Andrew Nicholson rises in ESPN sophomore rankings

Andrew Nicholson - Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

An ESPN analyst moved the Magic forward up a few spots in his semi-regular ranking of the league's second-year players.

ESPN analyst David Thorpe has once again ranked the NBA's top 20 second-year players, and Orlando Magic power forward Andrew Nicholson is on the rise. The St. Bonaventure product, whom Thorpe ranked 11th in November, now ranks seventh. This new list, Thorpe says, only ranks players based on how they "are currently performing," as opposed to the November list, which was primarily concerned with potential.

Nicholson, says Thorpe, is "steady" but has not yet become "an impact player." For Nicholson to take that next step, he'll have to become more consistent, according to the analyst. There's still reason for optimism, however: "[Nicholson's] offensive talent is enough to suggest he'll be a presence in the rotation for years." He's currently averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on 57.5 percent True Shooting.

Always a brilliant offensive player, Nicholson has indeed made some strides, particularly as a rebounder and a shooter. His rebounding rate of 14.2 percent far exceeds the disappointing 11.7 percent mark he posted as a rookie, and he shoots two three-pointers per game at a 36 percent clip after not taking a single three in his first season. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has also praised Nicholson for changing his "mentality" and approach to the game.

The only sophomores Thorpe ranks ahead of Nicholson are, in order, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, Milwaukee Bucks big man John Henson, Boston Celtics center Jared Sullinger, and Houston Rockets power forward Terrence Jones. Of those six players, only Sullinger was still on the Draft board when Orlando selected Nicholson 19th overall in 2012.

Elsewhere, Maurice Harkless is notably absent from Thorpe's newest sophomore rankings after coming in at 19th in November. The lanky wing's role has diminished in recent weeks, as Orlando Pinstriped Post outlined in Monday's Mailbag feature.

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