"NBAz in 7 Dayz"

Today, as promised, we will be discussing the hunt for "Rookie of the Year" and who makes the cut. But first, let's talk a little NCAA and rapper Jay-Z's visit to Kentucky's locker room after just making it to the Final Four. As the madness of March continues, NCAA fans watched the Kentucky Wildcats claim a berth in the Final Four by a win over North Carolina, 76-69. So naturally, if a well-known entertainer wants in on the locker room celebrations to give his kudos, there would be no objections, right? In Jay-Z's case? Wrong. Sure, these young kids just accomplished something wonderful and a visit from THE Jay-Z would be the coolest thing in the world if he wasn't part owner of an NBA franchise. The New Jersey Nets lists Jay-Z as part-owner of the team and NBA rules state team personnel are not allowed to associate with players who are not yet draft eligible. This may just be a case of Jay-Z or his handlers saying 'let's give these kids an extra thrill by a visit from a music legend'. But on the flip side, Jay-Z is no slouch. He is an intelligent and successful business man who has to know these rules. Put yourself in David Stern's shoes. If you were a young kid, playing NCAA ball, thinking about going pro and in walks a music icon you look up to and he happens to have personal connections to an NBA franchise, wouldn't you look at the Nets differently? Hence, the reason for these rules so no one is playing the 'unfair advantage' game. NBA spokesman Tim Frank confirms the league is investigating the incident. So we will have to wait and see about Jay-Z.

2011 Rookie of the Year Watch

This is a hard one to pick since most players in their rookie year are drafted to a team in transition or a rebuilding stage. So since these teams are often in need of serious help, putting all their hopes and dreams into a talented, yet unproven player in the NBA. This can be a lot of pressure for someone fresh out of college. How does this player handle the pressure? Does this player work well with others on the team and coaching staff? Does this player make the team relevant again? Most importantly, how does this player deal with adversity and do they raise the bar and make those around him better? These are all questions I need answered when choosing my picks for Rookie of the Year - here they are (in no particular order):

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings: If we look at his on-the-court performance and stats only, DeMarcus Cousins is very impressive, especially in transition. He leads the league in winning turnovers per 48 minutes which puts him in the same class as Steve Nash (ranked #3), Dwight Howard (ranked #7) and Derrick Rose (ranked #10). He is approaching the top ten in both offensive and defensive rebounds and is really the player who contributes to the team's stability - on the court. Unfortunately, he still has to work on his character and work ethic which is why he did not make my choice for top rookie.

John Wall, Washington Wizards: I remember covering the NBA Draft with James, live blogging for the DNB and giddy at the prospect John Wall might be in a Raptors uniform this season. Alas, we were not so lucky and the Washington Wizards enjoyed the fruits of his labour this year. John Wall is another player working the floor and making a name for himself. The Wizards may sit at second from last in the East but not for a lack of production from Wall. He can score in transition and is second in the league for turnovers per game (behind Russell Westbrook) and is sixth in assists per game.

Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons: I really enjoy watching Greg Monroe play. He's not a flashy player but he seems to be doing all the little things which contribute to his team's success. He ranked #8 in Offensive Rebounds and #8 in Steals per Turnover which is indicative of his dominance as an inside player, one who can read the play and seize opportunities.

Landry Fields, New York Knicks: Landry Fields is one of those players you miss when they are not in the line-up. He started the first 72 games of the season for the Knicks and after riding the bench for a short while, has regained his starting position. He is one of only two rookies to be included in the top 50 in the league for minutes played (2, 369 minutes played) ahead of Lamar Odom and Deron Williams. He may not be making the top ten of any stats list but he knows how to deal with adversity, knows his role within the Knicks' system and is a real team player in my eyes.

Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: I know some are going to argue he should not even be eligible based on sitting out last season due to injury but for that very reason makes him my top choice for Rookie of the year. In the eyes of the NBA, Blake Griffin is considered a rookie since his injury occurred during the pre-season and he sat out the 2009-2010 regular season. But "sit around" he did not. For a rookie to sustain that type of injury (stress fracture in his left knee) before he's even had a chance to prove himself, would have been the kiss of death for any other player. But he battled back, working all of 2009-2010 with a trainer to be in top shape for when he returned to the NBA for this season. He is well-known for his dunks but he is not the one-dimensional player some argue he is. Stats don't count for everything but they do speak volumes: #4 in Rebounds per Game; #5 in Minutes Played, #5 in Offensive Rebounds, #3 in Defensive Rebounds and Total Rebounds, #3 in Double-doubles and the list goes on. On top of all this, he has made the Los Angeles Clippers relevant again. Although I think there are one or two others who are deserving of the title (minus Griffin), Blake Griffin is my Rookie of the Year. Hands down.

Thanks joining me again this week. Next Thursday, let's talk about picks for NBA Coach of the Year - so take the time to think about that over the weekend. I love reading your comments and suggestions - keep them coming by following me on Twitter (@ddegraauw) and on Facebook (Danielle de Graauw). Have a great weekend and see you on Tuesday for more NBA coverage in "NBAz in 7 Dayz".

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