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ESPN ranks Bonaventure alum Andrew Nicholson 5th in top NBA rookies

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

St. Bonaventure alum and Orlando’s first-round draft pick Andrew Nicholson was ranked by ESPN’s David Thorpe as the NBA’s fifth-best rookie.

Portland point Damian Lillard, Detroit center Andre Drummond, New Orleans’ forward Anthony Davis and Charlotte forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist rank ahead of Nicholson, but the former Bonnie star’s rise is more notable because he was selected No. 19 in the 2012 NBA Draft, while the previous four were all top ten picks.

Through 32 games of his rookie season, Nicholson averages 14 minutes per game, eight points, three rebounds and is shooting 53% from the floor and 78% from the free-throw line. His Magic stand at 12-20, 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot—but the season is still young.

Thorpe’s ESPN Insider analysis is listed below, detailing Nicholson’s game—familiar to Western New York basketball fans—but relatively unknown to NBA fans around the nation:

Dec. 27: Nicholson has a polished game already, which is surprising considering he was not a high draft pick despite having good size and physical skills. He’s adept in the post, but not yet ready to be a consistent threat as a jump shooter. His mechanics are fine, and my guess is he’s going to be an excellent shooter in a few years out to 18 feet.

But to help his team now, he does not have to keep shooting those jumpers with 15 seconds or so on the clock. It would be one thing if Orlando was trying to play fast and therefore wanted its big rookie to take early jump shots, but that is not the case, as the Magic play at about league average in terms of pace.

So Nicholson would be better served, as would his team, if he made a quick swing pass on catching the ball in space with over 10 seconds on the clock, then perhaps followed his pass to get into some ball-screen action. Or he could work to back his man down into the post, something he does do on occasion. He’d get more free throws and closer shots, each a worthwhile goal.

When former Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy came back to Canisius to speak with boosters, he had nothing but compliments for the Big 4’s top draft prospect of all-time. Here’s The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington’s transcript of Van Gundy’s quotes from that media session:

The thing I’ve been impressed with him is he’s like an old-school guy. A lot of guys are making it with their athleticism. ... He plays like an older guy. He’s got really good moves down low and around the basket.”

It won’t be easy for Nicholson to ward off the rise of the Timberwolves’ guard Alexey Shved or 35-year-old Knicks rookie Pablo Prigioni, both of whom have carved out prominent roles on their respective clubs. Still, the arrow is pointing up for the pride of St. Bonaventure, proof that Big 4 basketball players can and will continue to make a national imprint.

(By the way, here’s my favorite Nicholson story of all-time, courtesy of CBS Sports. Did you know how Nicholson flew under the radar and wasn’t snatched by vulturous teams from the Big East, Big Ten, etc?)

(Photos courtesy of the Orlando Magic Facebook page).

TAGGED: andrew nicholson, david thorpe, espn, orlando magic, st. bonaventure, st. bonaventure bonnies

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