Can I get a Mulligan?

On yesterday's RotoWire Fantasy Sports Hour radio show, I predicted Blake Griffin would be rookie of the year.


At the time, Griffin's knee injury was being described as "sore knee, could miss the Clippers' opener." Since then, that's been amended to "Broken kneecap, out 6-8 weeks at minimum." As much as I love Griffin's potential, he's going to miss a quarter of the season -- he's not winning top rookie honors.

That being the case, who is the new leading contender?

When analyzing rookies -- both for award predictions and fantasy-draft consideration -- the issue to watch is playing time. My Griffin-as-ROY prediction was based on his talent AND the fact that the Clippers moved Zach Randolph, clearing up a spot for Griffin to get regular minutes.

With Griffin out of the mix, the NBA newbies with the best blend of talent and opportunity could be:

Jonny Flynn: The T-Wolves will open the season with Flynn starting at the point. Nothing I've seen from him -- at Syracuse or in the preseason -- gives me any indication that he can't handle the job. He might not be the most talented player to come out of this draft, but I bet he'll have the best numbers in the rookie class of 2009-10.

Tyreke Evans: The buzz on Evans at draft time was, "Could be the most talented player in the draft, but very raw as a point guard." Unlike Russell Westbrook, who interned behind veteran Earl Watson for a while before taking over the as the Thunder's floor leader last season, Evans is going to be learning on the fly. There's a good chance he'll be among the rookie leaders in scoring. And turnovers.

Brandon Jennings: Jennings has posted some very impressive point/assist totals during the preseason, and will always get attention from ROY voters -- and fantasy players. But don't forget, Jennings skipped college to play in Europe, and he didn't play that much during his one season with Virtus Roma... so he has even less big-time experience than the usual one-and-done. He'll be Milwaukee's starting point guard soon enough, but he's a major defensive liability at this stage of his career, which could limit his minutes.

Stephen Curry: Another college two-turned-NBA-one, Curry has the advantage of playing in Don Nelson's system, which will allow him to concentrate on scoring and leave the running of the offense to one of Nellie's "point forwards."

DeMar DeRozan: Unlike most of the rooks on this list, DeRozan is a natural two guard and the Raptors will play him there. There was some question as to whether or not he'd win the starting gig; some thought the Raptors would go with a shooter like Marco Belinelli -- but it looks like the rookie has won the job. That said, he'll be about the fifth option in the Raptors' offense, which is built around the Chris Bosh/Andrea Bargnani/Hedo Turkoglu frontcourt with Jose Calderon at quarterback, so we shouldn't expect huge numbers.

There are several other rookies that will be rotation players this year -- James Harden, Terrence Williams, Gerald Henderson, Tyler Hansbrough, Earl Clark, Wayne Ellington, Toney Douglas and DeJuan Blair, to name a few. But they'll either be second-unit players to start the season (Harden, Williams, Henderson, Clark) or defensive specialsts (Henderson, Douglas) or, like Griffin, are starting the season on the shelf (Hansbrough), which makes them unlikely ROY candidates.

Right now I think Flynn is the leading candidate... but hey, I've been wrong before. Recently.


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