We're nearing the halfway point of the NBA season and there is still no clear cut favourite for this seasons Rookie of the Year award. GiveMeSport grabbed an exclusive interview with three-time NBA Champion Bruce Bowen, who was in London to launch the Luol Deng Academy's partnership with the NBA and for the Global Games at the O2 Arena, and Bowen gave us his thoughts on who could win the prestigious award in 2015.
The rookies from this year's class have had very mixed starts to their life in the professional game. Four players who all had very good chances at taking the top honour find themselves out of contention thanks to injuries. Joel Embiid was already out for the year. The number 4 pick Aaron Gordon had surgery on a foot injury that he still hasn't recovered from and the Lakers' Julius Randle suffered a broken leg very early in the season. Then there is Jabari Parker, who looked destined to be named the league's best rookie while averaging nearly 13 points a game for the impressive Milwaukee Bucks. Then the basketball Gods struck him down with a torn ACL, taking away from us one the most recent draft class's most exciting player.
So now we're not left with much except the number one pick Andrew Wiggins, who has finally decided to start playing smart basketball in recent weeks. Well there's Wiggins and one other. That other is the Chicago Bulls' Nikola Mirotic, whom Bowen praised to the rafters when we met and tipped to have an outside shot of winning the 2014/15 NBA Rookie of the Year.
Acquired by the Bulls through a draft day trade in 2011 with the Houston Rockets, Mirotic has spent the last three years in EuroLeague with Spanish side Real Madrid. Mirotic was named Rising Star two years in a row and capped it off with an MVP award in 2013. That made the Bulls bring him over across the Atlantic and Tom Thibodeau hasn't looked back since.
"I'm going to go with Chicago's Nikola Mirotic. I like him, I like him a lot! I mean as far as being able to come in and have an impact on a veteran team, that's what puts him above the others."
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"Any guy can come in and shoot the ball all day, and end up shooting 30% for the season," Bowen added. "But for someone to have a positive impact on an established team like that, that means that player has an IQ in understanding where his opportunities are coming, so i like him a lot."
His strong play in December -- in which he had 9.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game -- earned him the Kia Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Over the course of the season, he has scored 8.3 points per game and is netting 5.0 rebounds in just 18.8 minutes per game as part of a successful rotation in Chicago.
And you have to remember that he is playing for the Bulls, and for Tom Thibodeau who absolutely hates playing rookies and is limiting Mirotic despite his strong play - partly thanks to the form of one Pau Gasol.
Mirotic has an incredibly strong case to win the Rookie of the Year. If he was playing anywhere near the same amount of minutes Wiggins was then Mirotic's stat line would blow the Timberwolves' youngsters out of the water.
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