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Thursday, April 15, 2010

The history of the NBA Rookie of the Year

The history of the NBA Rookie of the Year

Sacramento Press
by Rob Small, published on April 9, 2010 at 5:22PM

At the end of every season, the NBA Rookie of the Year (ROY) Award is awarded to the best rookie of the season.

Don Meineke was the first to win the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy in the 1952-53 season. Of the 56 ROYs, 21 basketball hall-of-famers, from Oscar Robertson to Michael Jordan, have emerged.

More than 53 percent of retired ROYs were voted into the hall of fame.

The next trophy could be coming to Sacramento as Kings guard Tyreke Evans tries to make history becoming the fourth rookie to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists for a season. The first three were Robertson, Jordan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.

Portland Trail Blazers Television Analyst Mike Rice knows exactly how the ROY is selected because he has a vote.

"Rookie of the year is decided by votes from announcers that see the teams, beat writers that see all the teams all the time," he said. "You can't get a vote if you're a columnist or someone who doesn't see every team during the year. It is just distributed through TV and radio analysts, play-by-play men and beat writers."

Voters cast three votes: A first-place vote worth five points, a second-place vote worth three points and a third-place vote worth one point.
Many rookies who have won the award have gone on to lead their teams to bright futures. Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan knows this firsthand. His team traded for Brandon Roy, the 2007 ROY, on NBA Draft Day 2006.

The team went from being known as the infamous "Jail Blazers" to a young team with championship potential.

"We thought he had a lot of potential," McMillan said. "He has continued to show the potential that he has. Of course, when you do have a guy that comes in and plays well, as Brandon did, and wins the rookie of the year in a situation where you're trying to gain you're fan base back – it's good to have a player like that, to give the fans something to look forward to in the future"

During his rookie season, Roy was focused on winning rather than the ROY award.

“The whole year I wasn't going for rookie of the year," he said. "I was just trying to do my best to try to help my team win. That's always been my goal. I don't want to put that pressure on myself trying to win an award. So I just always go out there, play to win, good things happen."

The season before the Blazers traded for Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge in June 2006, they finished with a record of 21-61. In Roy's rookie season, the team finished with a 32-50 record. Two seasons after building through the draft and trades, the Blazers earned a 54-28 record.

The San Antonio Spurs also know how a rookie can make an immediate impact. When hall-of-fame center and former ROY David Robinson was injured, the Spurs, a perennial playoff team, slipped to the third-worst record in the NBA and grabbed the top spot in the NBA Draft Lottery.

With the No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft, the team drafted Tim Duncan, who became the 1998 ROY. A year later, he earned his first of four NBA Championships and first of three Finals Most Valuable Player awards.

"It was a great season for me," he said. "Better than that, I was on a very good team, and we made the playoffs, it (was) a great year."

His head coach, Gregg Popovich, thought it was a no-brainer to draft Duncan, who is widely regarded as the best power forward of all time.

"It was a thrill and a pleasure because (he was) already a heck of a player when he came to us," he said. "It was just an unbelievable stroke of luck and good fortune on our part."

There have been ROYs who didn't pan out. Damon Stoudamire was the 1996 ROY for the Toronto Raptors, averaging 19 points and a career-high 9.3 assists per game.

After two and a half seasons in Toronto, he was traded to the Blazers. His numbers dropped, and he was never the same player the Raptors had drafted.

The Kings have numerous connections to the ROY award. Robertson, Maurice Stokes, Jerry Lucas and Phil Ford were ROYs during the franchise's days in Rochester, Cincinnati and Kansas City.

Notable former Kings players Chris Webber and Mitch Richmond were also ROYs, both with the Golden State Warriors.

Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie was a co-ROY in 1971 for the Blazers with hall-of-famer Dave Cowens.

"It was really exciting at the time," Petrie said. "To share it with Dave Cowens of the Boston Celtics, coming from an expansion team like Portland, it was a fun season and I think it was good for the franchise and all of my teammates."

Petrie said he thinks that Evans winning the ROY award could have the same impact on the Kings franchise.

"I think it's certainly a validation of Tyreke's play over the course of the entire year," he said. "He certainly helped elevate our team and give it some great promise for the future going forward. Hopefully, his play at both ends of the court will be rewarded."

Evans feels like he's had a good season, but he didn't know how well he would play.

"I didn't know that I'd be averaging 20 (points per game)," he said. "When you're doing that, I think that's a blessing for me, being a rookie and coming here making a big impact in this league."

In the end, the voters decide who the ROY award will go to. Along with Evans, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings are also in the running. Rice, who has a vote, has already made up his mind.

"At the start of the year, it looked like Jennings of Milwaukee, of course, was going to be the leader because of his 55-point game," he said. "But once Tyreke Evans got started, he's probably the most consistent of the three rookie of the year candidates. Curry came out late and played well for Golden State.

"I have a vote for rookie of the year, and I'm going to vote for (Evans) because of his consistency, and if you look at his (statistics), no other rookie (is averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game),” Rice said. “That's Oscar Robertson, MJ and LeBron. Those guys did that their rookie year, and that's putting Tyreke in a great category with those guys. I think he's (deserving) of the rookie of the year, which I think he will win."

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