Predicting the NBA's 2013 Rookie of the Year Prospects
Kyrie Irving was the consensus No. 1 pick in last year's NBA Draft and went on to become the 2012 Rookie of the Year with an outstanding debut campaign.
In three of the past four seasons the No. 1 overall pick in the draft did go on to win Rookie of the Year honors, and all indications say that it could happen again this year with Kentucky big man Anthony Davis.
But from 1998-2007 only two top picks earned the trophy for best newcomer, those being one LeBron James and former Duke star Elton Brand.
Which way will it go this season?
Let's take a look at the top five players with the best chance to win the NBA's prestigious Rookie of the Year award.
5. Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse
Waiters made huge strides during his second season at 'Cuse, scoring an average of 12.6 points, 2.5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game in just 24 minutes per game coming off of the bench.
The only reason for his limited minutes was the tremendous depth at guard that Syracuse had last year. He would've started on almost any team.
Waiters is lightning quick and is a great finisher with a soft touch and the ability to throw it down hard. Like Gordon, he can also shoot the ball with confidence from the perimeter.
He shot 36.3 percent from three-point range and 47.6 percent overall, and has shown he can hit a contested, clutch shot when need be.
Waiters is projected to be a borderline-lottery pick, meaning he will probably have a better team to play with than the lottery picks will have. Which is why he beats out Bradley Beal on this list for best chance to win Rookie of the Year.
4. Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas
Robinson is a freak of nature, and a world-class athletic specimen at 6'9", 244 pounds.
He can definitely run, and the prospect of him and Wall running the floor together is a frightening one. Robinson carried his team to the NCAA tournament final, ultimately coming up short against Anthony Davis and Kentucky.
But I'm not sure if any other college player in the country could've stopped Robinson. The power forward averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.5 percent from the field.
If he does go to Washington, Wall and Robinson could be a Paul and Griffin-like duo, which might pave the way to Rookie of the Year honors.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, G-F, Kentucky
The 6'7" Kidd-Gilchrist is a fantastic athlete with silky-smooth skills that allow him to get to the rim.
He averaged 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season, and because of his ability to get into the paint, he shot the ball at a 49 percent clip.
He must improve his outside shot, but he is a superb finisher and already has an excellent handle, which is something that is hard to teach. When he's fouled attacking the rim, he converts at the line 74.5 percent of the time.
Length is something that can't be taught, and he has it, with a wingspan of 6'11". That instantly makes him extremely valuable on the defensive end.
The reason he isn't higher on this list is because of the likelihood he gets drafted by the woeful Bobcats, who have virtually nothing going for them right now.
Kemba Walker showed promise last season, but he will still be developing next season alongside Kidd-Gilchrist.
2. Harrison Barnes, G-F, North Carolina
Barnes is an over-sized two-guard who reminds me of a middle-class man's Kobe Bryant. It seems like his stock dropped a bit because of the fact he returned to UNC for his sophomore season.
To me, that only means that he's one-year-out-of-high-school smarter than the one-and-done prospects.
At 6'8", 215 pounds, Barnes has guard-like skills with the height to shoot over most defenders. He averaged 17.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 35.8 percent from downtown.
His handling isn't as good as Kobe's, and he has to make some better decisions in terms of when to shoot the ball, but Barnes has the ability to become one of the premiere pure scorers in the NBA.
I would love to see the Cavaliers pick him in the draft and set up a young version of their own "big three" in Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Harrison Barnes.
Barnes flourished while playing alongside point guard Kendall Marshall at UNC, but once he got hurt, Barnes started losing his rhythm and forcing shots. Irving would be a perfect setup man for him. The Cavs would have a serious perimeter threat that Irving could kick it out to when he penetrates.
If that trio took form, I think Barnes would have a great shot at Rookie of the Year.
1. Anthony Davis, C, Kentucky
Yes, Davis already has some impressive hardware. And what else is there to say?
He shot a stellar 62.3 percent from the field and averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and an other-wordly 4.6 blocks per game last season.
I see him as a Kevin Garnett-type of player with a longer wing-span and better ball-handling, which is scary.
Davis has the best chance of being the 2013 Rookie of the Year because he is the best player joining the NBA next year.
And, if Eric Gordon returns to New Orleans, he could have one of the best teams that drafted in the lottery in 2012. I don't think Gordon is going to be offered a much better contract than what the Hornets could give him, so it's very possible he stays.
If he does, and even if he doesn't, Davis should be your Rookie of the Year in 2013.