Predicting The 2012 All-Rookie Teams
We figured there’s no better time than the present to project the 2011-12 All-Rookie First and Second Teams. Sure, there’s a lockout situation going on, and we haven’t seen a single rookie play on the big stage yet, but ’tis the season to make such predictions.
The NBA’s thirty head coaches decide the recipients of this prestigious honor. They give two points to their first team candidate, and one point to their second candidate, without regard to position played. The player with the highest number of votes makes up the First Team and the next highest votes decide the Second Team. The coaches are forbidden to vote for players on their own teams.
There have been some real surprises throughout the years. Some high draft picks failed to perform as expected in their rookie year, while others demonstrate reasons why they should have been drafted higher.
Last season, for instance, was a fascinating example of both scenarios. Gary Neal, signed by the San Antonio Spurs at age 25 following an impressive summer league showing, became the second undrafted player in league history to be named to the All-Rookie First Team. (FYI: the first was Jorge Garbajosa in 2006-07). Further, second-round pick Landry Fields (#39) also made the First Team.
On the flip side, Evan Turner (7.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 apg in 23.0 average minutes), last years’ second overall draft pick, did not make either team. Remarkably, the same was true with the second pick in 2009, Hasheem Thabeet (career: 2.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg in 10.9 mpg).
In 2009-10 season, the All-Rookie Second Team was full of second-rounders: DeJuan Blair (#37), Jonas Jerebko (#39) and Marcus Thornton (#43). Another notable was Luis Scola: he was drafted at #55 in 2002, stayed overseas for several years and made the 2007-08 All-Rookie First Team.
To get noticed, rookies have to be given a chance to shine, and that starts with the team fit. As we offer predictions on which players may be selected to the All-Rookie First and Second teams after this season, we are cognizant of the teams’ needs and what the rookie is projected to bring. If he becomes a key player earning major minutes while logging impressive numbers, coaches will remember when the voting takes place. However, sometimes truly talented rookies get stuck behind an established player and become forgotten.
It’s a real shame the 2011 Summer League was canceled; this venue provides such a close look at rookies.
Here we go!
ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM:
Derrick Williams (Pick No. 2 – Minnesota Timberwolves)
The number two draft pick landed on a team with the league-worst record last year (17-65), a league-worst points allowed per game (107.7), and, as of this publishing date, no head coach. It’s not all dubious news. Williams’ new teammates include a pass-first point guard (Ricky Rubio) and last season’s leading rebounder (Kevin Love-15.2 rpg). Whether 6’9″ Williams plays small forward or power forward or combo, he may initially compete for minutes with Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, perhaps others. We suspect he won’t wait long. The PAC-10 Player of the Year who averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds at Arizona with a .595 field-goal percentage should have no difficulty in transferring his enviable moves, speed and skills to the NBA. His strengths – a big who can score and the matchup problems he presents – should get him minutes.
Kyrie Irving (Pick No. 1 – Cleveland Cavaliers)
The Cavaliers wisely took the top-ranked point guard with their number-one pick; it was a step in the right direction in their rebuilding process. Irving is the total package and should assume the role of the new franchise face very nicely. As the point guard situation shakes out – among Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions and Daniel Gibson – expect Irving to become the team’s starting point guard sooner rather than later. He’s perfectly suited to head coach Byron Scott, who will mercilessly draw out the true Irving, just like he did for Chris Paul. In fact, many compare Irving, with only eleven college games (Duke) under his belt, to Paul. Irving will log plenty of minutes this season and should shine amid a changing roster.
Jimmer Fredette (Pick No. 10 – Sacramento Kings)
Fredette looks to take starting point guard duties (remember Beno Udrih is gone) right away, and the pairing with Tyreke Evans will be something to watch. His defense is suspect, but one thing is for sure: shots will be made. Evans will not gladly give up touches though; it may take a bit of time for the two to find their groove. Evans, and everyone else on the team, cannot ignore the fact Fredette was the NCAA’s leading scorer last season at BYU (28.5 ppg). No one can argue with the fact he possesses high basketball IQ and a strong work ethic. The buzz surrounding Fredette on this team is very real, and this team in particular – facing arena/relocation issues – is desperate for this type of attention. The Kings will give the crowd what they want…which translates to plenty of playing time for Fredette.
