Monday, August 24, 2009 Updated: September 14, 3:31 PM ET
Summer Forecast: Rookie of the Year
Blake Griffin: No. 1 pick in the draft; Most Outstanding Player of Summer League; Rookie of the Year?
Welcome to the second annual edition of our Summer Forecast series.
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll roll out our predictions for the 2009-10 season's Best Newcomers, Worst Newcomers, MVP, conference champions and NBA champs. We'll also foretell how each team will do this season, and provide our educated guesses on where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal will play in 2010-11.
To do this, we've asked 53 of ESPN's best basketball minds for their forecasts, including contributors from ESPN television and radio, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider, ESPN Stats & Information, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Multimedia, ESPN Fantasy, ESPN Interactive Games, ESPN DB and ESPN.com. (The full list of voters is below.)
We're starting with the prediction our expert panel deemed the easiest on the board: Rookie of the Year. Just as it was a no-brainer for the Clippers to select Blake Griffin, our voters made him their first choice, as well, with 81.1 percent of the vote. And if you're a fan of the No. 2 pick, Hasheem Thabeet, you'll find a modicum of support for him, too.
While the Clippers' trade of Zach Randolph cleared the way for Griffin to step right in and get minutes, their new power forward has some history working against him: (1) only two of the past 10 No. 1 picks have won Rookie of the Year, and (2) no Los Angeles Clipper has ever won the award, despite the franchise's near-permanent residence in Lotteryland. (Terry Cummings did win ROY for the San Diego Clippers in 1983, and the Buffalo Braves, the original incarnation of the Clips, did have back-to-back winners in 1973 and 1974: Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregorio.)
Those tendencies notwithstanding, most of our voters believe Griffin's dominance at Oklahoma will translate into success in L.A. Even the Clippers' well-catalogued legacy of disaster was not enough to deter voters. In fact, as we'll see later in our forecast series, Griffin's arrival makes the Clippers one of our committee's choices for the top turnaround team.
The state of Oklahoma gets another quick shout-out, as No. 3 pick James Harden also made the top three in our forecast. The shooting guard from Arizona State should have ample opportunity for the Thunder, though he'll compete with holdovers Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Weaver. If all goes according to plan, Harden might become OKC's second-leading scorer, behind rifleman Kevin Durant.
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Flynn is generally considered the most NBA-ready rookie east of Blake Griffin, and he'd better be -- he'll be starting from day one for the Timberwolves. Unless, of course, the Wolves actually do coax Ricky Rubio to join them, in which case the PG controversy born on draft night will be revived.
The theory behind Curry's Rookie of the Year bid is pretty clear: He's a gunner in an offense built for gunners. That said, Golden State has so many guards and wing players ready to fire away -- and coach Don Nelson has such a well-established aversion to young players -- that it's not clear exactly whether Curry will get the minutes and shots he needs to compete for this award. But if he does, watch out.
Henry Abbott (ESPN.com TrueHoop senior writer), J.A. Adande (ESPN.com senior writer), Kevin Arnovitz (ESPN.com TrueHoop Network editor), Andrew Ayres (ESPN.com NBA editor), Jon Barry (ESPN NBA analyst), Bruce Bernstein (ESPN NBA Studio Production), Alfredo Berrios (ESPN Deportes editor), Dwayne Bray (ESPN Studio Production), Jordan Brenner (ESPN Insider editor), Lisa Brooks (ESPN Stats & Information), Maurice Brooks (ESPN.com NBA editor), Chris Broussard (ESPN The Magazine senior writer), Ric Bucher (ESPN The Magazine senior writer), Michael Bucklin (ESPN Interactive Games), Kevin Calabro (ESPN NBA broadcaster), Kevin Conlon (ESPN Stats & Information), Jay Corbin (ESPN The Magazine editor), Chad Ford (ESPN Insider senior writer), LZ Granderson (ESPN The Magazine senior writer), John Hollinger (ESPN Insider senior writer), Jade Hoye (ESPN Multimedia), Michael Jackson (ESPN Stats & Information), Scoop Jackson (ESPN Page 2 columnist), Avery Johnson (ESPN NBA analyst), Eric Karabell (ESPN.com senior writer), Rob King (ESPN.com editor-in-chief), Seth Landman (ESPN Fantasy basketball writer), Tim Legler (ESPN NBA analyst), Nancy Lieberman (ESPN NBA analyst), Keith Lipscomb (ESPN Fantasy basketball analyst), Patricia Lowry (ESPN NBA Event Production), Mike Lynch (ESPN Stats & Information), Eric Neel (ESPN.com senior writer), Pete Newmann (ESPN Stats & Information), Chris Palmer (ESPN The Magazine NBA writer), Greg Pike (ESPN NBA Studio Production), Chris Ramsay (ESPN.com NBA coordinator), Dr. Jack Ramsay (ESPN NBA analyst), Adam Reisinger (ESPN DB editor), Jalen Rose (ESPN NBA analyst), Bob Salmi (ESPN NBA analyst), Chris Sheridan (ESPN Insider senior writer), Marc Stein (ESPN.com NBA senior writer), Patrick Stiegman (ESPN.com VP/Executive editor), Otto Strong (ESPN The Magazine NBA editor), Mark Summer (ESPN NBA Studio Production), David Thorpe (ESPN Insider NBA analyst), Justin Verrier (ESPN.com NBA editor), Bill Walton (ESPN NBA analyst), Royce Webb (ESPN.com NBA editor), Josh Whitling (ESPN Fantasy Basketball writer), Matt Winer (ESPN NBA anchor) and Matt Wong (ESPN.com NBA editor).