NBA AM: The NBA Rookies To Watch
The Rookies To Watch: There is no doubting that Olympian gold medalist and top overall pick Anthony Davis is the favorite in the clubhouse to win the Rookie of The Year award in 2012-2013. Second overall selection Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looked great in summer league and could have a solid season for the Bobcats. Washington’s Bradley Beal is in the perfect situation in Washington to flourish; even Sacramento’s Thomas Robinson could shine with the Kings. However there are a few rookies who were drafted outside the top five that either put on a show in Summer League or are now poised to have big roles in the 2012-2013 season that are worth paying attention to, here are a few of them:
Damian Lillard, Portland: Lillard was the co-MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League and truly looked like a man among boys at times running the show for the Trail Blazers’ summer crew. Lillard looks like he is the favorite to start for the Blazers and given his knack for scoring the ball and his polish, he does become a Rookie of The Year prospect, mainly because he’ll get the playing time and opportunity to showcase his skills. LaMarcus Aldridge is the lead dog in Portland, so Lillard won’t be the leading scorer, but if he can put up solid double-figure scoring and hand out the six-to-eight assists per game he says he’s capable of, Lillard could be one of the brighter rookies in the class.
Maurice Harkless, Orlando: Mo Harkless was projected to be a bench guy in Philadelphia, but after the Dwight Howard trade landed him in Orlando, things are looking up for Harkless. It’s unlikely that Harkless starts the season as a starter, but there is little doubt that Harkless will get every opportunity to speed along his development. A rangy small forward type, Harkless has shown glimpses of having Rudy Gay/Kevin Durant type scoring ability, which will make him a fan favorite for sure. Harkless was a streaky shooter at St. John’s, however, he’s spent the entire summer re-working his shooting mechanics. If he can drain the three-ball effectively, he will supplant anyone they put in front of him in Orlando. Mo may not start the season as a starter, but the smart money is on him ending the season as one.
Harrison Barnes, Golden State: There really couldn’t be a better situation for Harrison Barnes than the Warriors. There is almost no pressure on him and all he’ll be asked to do is play his game, not carry a franchise. Barnes was one of the brighter spots in summer league and he is expected to play a big role for the Warriors. The problem for Barnes is he’s not going to get nearly the amount of looks it will take to be a real Rookie of The Year candidate, but there is no doubting that the skills are there. The Warriors are so deep with young talent that Barnes day-to-day numbers may be underwhelming, but if you are looking for the guy that could give you 25 on any given night he might be that guy.
Terrence Ross, Toronto: The training camp battle between Terrence Ross and Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan will be one to watch. DeRozan has the bigger, more mature NBA body and he is certainly more explosive as a scorer. However, Terrence Ross is a far better shooter. There has been talk that the Raptors would try and find ways to get both guys on the floor together, but if Ross wins the starter’s job in camp or if injury strikes Ross has the ability to be an impact scorer. Like Barnes it’s unlikely that Ross gets the minutes and touches to be a real Rookie of The Year candidate, but when you start looking at the Rookies to watch he could be one of the best of the bunch.
Jared Sullinger, Boston: Sullinger proved in the Orlando Summer League that he’s not nearly as damaged as the draft process made him out to be and unlike most of the young bigs in summer league, he proved that he was ready to play. The Celtics have a lot of mature veterans in front of Sully, so it’s unlikely that he plays a big role as a rookie, but if he does get his shot he has the bulk and the knack for scoring that could make things interesting. He is not a Rookie of The Year candidate, but he should be fun to watch especially after the Celtic vets like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce get a hold of him and teach him a little nastiness.
