NBA PM: 2011 Lottery Picks Needing A Change?
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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It’s well documented how difficult the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season was for the incoming rookie class. Without summer leagues and a full training camp to get them prepared, they lacked the luxuries that many rookie classes before them had.
While some, like Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving and San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, still managed to thrive, others were noticeably affected.
There’s a saying that that you can’t properly evaluate a draft class until three years afterwards at the earliest, and while there’s a lot of credence to that, lottery picks are always judged on a quicker timetable. Expectations are different when you’re picked in the top 14. There’s more pressure to produce immediately, regardless of how patient a team says they’re going to be.
Four lottery picks in particular from the 2011 draft, who struggled as rookies, do not appear to be in a situation where they can breakout as sophomores. Whether a change is needed or they simply need to adjust, these four players may still have trouble proving their worth despite having a normal offseason this summer to get them ready for year two in the NBA:
Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
In his final year at Arizona, Williams was one of the most efficient and prolific scorers in the country. He did it from all over the floor, torching bigger four men who were too slow and overpowering small forwards who couldn’t contain him down low. He was adamant that he should be in the conversation for the first overall pick with Irving, but now, a year later, the Timberwolves couldn’t even trade him for the second pick in the 2012 draft.
Williams is as good of an example of how greatly things can change over the course of a year as you can find. He’s found out the hard way that Rick Adelman, his head coach, could care less how much you make or where you were picked. If you don’t do what he asks, you’re not going to play anywhere near as much as you’d like.
While Williams momentarily moved up the depth chart with forward Michael Beasley going to Phoenix, he quickly moved back down it with the addition of veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko. Once again, Williams is going to have to find his way as a reserve since there doesn’t appear to be a starting role available for him anytime soon. At the Las Vegas Summer League he hardly impressed, shooting 35 percent from the field and 12 percent from beyond the arc. His struggles with being efficient in that setting create concern over whether or not he’ll be able to do so in spot minutes of the bench against serious competition.
Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz
Based on the comments made by the Turkish national team’s technical coordinator Bogdan Tajevic, you would have thought the Jazz should have handed the keys to the franchise to Kanter as a rookie. He recently lambasted the team for their use of Kanter, implying that they should utilize more of his face-up skills rather than using him as a traditional center with his back primarily to the basket. Tajevic went as far as to say that Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin is weak and that he didn’t want to talk to guys who didn’t know what they were doing
The true root of Kanter’s issues, and what Tajevic seems to not realize, is that he’s the fourth-best big man on the team, at best. At the Orlando Summer League he struggled with the speed of the game, averaging a modest 10 points and eight rebounds against few other high-quality big men.
Coach Corbin is trying to fill some of the biggest shoes left in head coaching history in Jerry Sloan’s. While the franchise has obviously embraced a youth movement, he can’t afford to play Kanter over the likes of Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. He’d be risking his job if he didn’t play the best guy.
As a sophomore Kanter should benefit from the new-found stability of being with the same team for two consecutive years. Still, barring a trade or injury he’s only going to see roughly 15 minutes a night.
Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings
Of the four players on this list, nobody’s reality check has been as harsh and severe as Fredette’s. The Kings surprised everyone by taking him 10th overall on draft night and he even got to play 18 minutes a night as a rookie. However, the Kings are clearly done doing favors for him.
With the emergence of fellow rookie guard Isaiah Thomas, whom the team drafted 60th overall, and the signing of starting-caliber point guard Aaron Brooks, Fredette looks poised to be buried on the end of the Kings’ bench in 2012-13. There could be some situations where they look to bring him in for shooting purposes as a specialist, but his 21 percent shooting from three at the Las Vegas Summer League doesn’t bode well for that possibility.
It’s hard to imagine any team giving up anything of enough value to convince the Kings to let go of Fredette. While they don’t have much use for him, there also not ready to just completely cut ties with someone they invested the a top-10 pick in. Fredette’s best hope is that the Kings get involved in some multi-player deal where he gets included to make the figures work. Otherwise, he’s likely biding his time until the 2014 offseason when they will almost undoubtedly pass on picking up his option barring a major change.
Marcus Morris, Houston Rockets
While this list is not ideal to be on, Morris is likely envious of everyone on it because they at least got an extensive opportunity to play. That’s not something Morris received as a rookie. Rockets head coach Kevin McHale let him off the pine just 17 times for a total of 126 minutes, a couple weeks’ worth to the others on this list.
As tough as that was, draft night had to be even more difficult for Morris as he watched the Rockets stockpile on more forwards. To make matters worse, the stockpiling only continued throughout the offseason.
To his credit, Morris showed in summer league that he definitely has the skill set to help an NBA team. He has yet to carve out a position for himself, but it’s pretty tough to do that in 126 minutes of action.
Despite the apparent youth movement that the Rockets are embracing, Morris doesn’t seem to have a big place in it. They’ve been one of the most active teams this offseason and that’s bound to continue up until the trade deadline. For Morris’ sake, hopefully a byproduct of that is either him getting the chance to play in Houston or being shipped somewhere that wants to use him.
Where do you think Williams, Kanter, Fredette, and Morris would be most successful? Can they succeed where they’re at? Leave your thoughts below!
Cuban Blasts Kidd
Future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd has enjoyed some of the best years of his career in Dallas. He started out there as a rookie in 1994 and returned in 2008. The best season came during 2010-2011, when Kidd helped the Mavericks capture their first NBA championship in franchise history. However, the manner in which Kidd left the Mavericks this offseason for the New York Knicks has Mavericks owner Mark Cuban livid and currently opposed to honoring him in the future.
“I was more than upset,” Cuban said on ESPN Dallas’ 103.3 FM’s Ben and Skin Show. “I thought he was coming. I was pissed. J Kidd is a big boy, he can do whatever he wants. But, you don’t change your mind like that. That was… yeah. I’m sure I’ll get over it at some point, but as of now, I wouldn’t put J. Kidd’s number in the rafters.
“He’s a good guy, but I just thought that was wrong. You can’t put a guy’s number in the rafters when he decides he doesn’t want to be there. Putting somebody up in the rafters,’ that’s something sacred in my mind. You don’t just do it to do it, to have a big ceremony, to sell tickets. You haven’t seen me decide yet. I got back and forth on Derek Harper all the time, but Harp will be up there before J. Kidd will.
“I’ve always said my prerequisite was that you played on a championship team for the Mavs. I’d say Jet’s got a shot, Dirk’s an obvious, but as of right now I wouldn’t put J. Kidd up there.”
Cuban rightfully feels betrayed. Kidd went from being one of their lead recruiters for then free agent point guard Deron Williams to not even being willing to re-sign himself after it appeared an agreement was in place. However, he’s also an emotional guy who is not far enough removed from the situation to make a definitive ruling on this. Chances are, several years from now when Kidd’s career is over and Cuban remembers the championship run more vividly than he does his surprising departure, he’ll see that Kidd’s jersey deserves to be up there with the rest of the Mavericks greats.
If he doesn’t, then Kidd better try to find a way to become good friends with Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov while playing for the rivaled Knicks.
Up Close With Gorgui Dieng
At the 2012 adidas Nations camp the Louisville basketball team had the biggest presence there with Wayne Blackshear, Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng. Dieng really impressed, looking bigger physically and improved offensively. HOOPSWORLD caught up with him to talk about his growth, working with the African team, and the 2013 NBA Draft.
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