mail him, click here.
Here's a look at a few rookies who could have solid careers despite so-so rookie seasons.