- David Thorpe, ESPN Staff Writer
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Welcome to the first-ever Rookie 50 Awards. We're naming our all-rookie teams (we're going three teams deep since this class is so talented) and handing out some "best in class" awards. Next week, we'll announce our Rookie of the Year pick.
On to the awards ...
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose
Proved to be a dynamic scorer throughout the season (16.6 points per game), mixing in incredible drives to the hoop and a much-better-than-expected midrange game. He's almost impossible to stay in front of.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Brook Lopez
Top 10 in the NBA in blocks (1.8) and effective in positioning, as well. Makes the offense think about his presence and isn't foul-prone.
Sixth Man of the Year: D.J. Augustin
Averaged 10 ppg off the bench on 41.7 percent shooting from 3, and had 29 points in a win over the Bulls and 20 points in a huge victory against Boston. Led all rookies in true shooting percentage at 59.6 percent.
Best Rebounder: Kevin Love
By far the best rebounder in this class (9.0) and is amongst the world's elite in this category.
Best 3-Point Shooter: Anthony Morrow
He's simply the best 3-point shooter in the NBA right now (80-of-164).
Most Improved (from November to April): Eric Gordon
It's not so much that Gordon got better, he just got more time. And he took advantage, raising his points per game (15.9) and his PER (14.90) significantly in 2009.
Biggest Surprise of the Class: Brook Lopez
Not even the Nets expected Lopez to be this good this quickly. He is a threat on both sides of the ball, able to play slow but excellent in early-offense schemes, and a willing screener and rebounder.
Biggest Surprise Overall: The entire 2008 draft class
Loaded with potential All-Stars, this class proved to be incredibly deep, too.
Biggest Upside/Bust Potential: Anthony Randolph
Shows great potential as a shot-blocker, rebounder and transition finisher. Also plays with great energy. But inside reports of laziness and a lack or maturity still haunt him, to a degree.
Toughest Dude: Russell Westbrook
Lots of great candidates here, but Westbrook was a beast all season inside the paint and challenged everyone at the rim (and sometimes over it!).
Derrick Rose: See Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Eric Gordon: Incredibly explosive off the dribble and a terrific shooter, too. Excellent in a half-court or running game.
D.J. Augustin: Great combination of outside shooting and dribble-penetration skills. Chasing him off the 3-point line works great for his midrange game.
O.J. Mayo: Very confident shooter with a great talent for getting jump shots off while under control. Strong transition finisher, as well.
Michael Beasley: Scores in a variety of ways and has an excellent face-up game. He's the difficult matchup we expected him to be.
Mario Chalmers: First among rookies in steals (1.9) and helped Miami improve greatly on defense.
Courtney Lee: The best perimeter defender on the league's best defensive team.
O.J. Mayo: Competes hard on this end and has the best defensive rebound rate (12.2) of any rookie guard.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: Uses length and strength to bother and sometimes smother scorers.
Brook Lopez: See Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook
Not at all a shut-down guy (yet) but great at creating chaos. Second to Chalmers in steals, with 1.4 per game.
All-Rookie First Team
Derrick Rose, Bulls: Among rookies, he is second in scoring and minutes per game and first in assists (6.2). He was handed a ton of responsibility immediately and handled it all with grace and professionalism. And though he went No. 1 overall, he probably exceeded the expectations of most people.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Only rookie to rank in the top 10 among rookies in scoring (15.5), rebounding (4.8) and assists (5.1). He is also second in steals and first in free throws made and attempted. He willed his team to some terrific wins and showed incredible promise.
O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies: First among rookies in scoring (18.4) and minutes (38.0), and is already considered one of the league's top jump-shooters. He also competes hard on defense and appears to be very professional.
Kevin Love, Timberwolves: Already one of the league's top rebounders, he is competing with Speights for the rookie PER crown. He is also a smart interior defender and should be a strong starter for years to come.
Brook Lopez, Nets: He's been nothing short of a revelation. One of the top free-throw shooting centers in basketball, he is an excellent scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. He has been probably the most productive rookie of the class, and he can become a cornerstone center, which is one of the most valuable positions.
All-Rookie Second Team
D.J. Augustin, Bobcats: Second among rookies (top 10 in the NBA) in 3-point shooting (44 percent), fourth in assists (3.5). He has the potential to be a dynamic point guard in this league.
Eric Gordon, Clippers: He dominated a number of games this season and is third among rookies in scoring. He is also better than expected as a defender and an excellent outside shooter (38 percent from 3).
Rudy Fernandez, Trail Blazers: Plays a key role for a solid playoff team. He made a number of game-saving and game-winning plays, and combined excellent outside shooting with smart play overall.
Michael Beasley, Heat: He wasn't outstanding in any area, but he was better-than-solid in most categories (top 10 among rookies in scoring and rebounding). He also proved he can score efficiently and looks to be a big threat in the playoffs.
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: Produced excellent numbers for a first-year center as a scorer/rebounder and led all rookie big men in assist rate (12.5). He knows how to play positional defense in the paint, too.
All-Rookie Third Team
Mario Chalmers, Heat: Leads all rookies in starts -- for a playoff team, no less -- and is currently playing his best ball of the season. He is also third among rookies in assists.
Courtney Lee, Magic: A starting guard for a top-four team in the league, he plays his role to near perfection. He is third among rookies in 3-point shooting (78-for-187).
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Bucks: Best wing defender in the class. He makes few mistakes and plays hard all the time.
Jason Thompson, Kings: Has averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds in 48 starts (77 games overall so far), showing star quality in a dozen games. A likely breakout candidate next season.
Marreese Speights, 76ers: Led all rookies in PER (18.60) for most of the season by being a very efficient scorer and greedy offensive rebounder. He just needs more playing time.
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.
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