The NBA: The Guys Defying the Sophomore Slump

Adam Morrison, Tyreke Evans, DJ Augustin, and Andrea Bargnani all have one thing in common. They were victims of the curse most well-to-do rookies dread – the sophomore slump.

With no exception, every single one of those players followed up relatively successful rookie efforts with subpar performances in their respective sophomore campaigns.

Bargnani, the Italian Dirk Nowitzki wannabe, dropped his production from 11.6ppg, 42.7 FG%, and 37.3 3pt% in ’06-’07 to 10.2ppg, 38.6 FG%, and 34.5 3pt% the following season. Sure, those can be attributed to a decrease in playing time, but for the top overall pick in 2006? Still not good enough.

Augustin, for his part, has been relatively solid the past few seasons, save for his horrific sophomore year, when his stats were sliced to just over half of his production when he was a rookie. His scoring fell from about 12.0ppg to a little over 6.0ppg, and his shooting, like Bargnani’s, dipped significantly. He would go on to bounce back in the next two seasons, but those don’t disqualify him from being part of the slumpers’ list.

Evans, the celebrated 2010 ROY out of the Memphis Tigers program, also couldn’t escape the slump. He fumbled his way in his second year, with his scoring, rebounding, assists, and shooting all dipping. Needless to say, he didn’t exactly break out in his sophomore effort.

Perhaps the worst (or best, depending on your perspective) example of a sophomore slump, however, is Adam Morrison. The 2006 3rd overall pick form Gonzaga was named All-Rookie Second Team in 2007, norming respectable stats – 11.8ppg on 33.7% 3-point shooting. The following seasons, however, saw him go from “just okay” to WTF. He normed 4.5ppg in his second tour of duty with the Bobcats before getting shipped to the Lakers, where he won two NBA titles despite averaging less than 2.5 ppg. WORST CHAMPIONSHIP CHUMP EVER.

Thankfully, this year’s batch of sophomores has a handful of kids not exactly raring to be put in the same set as the aforementioned quartet. A look at the stats of some of last season’s big name freshies reminds us that not all sophs have to slump after all.

One of the more surprising sophomores right now is Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic. The 7-foot Swiss is playing nearly twice as many minutes as last season, and his production has risen at about the same rate, too. From 5.5ppg, 4.8rpg, and 0.7bpg last year, Vucevic is now registering 9.8ppg, 8.3rpg, and 1.1bpg. That’s a borderline double-double every game! A Fantasy NBA steal if I ever saw one!

Another great catch is Houston’s Chandler Parsons. Parsons has greatly benefitted from the exodus of Luis Scola and Chase Budinger, as he is now one of the primary offensive options at the 3 or 4 spot. He’s quick enough to be a problem for most PFs, but also big enough to be a low post threat against most SFs. His numbers have all jumped significantly, but most noticeable is the +6 in his scoring, +3.2 in rebounding, +8% in his 3-point shooting, and +19% in FT accuracy! A Most Improved Player consideration might be in the offing for the ex-Florida Gator.

Of course, one guy many expected to improve his numbers is Denver’s man-beast, Kenneth Faried. Faried impressed last season with his tenacity and athleticism, both of which have helped him up his game this year. He is playing about 7 more minutes per outing and putting up nearly 13 points and 12 boards. His shooting from the floor and the line have dipped, but he’s still one of the most reliable workhorses out there.

Kenneth Faried continues to put up beastly stats
for the Denver Nuggets.
(image by Darren Abate/AP)

Another guy who has really blossomed is Kemba Walker of the Bobcats. The former UConn Husky didn’t receive a lot of hype last season because his size (6’1) was deemed detrimental to his natural off-guard position, but he has been able to make it work so far. His outside shooting dipped a bit, but his overall FG% has improved (+5%) along with his scoring (+6) and playmaking (+1.6). Most impressive, though, is the progress in his defense. Walker is averaging 2.3 steals per game, which is good for top three overall behind Brandon Jennings and Chris Paul.

