The NBA announced on Monday that Michael Carter-Williams won the Kia Rookie of the Year Award for the 2013-14 season.
Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds, joining Oscar Robertson (1960-61) and [the Phoenix Suns'] Alvan Adams (1975-76) as the only players since 1950-51 to pace all rookies in those three categories. He also joined Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only rookies in NBA history to average at least 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists. Carter-Williams also led all rookies in steals (1.86 spg, sixth in NBA).
Coming in second was #2 overall pick Victor Oladipo, and third was #9 overall pick Trey Burke. All three players were primary ball handlers on some of the worst teams in the NBA.
These three players fit within the normal NBA profile - lottery picks are most likely to play big minutes because their teams are rebuilding. Later picks don't play as much as rookies because their team is trying to win games.
There are exceptions, but by and large winning teams have no room in their rotation for a rookie. I'm not talking about 10-15 minutes a game here. I'm not even necessarily talking about MCW, Burke and Oladipo contributions, who played 30+ minutes a night.
Over 210 draft picks in the last four seasons, only EIGHT draft picks have played 20+ minutes per game for a winning team. That's a 3.5% chance for a rookie to play 20+ minutes for a winner.
Here is the exhaustive list of draft picks (any spot 1-60) who got 20+ minutes per game on winning or playoff team in last 4 seasons
- Evan Turner (Philadelphia, #2, 2010)*
- Paul George (Indiana, #10, 2010)*
- Landry Fields (New York Knicks, second round, 2010)
- Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs, #15, 2011)
- Iman Shumpert (New York Knicks, #17, 2011)
- Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets, #21, 2011)
- Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets, #38, 2011)
- Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors, #7, 2012)
- Patrick Patterson (Houston Rockets, #14, 2010)
- Jeremy Lamb (Oklahoma City Thunder, #12, 2012)
- Otto Porter (Washington Wizards, #3, 2013)
- Cody Zeller (Charlotte Bobcats, #4, 2013)
- Alex Len (Phoenix Suns, #5, 2013)
- C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers, #10, 2013)
- Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder, #12, 2013)
This list is quite telling as well. Only 10 lottery-picking teams in the past four seasons, since 2010, have either made the playoffs or finished with a winning record in that same year. Three of those 10 played their lottery pick 20+ minutes per game that year. Seven did not.
Five of those 10 winning/playoff teams who had lotto picks occurred in 2013-14 season alone.
Where am I going with all of this?
I guess when I saw the Rookie of the Year list yesterday, I thought to myself that Suns rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin never had a chance.
I gave Len a "grade" on the season of D-, which was meant to simply say he didn't have a good year. Even Alex would have to agree. But if you factor in how little a chance he got, maybe he deserved a bit more consideration.
The only other team in recent memory to win 48+ games and have a lotto pick even on their roster was the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to trades that netted the #12 pick twice in the past four years while they gobbled up wins.
Sure the 2013 Draft was a downer. Not many stars to be had. Only eight players out of 60 even cracked the 20 mpg mark this season.
But remember that complicating the matter was the number of winning basketball teams who just couldn't give the time to their raw rookies while they tried to make the playoffs.
Once the Suns started winning, Len and Goodwin didn't have a chance to shine. So cut the rookies some slack, especially Alex Len, and let them grow at a pace that contributes to winning at the same time they are developing.