Remember Nikoloz Tskitishvili? Of course you don’t – and that’s just fine with Denver.
Recent seasons have seen quite a few notable rookies posting player efficiency ratings of less than 10. In light of this, the Dunkyard goes right to the top shelf of shittiest rookie seasons from the last 26 years – to see what may lie in store for the likes of Dante Exum and Mario Hezonja.
Is there an Adam Morrison Rule – that top 5 picks who post rookie PERs of less than 10 won’t make much of themselves, let alone an All-star game?
Part One: 1990-1999
Only two players qualified from this decade:
- Antonio Daniels – 1997, Pick 4 – Rookie PER: 9.9
Career-average PER: 14.6
Career-best PER: 19.7 (minimum of 500 minutes).
After a pretty dismal rookie season, Daniels managed to carve out a long and reasonably solid career. He also had a pair of seasons in Seattle where he posted his career best PERs of 19.7 and 18.0. That aside, he never came close to justifying a no. 4 pick and never came close to playing in an All-star game.
It’s telling that he’s probably the most successful player on this list. Yep.
- Jonathan Bender – 1999, Pick 5 – Rookie PER: 7.6
Career-average PER: 10.9
Career-best PER: 13.3
Indiana tried really hard for seven seasons to make the Jonathan Rene Bender project a success. Unfortunately, his abilities and knees just didn’t co-operate.
Part Two: 2000-2009
All up four players qualified here:
- Nikoloz Tskitishvili – 2002, Pick 5 – Rookie PER: 4.9
Career-average PER: 5.2
Career-best PER: Never played more than 500 minutes after his rookie season.
With a name you simply have to cut and paste to have any hope of spelling right, Niko gets the dual-award for shittiest rookie PER and shittiest career PER on this list. No more needs to be said – it’s what Niko would want.
- Darko Milicic – 2003, Pick 2 – Rookie PER: 6.1
Career-average PER: 12.3
Career-best PER: 15.2
I was so close to calling this thing the Darko Rule – but this poor bastard’s had enough shit heaped on him already and, incredibly, he simply wasn’t the most qualified candidate in any event.
All up, Darko’s 10 seasons and 12.3 career PER are things Morrison and Tskitishvili could only dream of. Speaking of which…
- Adam Morrison – 2006, Pick 3 – Rookie PER: 7.9
Career-average PER: 7.4
Career-best PER: 7.9
Morrison reminded Michael Jordan that not every white college hero ends up being the next Larry Bird. In fact, none of them end up being the next Larry Bird.
Morrison gets the rule named after him because of his stache, the fact that the ‘Nikoloz Tskitishvili Rule’ would sound shit – and because he’s the only player on this list whose career PER ended up being lower than their rookie PER (even Tskitishvili managed to improve a little bit).
As for Morrison’s Junior season at Gonzaga – that was another story altogether. He also waved his towel to a championship with the Lakers in 2010. So take that Karl Malone!
- Jeff Green – 2007, Pick 5 – Rookie PER: 9.8
Career-average PER: 13.3
Career-best PER: 15.0
I bet you didn’t think Green would be on this list.
The simple fact is that Green has never posted an above average PER (i.e. over 15.0) in his career – and his defense has hardly made up for it.
While he’s managed to carve out a nice enough career, he’s fallen well short of the expectations associated with being a no.5 pick. The fact that he was the latest GM Doc Rivers reclamation project last season hasn’t helped either.
Part Three: 2010-present
The last 6 years alone have seen five qualifying players – plus one special exception – proving that there has indeed been a rise in top 5 picks posting rookie PERs of less than 10. In this respect, it’s interesting that high school picks have been banned since 2005.
The 2013 draft class also deserves special mention. Most years since 1990 have not seen a single top 5 pick post a rookie PER of less than 10. As for the 2013 draft, it had three (!) such players.
But first, the special exception:
- Wesley Johnson – 2010, Pick 4 – Rookie PER: 10.2
Career-average PER: 10.4
Career-best PER: 11.1
Strictly speaking, Johnson should only be a dishonourable mention (see below) because he managed to squeaky-bum his way to a rookie PER of 10.2. However, given that he managed to follow this up with a sophomore PER of 8.0 – and has a career PER to date of 10.4 – he well and truly belongs on this list.
In case you’re not quite persuaded, would it help if I said that GM Doc Rivers brought him in and played him for 20.8 mpg last season? I thought so. Case closed.
- Anthony Bennett – 2013, Pick 1 – Rookie PER: 6.9
Career-average PER 9.5
Career-best PER: 11.4
So far, Bennett has done absolutely everything possible to elbow Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi out of the way for the title of worst number one draft pick in NBA history.
Given that Bennett’s NBA career may well be over after only three seasons (of truly putrid basketball), he’s a great chance of claiming the award comfortably.
