Whitehead no. 8, Atkinson no. 3 in rookie ladders

Isaiah Whitehead
(AP Photo/George Bridges)
(AP Photo/George Bridges)
(AP Photo/George Bridges)

Whitehead no. 8, Atkinson no. 3 in rookie ladders

Well, Jeremy Lin isn’t playing tonight — so there’s got to be something good to read about, right?

There is! In two separate rookie rankings, the Brooklyn Nets have made their presence known through point guard Isaiah Whitehead and head coach Kenny Atkinson. Although the Nets have struggled without Lin, the talents of Whitehead and Atkinson have certainly stopped this ship from capsizing completely.

On NBA.com’s rookie ladder by Scott Howard-Cooper, Whitehead comes in at no. 8, citing his strong performances as of late. He says of the rookie from Seton Hall:

The charge from the second round, 42nd overall, to starting point guard has reached all the way to where the Seton Hall product is second among rookies in assists, fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio, tenth in scoring, sixth in minutes, tenth in shooting and even tied for third in blocks at 6-foot-4. He was already among the best first-year players at his position and then came the first six games of December at 46 percent from the field. That is a big part of the campaign material for someone at 39.1 overall.

Make no mistake, Whitehead has made his errors, but the strides in his developing game between Halloween and today are immense. Gone (mostly) are the jump passes, the immaturity, and frustrating fouls — instead, we’ve seen a guard walking barefoot on the fire he was thrown into. Following Greivis Vasquez’s rapid departure from the team, Whitehead has done a tremendous job and should receive plenty of All-Rookie votes when the time comes.

In front of him are, in order: Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Malcolm Brogdon, Jamal Murray, Brandon Ingram, Pascal Siakam, and Andrew Harrison.

Elsewhere, Atkinson is no. 3 in Yahoo!’s countdown of new head coaches, and Eric Freeman had some kind words for the former assistant as well:

And yet, while the Nets are only a little better than expected and haven’t happened upon a particularly innovative method of rebuilding, Atkinson has them playing as hard as anyone in the league. They come back from big deficits, push playoff teams farther than they have any right to, and simply do not quit. The motivation is unclear — perhaps the individual players just want to maximize their earning potential — but the result is often thrilling to watch.

Against the odds, the Nets have become one of my favorite teams on League Pass. Instead of wallowing in hopelessness, they’ve turned it into a rallying cry.

Atkinson, who must be at least 75% through the miracle working of turning water into wine, has helped motivate this scrappy Nets team to no end. With the talent level so disproportionately strong, Atkinson usually employs the entire roster on any given night and could be a dark horse candidate for Coach of the Year if a few more things break in Brooklyn’s way.

In front of Atkinson is just the Memphis Grizzlies’ David Fizdale and the Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni.

It’s been a bumpy road already, but the combination of Whitehead and Atkinson have given fans something to watch for every night — and that’s all they can ask for at this point.

NBA Rookie LadderScott Howard-Cooper

BDL’s Very Official First-Year Coach Power Rankings Eric Freeman