NBA Rookie Report: Week 3

NBA Rookie Report: Week 3
Nov 23, 2005, 01:01 pm
Another week and another intriguing slate of games are in the books. In this installment of the Rookie Report we’ll look at a couple of first year tandems who are starting to get into the groove with their clubs and making contributions that are worth mentioning. The Raptors landed a couple of early-mid first rounders and though they are a team in transition, the chaos created by the team’s situation has opened up an avenue for these two talents to take their games to the court. In Charlotte, the Bobcats have continued to build off the battling spirit that carried them through last season. The freshmen additions of May and Felton have added depth and skill to the steady development of this young club.

Terrific tandems:

Charlie Villanueva- Season: 13.2pts 6.5rbs. Best game: 27pts 13rbs 12-17fgs


The Good: - Don’t call him “Charlie Hustle” just yet, but Villenueva has certainly shown himself to be a lot more proactive then he was during his days at UCONN. Charlie has shown no difficulties adjusting to the NBA 3 point line as he is shooting nearly 38% from behind the arc. But, Charlie is still attacking the basket with abandon as his 48% shooting percentage and 2.8 offensive rebounds per game will attest.

The Bad: Fouls and free throws are the order of the day for Charlie to take full advantage of his massive potential. Villanueva hasn’t shot a ton from the line, so I’ll assume he can do a little better than the paltry 31% he’s shooting now. The fouls are a bigger issue because it’s keeping him off the floor, even though it’s great to see him finally putting an effort in on the defensive end. Villanueva makes a great tandem frontline with Chris Bosh, but after he comes out of the game there is a precipitous drop off in production, so it is imperative that he remain on the court. Not every team has the luxury of playing rookies unlimited minutes, so Charlie must take full advantage of the opportunity.

Outlook: Villanueva has positioned himself to be an impact player for a young and talented Raptors team. With tons of playing time available and the ability to play through his mistakes, Charlie has a tremendous chance to harness his vast potential and become an impact player. The only risk I see with Villanueva is that he may grow complacent with his situation. As the losing continues and without the pressure to perform coming from another hungry bench player, Charlie could see some slippage in his game. The key for Villanueva is the same as it’s always been-if he stays aggressive then he can be a fantastic player.

Joey Graham- Season: 6.6pts 2.2rbs. Best game: 13pts 2rbs 100% 3-3fg, 6-6ft


The Good: Good news for Joey is that there are plenty of developmental minutes available to him on a struggling Raptors team and there should be even more playing time as soon as Jalen Rose is moved. Graham’s minutes have been on the rise and even in limited opportunities he has shown a solid shooting stroke from the field and from the line. Defensively, Graham has given a strong showing, and unlike his NCAA days fouls haven’t been too much of a problem despite his aggressive nature.

The Bad: - Graham has the speed to play shooting guard and the size and strength to be a small forward which makes him an excellent compliment to the young Raptors frontcourt tandem of Bosh and Villanueva. But, Graham hasn’t shown great rebounding ability yet, and his strength and athleticism should allow him to dominate his opponent with even the slightest amount of positioning and instinct. This early in the season it’s too soon to call this an issue, but it would be nice to get a multi-faceted level of production out of a swing player of his caliber.

Outlook: Graham appears to be the latest in a long and successful line of Oklahoma State swingmen who have made the transition to the NBA. I expect Joey to have similar success as his predecessors. As with Charlie V, the playing time that Graham will get this season should help to develop his game immensely. As the season progresses and Graham’s playing time increases I expect him to increase his aggressiveness and start to test the limits of his ability. Eddie Sutton rules OK State with an iron fist, and the sooner Graham gets that limiting notion out of his head the quicker he will become an effective player.

Sean May- Season: 10.4pts 5.6rbs. Best game: 15pts 10rbs


The Good: - May has improved in every statistical category as the season has progressed. Whatever minor hesitance the off-season surgery caused May is gone now. Sean’s outside stroke really opens up the court for him and his court savvy allows him to make the proper play when his own offense isn’t there. May uses good instincts to position himself on the glass and gets a solid amount of his rebounds on the offensive end due mostly to his movement when the defensive attention is on the Okafor.

The Bad: - May’s conditioning is still less than ideal and it’s limiting his minutes to some degree. As the game goes on May becomes less of a full court threat and more of a positional rebounder and low post player, not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly not indicative of his full ability.

Outlook: May is in a perfect position to become a really good player in this league. Playing for Charlotte has given May the ability to remain close to his college roots and the fan base embraces him and teammate Raymond Felton as if they are long time vets, which they are in a way for them. Charlotte also has a good system and excellent management who have executed each organizational move with purpose. May will get plenty of playing time and has a chance to contribute to an underrated and very competitive Bobcats team. What May needs to do now is continue to work relentlessly on his strength and conditioning. While his size is one of his greatest attributes, he must convert the rest of that baby fat into toned muscle. If May can maximize his body’s physical potential he should excel as a frontcourt partner with Emeka Okafor.

Raymond Felton- Season: 8.2pts 4asts 1.4stls. Best game: 18pts 5rbs 10asts 5stls


The Good: Fearless and aggressive play has been the hallmark of Felton’s season so far. Like his long time teammate Sean May, Felton has benefited greatly from the support structure that staying in North Carolina has afforded him. Felton is penetrating at will and getting rewarded with free throws. Felton’s assist to turnover ratio is over 3 to 1 and he’s proven to be a pesky defender when it comes to stealing the ball.

The Bad: - The aggression that Felton has shown offensively has also manifested itself into a number of nights worth of poor shot selection. To date, Felton has shot substantially better from 3 point territory than he has from anywhere else on the floor. Felton hasn’t shown a great understanding of how to use his speed to his advantage in the half court game and has gotten himself into trouble a number of times with forced shots, the result of his over-exuberance.

Outlook: Despite the poor field goal percentage, Felton is really starting to play well. The decision making is a work in progress, but his early playmaking ability has been above expectations so far. The real problem is in his own shot selection as he is running into traffic and taking off balance shots far too often. When Raymond sets his feet he has a smooth delivery and gets good results, as he is shooting nearly 43% from behind the arc. But, Felton’s not turning the ball over much and his energy and speed get the team out in transition which really helps the Bobcats attack.

Spotlight Match-up of the Week: Charlie Villanueva vs. Chris Webber

1st Half: Villanueva was too much for Webber to handle in the first half and the Sixers had to use a number of more versatile players to try and keep up with him. Charlie drew defensive match ups against Webber, Hunter, and Lee Nailon during the first half and had no problem with any of them. Charlie was very active on the offensive glass and ran around Webber and the Sixers frontcourt for a number of easy tip-ins that got him going early on.

2nd Half: Villanueva kept up his torrid pace and picked up his game in extended 2nd half minutes. Although Webber’s stat line was slightly better than Villanueva’s, Webber spent most of his time matched up against Chris Bosh because he couldn’t defend Villanueva that far from the paint. Charlie took his game to the outside in the second half and utilized the 3 point threat to help soften the Philadelphia defense and get his team back in the game.

Play of the Game: Just seconds after fouling Webber in the act of shooting, Charlie positioned himself behind Webber on Jalen Rose’s missed jump shot the following possession. Webber turned his head away from Villanueva and got caught ball-watching while Charlie slid to the right to free up a lane to the basket. When the ball caromed off the rim, Webber turned around for the rebound just in time to see Villanueva fly in front of him for a monster two handed jam. This dunk inspired a small duel between the two players for the remainder of the game.

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