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NBA PM: Rookie of the Year Candidates
Posted By Alex Kennedy On August 22, 2013 @ 5:03 pm In NBA | No Comments
Utah Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke talks about his debut at the 2013 Orlando Summer League.Watch More Video Here
Last season, Damian Lillard ran away with the Rookie of the Year award very early. Lillard was handed a starting job and a huge role from day one with the Portland Trail Blazers, and he never looked back. The young point guard led all rookies in points, assists and threes while leading all players in minutes. Anthony Davis played well when healthy, but it was clearly Lillard’s award to lose.
Now, a new batch of rookies is getting ready to make their NBA debut. Which players from the 2013 draft class will emerge as Rookie of the Year candidates? Here are some players to keep an eye on based on the amount of minutes and touches they’re expected to get.
Trey Burke, Utah Jazz – Burke finds himself in a situation similar to the one Lillard entered last season. He’ll be the starting point guard right out of the gate as the team just handed over the reins to their young core. If Burke’s transition to the NBA is smooth, he could put up some big numbers and be successful. He has a decent core around him with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward among others. While Burke’s performance in summer league was concerning, he could still emerge as a ROY candidate since he’s entering a seemingly perfect situation that should allow him to thrive.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers – The 76ers are clearly rebuilding and going young. While that likely means the team will lose a lot of games during the 2013-14 season, it also means that Carter-Williams will play a lot of minutes and have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do. As of right now, Carter-Williams is the only starting-caliber point guard on Philly’s roster, leaving no doubt that the rookie will lead the Sixers. Carter-Williams has some decent veteran weapons around him with Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Jason Richardson among others, which should make his job easier. Carter-Williams is a match-up nightmare since he’s a 6’6 point guard, so it’s not hard to imagine him experiencing success at the next level.
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers – Like Carter-Williams, Noel will have every opportunity to succeed in Philadelphia. As soon as he’s healthy, he’ll be playing big minutes for the 76ers. Considering Sixers GM Sam Hinkie traded away Jrue Holiday for Noel, it’s safe to assume that he’ll be the team’s starting center whenever he’s ready to take the court. Noel has said that he hopes to play in December, which could keep him in the ROY hunt (especially if the team improves drastically with him on the floor). If he’s sidelined for any longer, it would likely be difficult for him to take home the award.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers – Will McCollum bring the Rookie of the Year award back to Portland for the second consecutive year? It’s possible, especially when you consider that McCollum is one of the most NBA-ready rookies in this class. Like Lillard, McCollum spent several years honing his craft at a mid-major school before leaving for the pros, which should help him adjust to the NBA better than some of his teenage peers. McCollum fills a need for the Blazers – a team that desperately needs to improve their bench scoring and three-point shooting – with his ability to put up points from anywhere on the court. It also helps that McCollum and Lillard have been friends for several years, which should help them as they try to get on the same page.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings – McLemore could be the dark horse to take home the Rookie of the Year award. He slipped on draft night and struggled during summer league, but he could silence all of his critics if he makes the most of the opportunity he’ll receive in Sacramento. McLemore is expected to be the Kings’ starting shooting guard, and he could become a focal point of the offense. DeMarcus Cousins will get his touches, but McLemore could be a top option since Greivis Vasquez is more of a distributor. The Kings need perimeter scoring from someone in their starting five, and McLemore could provide just that.
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics – If this name surprises you, then you clearly weren’t paying attention to summer league. Olynyk was easily the most impressive rookie in Orlando or Las Vegas, and he’ll have every opportunity to duplicate that success during the regular season. Olynyk is currently the only true center on the Celtics’ roster, which means he’ll be starting and playing a lot of minutes. Olynyk is NBA-ready and has the ability to score from all over the court. During summer league, he showed off his footwork and post moves, and drew rave reviews from opposing players. Olynyk is definitely someone to keep an eye on this season.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats – It’s easy to forget that Zeller was being projected as the top overall pick and a potential stud just one year ago. A mediocre sophomore season at Indiana has diminished some of the hype around Zeller, but he’s still an incredibly skilled big man who will have the chance to make an impact from day one in Charlotte. Zeller will likely start alongside Al Jefferson in the Bobcats’ frontcourt, forming a nice offensive one-two punch. Many have questioned how Zeller will stack up against NBA bigs, but if he’s able to make a smooth transition and make the most of his minutes, he could be a surprise ROY candidate come the end of the season.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic – Unlike some of the players on this list, there’s no guarantee that Oladipo will be a starter from day one with the Magic. Orlando has Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo in the backcourt, and it remains to be seen how the Magic will use the No. 2 overall pick. Will Oladipo play behind Afflalo at his natural shooting guard position or will he come in behind Nelson at point guard as the team experimented with during summer league? Jacque Vaughn will have to figure out how to get his new weapon on the court. If Oladipo is able to earn a starting job, he’s talented enough to become a ROY candidate.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers – Bennett was the top overall pick, but it’s hard to imagine him receiving enough minutes and touches to be a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. The Cavaliers want to make the playoffs this season and will likely play their veterans big minutes. Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack will all be higher up in the pecking order than Bennett, who still doesn’t have a clear-cut position. He could be a special piece for Cleveland down the road, but ROY will likely go to someone who has a bigger role in year one.
Alex Len, Phoenix Suns – The Suns are excited about Len’s potential, but whether he’ll play enough to be in the mix for ROY remains to be seen. There isn’t an opening in Phoenix’s frontcourt, as Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris are the starters. The only way Len could sneak into the discussion is if Gortat is moved, but Suns GM Ryan McDonough has shot down all rumors of Gortat being shopped or moved. Len has a bright future ahead of him, but it’ll be tough for him to enter the ROY hunt.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards – The Wizards are very high on Porter and his ability to impact the game on both ends of the court. The former Georgetown star will likely be Washington’s starting small forward. However, will Porter be able to put up the stats necessary to compete for ROY while playing alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene and other veterans? Porter may be in too small of a role to compete for the award.
Payton Was Behind Iverson’s Practice Rant
Yesterday, it was reported that Allen Iverson is finally ready to officially announce his retirement. One of the best things to come from this news was a story from NBA legend Gary Payton, who is now working as an analyst for Fox Sports 1.
Payton recounted the time that he and Iverson were talking over drinks about how Payton managed to stay healthy and play so many games.
“We were out somewhere during a summer, and we were all out having a good time, and we had a little bit too many… and he asked me, he said ‘how do you keep your body is so good of a shape, and don’t get hurt, and stay always on the court?’ And I just told him for real, my coach George Karl didn’t let me practice. So that was it. I said ‘You have to stop practicing.’”
Iverson, of course, turned around and told this to the Philadelphia 76ers and head coach Larry Brown. It didn’t go over so well, and the practice rant was born. When Payton watched Iverson’s rant, he couldn’t believe it.
“‘Don’t say it like this! Don’t do it like that, Allen,’” Payton recalled thinking. “When he said it, I said, ‘No, that was not our conversation.’”
According to Payton, Brown blamed Payton for the practice rant and all of the related drama.
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