Commentary

Who will be 2010-11 Rookie of the Year?

Originally Published: August 11, 2010
By Matt Wong | ESPN.com

WallAP Photo/Carolyn KasterJohn Wall is the face of this year's rook crop, but will he finish at the head of the class? Survey says ...

This year's NBA Rookie of the Year race has a rare feature: Two overall No. 1 picks are battling it out as co-favorites. 2010 top pick John Wall and 2009 main man Blake Griffin are both eligible for the award, and each drew significant support from our panel of 93 ESPN basketball experts.

As our Summer Forecast series continues, we hit some of the major individual categories this week, including ROY, MVP, and best and worst newcomers, plus a bonus category that also stars Wall and Griffin.

So here we go with what looks like, until further notice, the Wall-Griffin debate:

2010-11 Forecast: NBA Rookie of the Year

The skinny

Wall: With the Wizards giving Wall the reins from day one, it's easy to see why more than half of our panelists think he'll take home the hardware. A pure point guard with amazing quicks, the will to pass, defensive skills and a decent shot, Wall has a game that should translate immediately to the pro level. Witness recent ROY winners Chris Paul and Derrick Rose -- the two players to whom Wall is most often compared.

That's not to say he's a shoo-in, of course. In fact, only two of the past 11 No. 1 picks have won rookie of the year. And, you might recall, the last time Washington had the No. 1 pick, it didn't work out so well. (Ask Kwame Brown.)

Assuming Gilbert Arenas is still with the Wizards, Wall will have a backcourt mate who can either help him or hinder him, depending on how willing Arenas is to defer. Either way, the stage is set for Wall to turn around a franchise coming off its most embarrassing season ever, and, as we saw earlier in our forecast series, we expect that the Wizards will only go up from here.

[+] EnlargeGriffin
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesLet's try this again: Blake Griffin is ready to turn the Clips around now.

Griffin: After a kneecap injury derailed his entire 2009-10 season, Griffin is officially still a rookie and now, as our panel sees it, Wall's main competition. A quarter of our voters believe the 2009 No. 1 pick will regain the form that made him the overwhelming favorite to win the award last season.

It's easy to forget now, but Griffin's arrival had us calling the Clippers "Team Turnaround" in last year's poll. And that's one reason why, as we'll see in Thursday's forecast, he's one of our top choices for players we're most excited to see.

Cousins: Based on talent alone, Cousins could easily be the favorite to win rookie of the year. Just look at his Kentucky stats -- he's an efficient double-double machine who dominated college opponents as a freshman.

Still, you can't blame our panel for hesitating to crown Cousins king of the rooks. Not when he's going up against two No. 1 picks for the honor. Not when he's dealing with maturity issues. Not when he's competing with Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson for minutes in Sacramento. And not when he's battling the likes of Duncan, Gasol and Yao in the West when he does see the floor.

But if Cousins overcomes those obstacles and plays to his potential, Sacramento could very well be looking at back-to-back ROY winners (Kings point guard Tyreke Evans won the 2009-10 award). The last team to accomplish that feat was the Buffalo Braves (Bob McAdoo in 1973 and Ernie DiGregorio in 1974).

Turner: Although his summer-league performance seemed wanting, it's easy to see the case for the reigning college POY as ROY. At Ohio State, the No. 2 pick showed he could fill up a stat sheet, and he should flourish under new Sixers coach Doug Collins, who knows a thing or two about guiding multifaceted young players (see Michael Jordan, Grant Hill).

The main issue for Turner might be finding minutes on a team loaded at the wing positions, but we find it hard to believe a player with his versatility will be glued to the bench. Of course, if the Sixers decide to move out Andre Iguodala, as some have speculated, then Turner's ROY bid should gain even more steam.

Click here for the complete list of voters

Matt Wong is an NBA editor for ESPN.com.