Kemba Walker (Pick No. 9 – Charlotte Bobcats)
At some point during the season, Walker should take over starting point guard duties from D.J. Augustin. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he’s going to provide much-needed offense. Walker, 6’1″ at 185 pounds, led Connecticut to an NCAA 2010-11 championship title; he’s lightning-fast with a quick release and a 39.5 inch vertical leap. He can easily create his own shot and is unafraid to take the big shots. With the departure of Stephen Jackson, Walker may well develop into the go-to-scorer (23.5 ppg at UConn). Charlotte, with new general manager Rich Cho in charge, is rebuilding this team, and it looks as if Walker will get the majority of attention during the process.
Klay Thompson (Pick No. 11 – Golden State Warriors)
The Warriors had their eye on Thompson for some time. He’s an undeniably great shooter, terrific in the pick-and-roll and can space the floor for Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. Thompson, able to play the two or three, impressed the Warriors with his NBA-level skills; he just might be the perfect fit to new coach Mark Jackson’s new-look schemes. Jackson isn’t handing out minutes; if he performs as expected, he’ll see considerable playing time. Everything will change for Thompson if Ellis is shipped out, i.e. big-time minutes.
ALL-ROOKIE SECOND TEAM:
Kawhi Leonard (Pick No. 15 – San Antonio Spurs)
Many were stunned when Leonard ended up going No. 15 in the draft. To land with the Spurs, though, is actually perfect. Coach Gregg Popovich will love Leonard’s toughness and commitment to improving. He can play defense and rebound; offense will come later.
Jan Vesely (Pick No. 6 – Washington Wizards)
Comparisons to a young Andrei Kirilenko are often heard when it comes to Vesely. The Wizards have been scoping him in Europe for some time. At 6’11″, playing small forward, matchups will be a real challenge against Vesely. He’s athletic, an effective finisher and should thrive in an up-tempo situation.
Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
At long last, the 20-year-old Spanish point guard – who has played professional basketball in Europe since age 14 – is coming to America. The Wolves already cleared the way by sending Jonny Flynn to Houston; Rubio should jump past Luke Ridnour and Sebastian Telfair to take the point guard reins immediately. All eyes will be on the 6’4″ charismatic playmaker. After a less-than-stellar season last year, many wonder if he can successfully integrate into the NBA. This is his big chance to prove why the Wolves waited for him.
MarShon Brooks (Pick No. 25 – New Jersey Nets)
Brooks ranked second to Fredette in scoring last season (24.6 ppg) with Providence. His shooting was in fine display recently at the Nike Pro-City tournament as he dropped 48 points, including six three-pointers…and he played half the game with a calf cramp. Could he be this draft’s sleeper? He figures to get good minutes with only Anthony Morrow ahead of him at shooting guard.
Brandon Knight (Pick No. 8 – Detroit Pistons):
There are a lot of unanswered questions in Detroit, and many cannot be answered until the CBA is settled. Knight may challenge Rodney Stuckey for the starting point guard role; he may be set on proving why he shouldn’t have dropped to No. 8 in the draft.
Enes Kanter (Pick No. 3 – Utah Jazz)
The big man is NBA-ready, but will he get the minutes behind a very crowded frontcourt in Utah? He’s still a mystery, but the potential is real. China is reportedly extending serious offers to Kanter.
Bismack Biyombo (Pick No. 7 – Charlotte Bobcats)
Biyombo’s agent just insisted that he will definitely suit up in Charlotte this season. Was all was settled in mediation with his previous Madrid team? Recent reports suggest otherwise. The Bobcats have a shot-blocking, defensive wonder with little offensive skills on their hands. Yes, he’s a project, but a worthwhile one.
Kenneth Faried (Pick No. 22 – Denver Nuggets)
His playing time is likely tied to Kenyon Martin’s future in Denver; that is, if Martin flees, Faried will see considerable court time. Faried has that uncanny knack to put himself in the correct position to grab rebounds. Remember he broke Tim Duncan’s record and is now the NCAA’s all-time leader in rebounds.
JaJuan Johnson (Boston Celtics – Pick No. 27)
Johnson has an excellent chance of getting immediate playing time. With big men dropping like flies in Boston, they need a 6’11″ youngster who can block and rebound. His nice mid-range game is valuable as well.