Rated Rookies: Week 21

Samardo Samuels – Samuels has quietly been putting up numbers while the rest of the basketball world has forgotten about Cleveland. Averaging 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game on the season, Samuels has been on a tear for the month of March. Increased playing time has led to Samuels doubling his season stats in his last six games. First there were 23 points and 10 rebounds against San Antonio, then 15 points in the Cavs’ second straight victory against the Knicks. The young big man has reached double figures in each of his games in March and is averaging 14.1 points and eight rebounds over those last six games. The 22-year-old is showing that as his minutes increase, so does his productivity. Those 23 points to kick off the month of March were a career-high. Not too bad for a kid who didn’t hear his name called on draft night last year.

Jordan Crawford – Since being traded from Atlanta to Washington, Jordan Crawford has been balling out for the Wizards. Buried on the bench in Atlanta, Crawford was sent to Washington at the trade deadline and he’s making the most of every minute he gets to be on the floor. In 10 games for the Wizards, Crawford is averaging 11 points per game. Against the Bulls on Tuesday night, Crawford scored 27 points and played the entire 48 minutes. I suppose when you’ve only played in 16 games all season for the Hawks, there’s no risk of hitting the rookie wall. With plenty of room to grow with a young team in Washington, Crawford is finally getting an opportunity to show why he was drafted — for his scoring ability. It seems fitting that his success is coming in March.

Honorable mentions

DeMarcus Cousins — DeMarcus has been getting a lot of shine lately, but can you blame us? He’s been pretty great as the season has gone on. After a very strong start to 2011, Cousins is still rolling and has boosted his season averages to 14.3 points and 8.5 rebounds while also showing off those passing skills by racking up the assists.

Eric Bledsoe – Eric Bledsoe’s job gets a lot easier when he’s on the floor with Blake Griffin, pretty much every point guard’s dream. Regardless, Bledsoe has bounced back from a disappointing night against the Nets with two solid games this week. Against the Grizzlies Bledsoe scored 19, and in a game against the Wizards two nights earlier, he had the best game of his career thus far, finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Paul George – Paul George has been getting his shine over here lately. This week, though, he’s not even on here for his numbers. After speaking with Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers, there wasn’t any way I couldn’t include him in the honorable mentions. Here’s Vogel on what it’s like to coach George:

“He’s a great kid. He’s just, you know, you year people who are not in the NBA say, “What is it like to coach an NBA player?’ and some guys can be a handful. Most guys are pretty good. I’ve never looked at our players like wow these guys are bad guys, especially our guys that we have on this team right now, but every now and then you get a Paul George and it’s refreshing. He’s a great kid. You go out to dinner with him and he’s fun to be around. Very, very respectful. Very humble. Wants to be great. He’s just been a breath of fresh air.”

Wes Johnson – After a solid start to the month of March, Wes’s productivity took a nosedive for the Timberwolves. Averaging nine points and three rebounds per game on the season, Johnson has managed to score just four points over his last four games. He’s going to need to produce more than that if he wants to remain on the floor. Johnson missed two games earlier this month with food poisoning and it looks as though it’s going to take him some time to get back on track on the basketball court. Against the Warriors on Sunday night, he scored three points and shot just 1-for-9 from the floor. Ouch. Here’s to good health and a stronger finish to the season for Johnson.

Cleveland @ Sacramento, Wednesday @ 10 pm – This one should be a barnburner, no? I’m guessing it’s been awhile since you’ve tuned in to see a Cavs game and maybe that should change tonight. With Samardo Samuels and DeMarcus Cousins both on the floor, you’ve got some youth to entertain you. With Cleveland’s 4-28 record on the road, you get to root for them to pick up road-win number five on the season. With Sacramento, you also get to watch Marcus Thornton score lots of points.

Washington @ Toronto, Friday @ 7 pm – John Wall might not be the Rookie of the Year, but he’s still pretty damn exciting. On Friday night the Wizards will try to get road win number two (seriously) while the Raptors try to continue to grow and improve. There will be Ed Davis and JaVale McGee in a block-off contest and of course, there will be Jordan Crawford looking to add to his successful month of March.