Perry Jones III, Thunder Jones won’t be starting games, but if he sticks to the plan with the Thunder and his knee holds up he’ll have a chance for a regular role. When the Thunder started the draft process they were actually open to trading the pick. When PJIII landed to them late in the first they really couldn’t have been happier. Jones is going to have to learn to run the Thunder system and that was a knock on him in the draft process. Everyone knew Jones could play, but the question was could he run a complex system? That’s something he’ll have to prove in camp. PJIII is not a Rookie of The Year prospect, but he could be a fun rookie to watch. The Western Conference got appreciably better this summer, but adding Jones to the OKC bench crew that will likely feature Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson and Olympian James Harden makes them better as well. The second unit in OKC added another high volume scorer, as if they were not deep enough already.
Orlando Johnson, Pacers If there is one guy in the second round who could make a name for himself its likely Indiana’s Orlando Johnson. With a great mix of perimeter shooting, an attack-the-basket game, and a high basketball IQ Johnson could be a nice addition to a very young Pacers squad. Paul George is the starter at the two spot, but if Johnson gets some extended time he could provide a scoring boost like he did in summer league. There is no scenario short of a major injury in which Johnson will be in the Rookie of the Year discussion, but if you are looking for a dark horse rookie to watch, he might be the guy.
Who are the rookies you are looking forward to seeing this season, and who is your front runner for Rookie of The Year? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Predicting The Bottom? There has been a lot of debate lately about how the best teams will be in the 2012-2013 NBA Season, especially with the moves made by the Lakers, the Nets and the HEAT. Which begs the question… Who is going to be the worst team in the NBA this year?
Cast your vote below:
The Other Side Of The Coin Former Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy has followed in his brother Jeff’s footsteps in blasting the Orlando Magic and team CEO Alex Martins, blaming him for the situation in Orlando and ultimately why the Magic were unable to keep star center Dwight Howard.
Van Gundy has gone on the radio in Orlando and was quoted recently by ESPN’s Nick Friedell, laying the blame on Martin’s lack of basketball experience as the reason things came unglued with the Magic.
While all of that makes great theater and certainly quality copy for reporters, the truth of the matter is it’s not at all true.
For the record Martins was not plucked off the street corner and put in charge of the team. He has been involved with professional sports and the Magic in various capacities for almost 25 years. He’s held virtually every job you can hold in an NBA organization.
Is Martins a former player? No, but look where former players landed the Magic.
The truth of the situation is that Martins was put in charge of a sinking ship well after it started taking on water, and to blame him for the Howard mess is convenient misdirection.
The blame for the Howard mess starts with former team CEO Bob Vander Weide and team president Otis Smith with a little bit of Stan sprinkled in for bad flavor.
Martins didn’t break up the 2009 NBA Finals team; Otis Smith did that. Martins didn’t pull Rafer Alston for an injured Jameer Nelson, Stan Van Gundy did that.
Martins had nothing to do with trading for Vince Carter or dumping him and Marcin Gortat for Hedo Turkoglu.
Martins also didn’t sign Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson, Glen Davis or Jason Richardson to cap killing contracts. Martins also didn’t botch draft pick after draft pick.
It’s easy to blame Martins for a lot of Orlando’s problems, but in the truth is he inherited them.
Did Martins compromise almost everything to try and sway Howard back to Orlando? Yes.
He begged, pleaded, and sold his soul to try and keep Howard in Orlando. That is what he was asked to do by ownership.
Did Martins’ staff leak things to TV reporters? No. That’s on Stan’s staff.
It’s easy to call Martins “naive”, but the truth is Howard was out the door before he was named CEO. Martins convinced Howard to stay, it was everything that followed that ran him out the door and most of it came from either Smith or Stan Van Gundy or his staff.
Martins is absolutely the scapegoat because he was charged with fixing the problems and he simply couldn’t do it in time. But if you look at what’s been done this offseason the Magic have promising front office, a coach with solid upside, and tons of flexibility. That’s a lot more than what Martins inherited last year.
It’s easy and convenient to blame Martins for all that’s gone on, but the truth is he wasn’t even close to the guy that created the mess, he simply couldn’t get its cleaned up in time.
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