- Otto Porter – 2013, Pick 3 – Rookie PER: 6.0
Career-average PER: 12.8
Career-best PER: 14.5
Before his rookie season even started, Otto memorably compared himself to Kevin Durant (!) (yes really, see 2 min 8 sec in) before putting together a truly shitty season.
From there, Otto has managed to turn things around nicely – following up the next two seasons with PERs of 11.6 and 14.5. While this represents tremendous improvement, it’s still below the league average of 15.
He’s still only 23 years old, so it’s not unreasonable to expect more improvement.
He may well be an exception to the Morrison Rule yet. To that end, he should probably stop doing things which Kevin Durant would never do, like this.
- Alex Len – 2013, Pick 5 – Rookie PER: 7.3
Career-average PER: 12.4
Career-best PER: 13.5
After showing solid improvement in his second season with a PER of 13.5, Len took a step back last year, posting a PER of 12.4.
I suppose any time you’ve got a no. 5 pick and have the chance to draft the second coming of John Koncak, you just have to go right ahead and do it.
PS: try to guess where Koncak was picked.
- Dante Exum – 2014, Pick 5 – Rookie PER: 5.7
Exum sadly blew out his knee before last season – just as he looked like he was starting to impose himself more in the summer league games.
Despite his horrific rookie PER, Exum saw a lot of minutes in his rookie season (1,817 @ 22mpg) because he was great at staying out of the way on offense and because he was a decent positional defender – and rookies capable of playing ‘decent’ defense are very rare indeed.
That said, Exum needs to significantly improve just about every area of his game. His shooting was disgraceful (TS% 45.7), he didn’t distribute well (AST% 16.6), didn’t create much (USG% 13.8) and was terrible at looking after the ball (TO% 21.5).
At face value, the low assist and usage rates were forgivable given that he was asked to fuck off and sign autographs on offense. However, this only served to make Exum’s 21.5% turnover rate all the more egregious (seriously, how was this possible?). It also begged the chicken-egg question of whether he was asked to stay out of the way on offense simply because he couldn’t be trusted with the ball.
It’s worth noting that ESPN says that Exum’s turnover rate was ‘only’ 15.8%. Regardless, if you’re a guard and Bismack Biyombo is better than you at looking after the basketball, then you’ve got a serious fucking problem. The good news is that rookie guards usually make significant improvements in this area.
Objectively speaking, it doesn’t look good for Dante. But the Dunkyard isn’t objective and will be vigorously hoping that he takes a giant piss on the Adam Morrison Rule – and Bill Simmons.
- Mario Hezonja – 2015, Pick 5 – Rookie PER: 9.49
Scott Skiles is notorious for treating rookies poorly and Hezonja was no exception. Skiles effectively placed Hezonja under witness protection for the two months of the season, playing him for about 12 minutes a game – in other words, just what a no. 5 pick needs.
From there, Hezonja’s minutes gradually increased and by April he was playing 28 minutes a game.
The good news is that Hezonja did reasonably well at exactly what he was supposed to: shooting – he nailed 35% of his threes and posted a reasonably solid TS% of 54.1. While those numbers are about league average, it’s not too much to expect that Hezonja will improve and become an above average (or possibly deadly) shooter in time.
As long as he can defend reasonably well and knock down shots, he’s got a chance – The Dunkyard is certainly hoping so.
Putting it together
All up, that’s 12 rookie seasons, zero All-Star selections and one player who managed to post an above average career-best PER (Daniels).
All I can say is: eep, I think we have a rule.
Thomas Robinson – 2012-13, Pick 5 – Rookie PER: 10.9. Robinson has now played for 5 different teams in 4 years – and not one of them has dared to play him more than 20 minutes per game despite some ok looking numbers. Clearly the coaches know something.
Jan Vesely – 2011-12, Pick 6 – Rookie PER: 11.5. Vesely followed up his rookie campaign with a sophomore PER of 7.6. Jan doesn’t play NBA basketball anymore.
Evan Turner – 2010-11, Pick 2 – Rookie PER: 10.8. Turner’s had a halfway decent, but very unspectacular, six seasons to date (career PER: 12.4). Given that he’s now 27, we can safely conclude that he’s pretty much hit his peak.
Ekpe Udoh – 2010, Pick 6 – Rookie PER: 9.7. With a career PER of 10.8, it’s unsurprising that Udoh was no longer in the league after 5 seasons. Yet another GM Doc Rivers reclamation project by the way.
DerMarr Johnson – 2000, Pick 6 – Rookie PER 8.4. Who? Exactly.
I have absolutely no idea how Hasheem Thabeet managed to stay off this list. He posted a rookie PER of 12.9, followed it up with a sophomore PER of 4.7 and then… well… you know the rest.
Perhaps The Dunkyard needs to investigate top 5 picks who posted sophomore PERs of less than 10? Is there a Hasheem Thabeet rule?