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NBA Rookie Watch: 10/9/13
Posted By Joel Brigham On October 9, 2013 @ 9:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
NBA fans love rookies, probably more than rookies deserve to be loved, because they represent hope for struggling franchises. It’s not that these young players aren’t likeable; it’s just that their statistical contributions do not typically match the hype that surrounds them.
That being what it is, there are always a handful of rookies that do come in and immediately contribute to their teams in a major way, and we’ve already gotten a small glimpse at some of those guys in the first handful of preseason games.
Once a week throughout the regular season, we’ll update these Rookie of the Year rankings as players carve out roles and prove their big-league abilities. This first one, however, is more of a baseline to nail down preseason expectations. In other words, this is how the rookie hierarchy stands only a couple of weeks before the start of the 2013-14 campaign:
The Top 5:
#5: Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks
Schroder came into this season a bit of mystery, drawing comparisons to Rajon Rondo but not having been given much of an opportunity to show it on the floor. In his most recent preseason game, Schroder showed some late-game poise by sinking a game-winning floater with 2.1 seconds remaining, and his seven assists in the contest also showed how good he can be on this level. Jeff Teague is the starter for the Hawks, but there is certainly room for a backup like Schroder to also get some reasonable burn under new head coach Mike Budenholzer. If he keeps hitting big shots like that, it will be hard to keep him off the floor.
#4: Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are bound to be bad, and Carter-Williams is probably going to shoot somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 percent from the field, but once you get past those negatives it’s pretty easy to see him as one of the more interesting talents in this rookie class. Through two preseason games, he’s averaged five assists in limited minutes, and he even scored 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting in Philly’s second preseason game. Carter-Williams will have a reasonable shot at winning this award because he’s a more integral part of his team’s starting lineup than any other rookie. It will be interesting to see if he plays well, or whether he just gets his stats through attrition.
#3: Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
After a decent preseason debut in which he scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds, it’s already pretty clear that he is by far the best option Charlotte has at power forward. That means Zeller is very likely to see a lot of minutes this year alongside Al Jefferson, and his combination of inside scoring and rebounding will certainly help Charlotte’s corps of backcourt players see more success. That’s probably not enough to win him the Rookie of the Year trophy in the spring, but in a weak crop of rooks, that’s more than enough to be put into consideration for the accolade.
#2: Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Sacramento’s shiny new toy scored 13 points in his first preseason game, which was exactly the sort of thing they were hoping to see form the seventh overall selection in last June’s draft. The Kings have been drafting backcourt players in the lottery for years in the hopes of finding themselves a potential All-Star to supplement DeMarcus Cousins, and between McLemore’s athleticism and scoring prowess, he’s got the makings of a top-shelf offensive player. He didn’t have a single assist in Summer League, so don’t look to him as a facilitator, but what dominant wing scorer ever is?
#1: Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
At the start of last college season, nobody would have pegged Victor Oladipo as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate in 12 months’ time, but here we are, calling him the favorite for the award before he’s even finished playing his first preseason contest. Oladipo averaged 19 points and five assists per game in Summer League play and is expected to have a big role for the Magic this year despite playing behind guards Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo. He’s a potentially elite defender, an emergent scorer and a confident leader despite his relative youth. He’ll go a long ways toward changing the culture of the Magic, and that sort of leadership will earn him brownie points with voters for this award. Of course, his play will have a lot to do with that, as well.
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics – Olynyk has earned Dirk Nowitzki comparisons early in his career, which is definitely a great place to start. Boston’s frontcourt is loaded with young players pushing for minutes, but Olynyk has the talent to steal away a decent-sized chunk of them.
Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers – Frank Vogel wants to use Hill, a jack-off-all-trades, in his regular rotation, and after playing 21 minutes in his NBA preseason debut, it looks like the first-round pick will at least get an opportunity to play.
Archie Goodwin, Phoenix Suns – His first time on the floor, Goodwin dropped 13 points in limited minutes. Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic will get the lion’s share of minutes at guard, but Goodwin has the potential to be a sneaky good player for a team with little reason not to play its youngsters this year.
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder – With no inside offensive presence to speak of, the Thunder are counting on Adams to fill that role for them. He scored seven points and hauled in six rebounds his first trip out, and OKC is hoping he’ll be seasoned enough by the end of the regular season to help out in the playoffs.
Gal Mekel, Dallas Mavericks – The Mavs are deep at point guard, but they started rookie Gal Mekel in their first preseason game, in which he scored two points, dished out five assists and hauled in five rebounds. That’s a solid start, even if his grip on the starting point guard spot is anything but iron-clad.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks – Scouts raved over this kid’s athleticism and potential, and the draft’s youngest player had a great start to his career as a Buck, scoring 14 points and grabbing four rebounds his first trip out. Maybe we won’t have to wait as long for this kid to bloom as we thought.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavs will be an exciting team this year, and Bennett is very likely to be a big part of that. The No. 1 overall pick has plenty of hype to live up to, but a seven-point, 10-rebound performance in his first preseason game is a great way to kick things off.
Trek Burke, Utah Jazz – In his first preseason game, Burke scored 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting, an interesting mix of positive and negative that Jazz fans should get used to. Burke will score in droves, but isn’t likely to do so efficiently.
Are there any rookies that you think deserve to be at least listed in Honorable Mention? Hit up the comments section to add your two cents, and check back every Wednesday night for updated Rookie of the Year rankings!
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