Points in the Paint
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The NBA season has been in full force for
just over a month and already the impact of the rookie class of 2003 is being
felt around the league.
Let’s take a look at some of the newcomers who are starting to make their
LEBRON JAMES – Selected out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School with the
first-overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, James has given the Cavaliers’
franchise hope and the Cleveland fans excitement so far this season.
The 18-year-old James has averaged eye-opening numbers through his first 17
professional games. He leads the Cavs in scoring (17.5 ppg) and assists (6.4
apg) and is second on the club in rebounding (7.0 rpg).
In Cleveland’s 122-115 double-overtime loss to Memphis this past Saturday,
James registered career-highs in points (33), rebounds (16), field goals made
(14) and field goals attempted (28).
Cleveland head coach Paul Silas is allowing James, who is averaging 41 minutes
per night on the hardwood, to learn through experience instead of having him
observe from the bench. Even Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was not
given that type of exposure in his rookie season.
Bryant, who was selected out of Lower Merion High School by the Charlotte
Hornets in the first round (13th pick overall) of the 1996 NBA Draft and then
had his draft rights traded by the Hornets to the Lakers for Vlade Divac,
averaged just over 15 minutes in 71 games during his rookie campaign. He
finished the 1996-97 season averaging 7.6 points per game to go along with 1.9
rebounds and 1.3 assists.
Cleveland is just 4-13 on the young season, but James, so far, has helped to
revitalize the franchise and the fans in Cleveland.
CARMELO ANTHONY – Drafted out of Syracuse by Denver in the first round (third
overall) in the 2003 draft, Anthony has shined for the surprising Nuggets in
the early going.
After winning the NCAA Championship at Syracuse in his freshman season,
Anthony decided to take his talents to the NBA. Who can argue with his
The 19-year-old Anthony has been stellar for the Nuggets (10-6), who are off
to their best start since 1994-95 when they had the same record after 16
Anthony, who has started all 16 games for the Nuggets, leads Denver in scoring
(17.4 ppg), is third on the team in rebounding (6.9 rpg) and assists (3.1
Playing 35 minutes per game, Anthony has struggled from the field (37.8
Anthony has gone head-to-head with James, his new rivalry and competition for
Rookie of the Year, once so far this season. The Nuggets defeated the
Cavaliers, 93-89, in Cleveland on November 5.
Both players struggled, as Anthony recorded 14 points, while James managed to
produce just seven.
“Media made it a rivalry, we’ve got to roll with it,” Anthony told the Palm
Beach Post after Denver defeated Cleveland. “If that makes the league better,
let’s roll with it.”
Success does not lie. Anthony has helped rejuvenate interest in basketball in
Denver. Anthony is a winner and his attitude, leadership and ability is
rubbing off on his teammates.
DWYANE WADE – Drafted fifth overall out of Marquette by Miami, Wade has been
solid for the struggling Heat.
Wade is averaging 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 15 games played
for Miami, which had to endure the shock of Pat Riley announcing that he was
stepping down as head coach of the team prior to the start of the season.
New Miami head coach Stan Van Gundy has been giving Wade about 35 minutes of
playing time per night.
The 21-year-old Wade should be a very good player in the NBA for years to
come. He is versatile, can handle the rock, pass, shoot and rebound. However,
his skills and production will be overshadowed by fellow rookies, Anthony and
T.J. FORD – Not getting as much playing time as Anthony, James or Wade, Ford
is showing that he is going to be an exciting player to watch in the NBA.
Drafted eighth overall out of Texas by the Milwaukee Bucks, Ford, is the
successor to point guard Sam Cassell, who was traded to Minnesota in the
Ford, 20, has started all 15 games he has played in for the Bucks. He is
averaging 6.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and a team-best 5.9 assists.
A flashy and high-energy type of player, Ford is coming a long at a slower
pace then James, Anthony and Wade. But, he has a future in the NBA, and Ford
is proving it.
Keep an eye on Ford. He should only get better.
DARKO MILICIC – Since Milicic was taken with the second overall pick by
Detroit, he is worth mentioning.
The 18-year-old Milicic has yet to score a point in seven games played for the
Pistons. He has played just over two minutes per appearance.
Detroit head coach Larry Brown, who signed a five-year deal in the offseason
to be the general of the Pistons, prefers to play veterans.
Since Brown is the coach in Detroit, enough said.
CHRIS BOSH – Selected out of Georgia Tech with the fourth overall pick by the
Toronto Raptors, Bosh looks like he could be a player.
Through 16 games, Bosh has averaged a respectable 10.8 points and 5.9
rebounds, while shooting a solid 47 percent from the floor.
The 19-year-old forward is also proving he can play some defense. He is
averaging a team-best 1.69 blocks per night.
Bosh is athletic and seems to be a perfect fit for Toronto’s style of play.
His impact should be felt around the league by season’s end.