Horford Should be Rookie of the Year

Three Gators were chosen in the top ten of the NBA draft last June, and one of them has been the best rookie in the NBA. Odds are Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford will not be chosen for the rookie honor, because voters for such things tend to look at points and points alone.

Horford's 10.1 point scoring average is a little more than half that of Seattle' Kevin Durant, but that's only part of the story. Let's first look at the most important stats for the top two contenders for rookie of the year.

Player Points Rebounds FG % FT %
Durant 20.0 4.2 .425 .879
Horford 10.1 9.7 .502 .726

While Durant wins big when you compare points, you have to take a long look at the rebound difference. Horford is grabbing more than twice as many boards as Durant even though they are about the same height. Durant's edge in free throw shooting percentage is not as valuable as Horford field goal percentage advantage.

To be fair the numbers make it a pretty even argument. Durant advocates might even cite his having to play in a much tougher conference. While that's legit, to me what puts Horford over the top is the importance of his contributions.

Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, Horford has helped Atlanta to a 36-41 record and a three game lead over Indiana for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. As they head down the stretch Horford has raised his game (14.2/10) in helping the Hawks win four of their last five games.

Durant on the other hand is on one of the worst teams in the NBA. Seattle (18-59) is 28 games out of the playoff hunt and hasn't played a meaningful game in months. He is coming off a 37 point performance against Denver, but that's one game after scoring just four and missing 15 of 17 shots in a loss to Houston. Horford never has games that bad.

Seattle was 31-51 last season and they are markedly worse this year. Atlanta was 30-52 and has improved by six games and could do even more. Rookie if the year is more than just stats. The best rookie in the NBA is the one who made his college team better for three years in Gainesville and has already made his NBA team better in his first season.

Quick update on the other Gator rookies:

Joakim Noah ----- Joakim has raised his averages to 6.1 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Chicago Bulls. He's started 26 times for a Bulls team that has gone through a coaching change and will likely have another soon. He recently had a season best 18/15 against Milwaukee.

Corey Brewer ----- "Spiderman" has struggled at times this year and his numbers (5.7/3.6) are below Noah's. He's shown his ability on the defensive end but his shooting (.372 FG, .171 3pt) has been dreadful.

Chris Richard ----- C-Rich has played about ten minutes a game, appearing in just over half the Timberwolves' contests. His averages (1.8/2.2) are not all that significant, but reports indicate they are pleased with his attitude and work ethic and he may stick around as a practice court banger.

Taurean Green ----- Florida's floor general has had a strange year. Portland drafted him and twice sent him to the NBADL before trading him to Denver. Last Saturday the Nuggets also sent him to the developmental league. In his first game he scored 14 points and dished out 7 assists in helping Colorado to a win over Austin. He'll have to impress to get an NBA job next year.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel

Fightin Gators Top Stories