Lastly, the 2012 ROY, Kyrie Irving, can also be excluded from the sophomore slump set. He’s currently out of commission due to a fractured finger, but nearly all his first 10 games this season were amazing. Practically every aspect of his game has improved, and, this early, he might be a frontrunner for an East All-Star spot alongside Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade or Deron Williams. By the way, of those three, only Rondo has, so far, put up better numbers than Irving.

So there you have it, some of the current sophomores defying the dreaded slump and reaching new heights. Unlike Morrison, none of these sophs have titles to boast, but, also unlike Morrison, they’re probably going to stay in the Association for much more than four uneventful seasons.

Kyrie Irving should continue his strong play
when he returns from injury.
(image by Mark Duncan/AP)

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
New York 121, Detroit 100
Carmelo Anthony poured in a game-high 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting as the New York Knicks thumped the Detroit Pistons, 121-100, on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Steve Novak went 5-of-7 from beyond the arc en route to 18 points, while J.R. Smith contributed 15 points and 10 boards for the Knicks, who were coming off a loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday in which they allowed a season-high 131 points. Rasheed Wallace netted 15 points and Raymond Felton donated 14 with 10 assists in the victory. Brandon Knight scored a team-high 21 points to go with five assists, Charlie Villanueva netted 17 points and Kyle Singler added 16 points for Detroit, which has lost two of its last three games. Greg Monroe donated 12 points and seven assists in the setback.

San Antonio 111, Toronto 106 (2-OT)
Tony Parker netted 11 of his 32 points over two overtimes in the San Antonio Spurs' 111-106 win over the Toronto Raptors. Tim Duncan tallied 26 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Spurs, who have won three straight games. Manu Ginobili added 15 points, seven boards and five helpers in the win. DeMar DeRozan had 29 points for Toronto, which has dropped four consecutive contests.

Brooklyn 98, Portland 85
Joe Johnson netted 21 points, while Deron Williams tallied 15 points and 12 assists in the Brooklyn Nets' 98-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Brook Lopez added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Kris Humphries chipped in 14 points and 10 boards for Brooklyn, which has won two straight on the heels of a two-game skid. Wesley Matthews recorded 20 points and J.J. Hickson had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who opened a lengthy seven-game road trip.

Philadelphia 104, Phoenix 101
Jrue Holiday poured in a career-high 33 points and handed out 13 assists on Sunday night, as the Philadelphia 76ers outlasted the Phoenix Suns, 104-101, at Wells Fargo Center. Evan Turner chipped in 16 points and nine rebounds and Lavoy Allen added 11 points and six boards for the Sixers, who had lost two straight. Michael Beasley led the Suns with 21 points, but missed a potential game-tying layup with under five seconds remaining. Marcin Gortat finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in the setback, snapping Phoenix's two-game win streak.

Boston 116, Orlando 110 (OT)
Rajon Rondo turned in another solid performance, falling one rebound shy of a triple-double in the Boston Celtics' 116-110 victory over the Orlando Magic in overtime. Rondo notched 15 points and 16 assists, tying John Stockton for the second-most games with at least 10 assists. It was 37th straight game Rondo has accomplished the feat. Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass each recorded double-doubles as well. Garnett tallied 24 points and 10 boards, while Bass put forth an 13-point, 12-rebound effort in the Celtics' sixth straight victory over the Magic. The Magic made a strong second half push, but faltered down the stretch in overtime. Jameer Nelson was a key contributor to Orlando's rally, scoring 17 of his 20 points in the second half. J.J. Reddick poured in 21 points off the bench while Arron Affalo and Glen Davis put in 15 apiece for the Magic, who had won consecutive games coming in.

Denver 102, New Orleans 84
Andre Iguodala scored a game-high 23 points on Sunday night, as the Denver Nuggets downed the New Orleans Hornets, 102-84, at Pepsi Center. Ty Lawson followed with 17 points and six assists, and Kenneth Faried registered a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds to help the Nuggets earn their fourth straight victory. Brian Roberts paced the Hornets with 17 points off the bench and Ryan Anderson chipped in 16 points for New Orleans, which has lost seven in a row.

Ty Lawson led Denver to its fourth win in a row.
(image by David Zalubowski/AP)

Top 10 Plays of the Night:

Game Highlights:

Next Post »
0 Comment