Young Guns

Since so many Blazer fan hopes are pinned on young players, and Brandon Roy in particular, I decided to do a little research on how much help/value rookies can be to their team.  To err on the side of generosity (and because it was easier to find) I looked at the impact of Rookies of the Year starting back in 1972 with our own Sidney Wicks and continuing all the way through Chris Paul last year.  I figured this would give a rough indicator of the maximum possible effect you could reasonably expect a rookie to have.  The results were interesting.

Overall, teams with Rookies of the Year averaged 11.4 more wins in that rookie's first season than they did the year before.  The biggest increase among the sample teams came from Tim Duncan in 1998 (+36 wins...but keep in mind that was with David Robinson returning from injury too).  The smallest was -16 (that's right, 16 in the hole) for the old Buffalo Braves, later to become the L.A. Clippers, right after they drafted Adrian Dantley.  The median number of extra victories was 9.

So far so good, but even among ROYs there are rookies and then there are Super Rookies.  I figured Shaq, Duncan, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and LeBron James all fit into the latter category and should not necessarily be compared with the rest.  (Any GM in the universe would have slit their own throats to be able to draft them and we know that Portland didn't get any of those type of players.)  Though collectively they were not the five biggest impact rookies in the list, the average gain in victories among the Super Rooks was 21.6.  The remaining, more mortal ROYs could only muster 9.7 extra victories for their teams.

Obviously it's good to have a Rookie of the Year on your squad.  But realistically, when even the best rookies of each season only added an average of 10 wins or so to their teams, how much of a serious impact do they really make?  In Portland's case, even assuming a best-case scenario, out-of-this-world Rookie-of-the-Year performance from Roy, he probably only takes us from 21 wins to 30 or 31.  Nice, but guess what?  We still stink.  For us to get into playoff contention (or even near .500) we'd have to see a rise that would put us among the clear elite in the league's history.  Especially since he'll be fighting for playing time at his own position(s), it's a little hard to imagine Brandon equaling the output and impact of a Shaq or a David Robinson.

To give you more comparison, here are the numbers of some other famous ROY's:

Michael Jordan  +11
Patrick Ewing  -1
Grant Hill  +8
Allen Iverson  +4
Vince Carter  +7
Elton Brand  +4
Steve Francis  +3
Pau Gasol  even
Amare Stoudemire  +8

To be sure there are also some Jason Kidd and Mitch Richmond +23's and Chris Paul +20's thrown in there, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  The point is, there are a lot of really, really good players who played their brains out their first season--enough to snag the ROY trophy--and still couldn't pull their teams very far out of the dumps.

There is, however, some better news:

In the sample group 44% of teams that had a Rookie of the Year made the playoffs at least once in that rookie's first two years.  Since some teams were close anyway and that's still less than half the sample you might go, "Eh."  But if you extend the window to the third year, the number jumps to 76% (26 of the 34 to which this criterion applied).  That means if your guy is good AND you are willing to have some patience, results are likely forthcoming.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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