Before this season commenced, New Orleans Hornets center Anthony Davis was the overwhelming favorite to be the NBA Rookie of the Year.
No matter who was prognosticating — coaches, players, general managers, scouts, media, bloggers, fans — Davis was the pick.
Here were are approaching the one-quarter mark of the season and the No. 1 overall draft choice out of Kentucky unfortunately has missed two-thirds of his games due to a stress fracture in his left ankle.
In six appearances this season, Davis has averaged 16.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 28.3 minutes. Davis certainly could still win the award if he heals, but he had better do so quickly, because he's got company at the top.
This year's rookie field is deeper than anticipated, which is why we have divided candidates into three tiers (see chart).
Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, the No. 6 pick out of Weber State, was a distant runner-up to Davis in preseason polls and clearly has become the early leader. The silky smooth, impressively calm Lillard, who was named NBA rookie of the month for November, might have vaulted to the top even if Davis were healthy.
Charlotte Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 pick and Davis' teammate with the national championship team at UK, has been an instant contributor to the Bobcats, who already have won as many games as they did all last season.
Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters, the No. 4 pick who made zero career starts in 71 games at Syracuse, has made an early impact, but also is ailing with an ankle injury and was expected to miss Saturday night's game against Detroit.
Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes, the No. 7 pick out of North Carolina, became an immediate starter and already has a key role for the upstart Warriors.
Many of the aforementioned are on lousy teams, which obviously is why they were drafted so high in the first place.
Having good numbers on a bad team is a minimum requirement for Rookie of the Year consideration. Having average numbers on a bad team doesn't reflect much of an impact. Impressive numbers on a horrid team frequently gets you the award, however, as 2008 winner Kevin Durant can attest.
Barnes is the only notable rookie this season with a winning record (12-7 entering Saturday night).
Two other notables are on .500 teams: Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Alexey Shved, an undrafted Russian free agent who signed last July; and Milwaukee forward John Henson, the No. 14 overall pick out of North Carolina.
Other than that, all losers, but in the end, someone will win.
Right now, it's Lillard comfortably in front.
Lillard (@Dame_Lillard): “Don't tweet me with ANY advice if you haven't played a second of NBA basketball. Thanks”
Lillard, explaining why his three favorite NBA point guards are Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose: “I like Russell Westbrook just because of how competitive he is and how he's turned out to be something people didn't expect him to be.”
RATING THE ROOKIES
G Damian Lillard, Portland: 19 games-19 starts; 37.9 minutes; 19.3 points; 3.3 rebounds; 6.3 assists; 1.3 steals
F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte: 18-18; 27.4 mpg; 10.8 ppg; 6.3 rpg; 1.7 apg, 1.3 blocks; 1.0 spg
G Dion Waiters, Cleveland: 17-17; 32.0 mpg; 15.2 ppg; 2.3 rpg; 3.4 apg; 1.2 spg
C Anthony Davis, New Orleans: 6-6; 28.3 mpg; 16.0 ppg; 8.3 rpg; 2.2 bpg; 1.0 spg
F Harrison Barnes, Golden State: 19-19; 27.6 mpg; 9.6 ppg; 4.7 rpg; 1.5 apg
G Alexey Shved, Minnesota: 18-0; 24.8 mpg; 10.6 ppg; 2.7 rpg; 3.6 apg
C Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto: 20-20; 23.4 mpg; 8.6 ppg; 5.5 rpg; 1.2 apg; 1.2 bpg
G Bradley Beal, Washington: 16-14; 27.1 mpg; 11.4 ppg; 3.2 rpg; 1.9 apg
F Andre Drummond, Detroit: 21-0; 17.9 mpg; 6.4 ppg; 6.4 rpg; 1.2 apg
F John Henson, Milwaukee: 13-5; 12.5 mpg; 5.2 ppg; 3.3 rpg; 0.5 bpg
F Kyle Singler, Detroit: 21-13; 27.3 mpg; 9.5 ppg; 3.5 rpg; 0.9 apg
C Tyler Zeller, Cleveland: 16-0; 21.9 mpg; 6.8 ppg; 5.1 rpg; 0.9 apg
G Austin Rivers, New Orleans: 17-9; 27.1 mpg; 6.6 ppg; 2.4 rpg; 2.9 apg
G Brian Roberts, New Orleans: 18-0; 15.9 mpg; 7.9 ppg; 1.0 rpg; 2.5 apg
F Jeff Taylor, Charlotte: 17-16; 25.9 mpg; 7.9 ppg; 2.4 rpg; 1.0 apg; 1.1 spg
Source: NBA stats