NBA Draft 2012: 10 Rookies with Immediate Impact Potential

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIJuly 6, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 10 Rookies with Immediate Impact Potential

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    This year's draft class featured a deep crop of rookies that can step in and make major contributions to their respective teams.

    Given the depth of the draft and how ideally some players fell into particular teams' laps on draft night, the 2012-13 season promises to have plenty of huge rookie performances.

    The biggest name of this year's group of rookies is No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis, who has the daunting task of being the face of a New Orleans Hornets rebuilding project.

    With his freakish athleticism and defensive prowess, Davis looks like the favorite to win Rookie of the Year this upcoming season.

    However, Davis will have some stiff competition for the ROTY. Several of his classmates have the talent and opportunity to make a run at being the league's top rookie.

    These are the 10 rookies in this year's class that possess the most immediate impact potential.

10. Jared Sullinger, PF, Boston Celtics

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    Boston's re-signing of power forward Brandon Bass might keep Jared Sullinger from seeing starter minutes in Year One, but Sullinger will still make his presence felt this season.

    For starters, Sullinger will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. After he seemed like a lock for the lottery at the beginning of the college season, critics picked apart his game and his stock started to slide.

    During the draft process, issues surrounding Sullinger's back only helped accelerate his decline on draft day.

    Making things even more embarrassing for Sully, he wasn't even invited to the draft after two seasons of solid numbers at Ohio State.

    The draft day freefall actually worked in Sullinger's favor, though. By falling to Boston at No. 21, he'll be surrounded by a veteran team that is a perennial championship contender.

    He'll be mentored by one of the game's greatest big men in Kevin Garnett, and the presence of Bass will take pressure off Sullinger's ailing back.

    As for what he can do for Boston, Sullinger is an old-school power forward who makes up for his lack of athleticism with a high basketball IQ and endless hustle. He's listed at 6'9 but he has a 7'1 wingspan and a knack for being in the right position to pull down rebounds.

    Sullinger reminds me of Kevin Love when Love came out of UCLA. Neither have great leaping ability, but they are both scholars of the game that know how to be in the right position when the ball is in the air.

    The former Buckeye doesn't offer much defensively, but he gives the Celtics another offensive presence in the paint who can throw his big body into defenders and wear opposing bigs down.

    With new motivation and a great core and coaching staff around him, Sullinger has everything he needs to succeed. If his back holds up, he's going to make teams pay for passing on him.

9. Marquis Teague, PG, Chicago Bulls

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    Like Jared Sullinger, former Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague benefits from falling into a great situation. He slid to No. 29, where he was picked up by the Chicago Bulls, who were desperate for point guard help with Derrick Rose nursing an ACL injury.

    The timetable for Rose's return is uncertain. He could be out until January or possibly miss the entire season. In the meantime, the only person standing in Teague's way is veteran C.J. Watson. Watson dropped the ball a bit as Rose's fill-in, averaging 9.7 points in the regular season and 7.3 in the playoffs.

    If Watson continues to show he's not starter material, that could open the door for the 19-year old Teague. Like Rose when he first entered the league, Teague doesn't offer much from long range but has a quick first step and great athleticism.

    On a team that features stars like Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, there will be less pressure on Teague to carry the Bulls from an offensive standpoint. With Rose out, Teague will get a trial by fire of life in the NBA and how he handles it could spell doom for Watson once Rose comes back.

    The opportunity is there for Teague to join a long line of point guards who were picked late in the draft but went on to become stars. Some of the names on that list are Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker.

    That's pretty good company to be in for a young point guard and Teague has the chance to be an important part of one of the game's elite teams.

8. Terrence Ross, SG, Toronto Raptors

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    Things are starting to look up for the Toronto Raptors. They managed to bolster their backcourt with the recent acquisition of point guard Kyle Lowry, and they got a real sleeper in former Washington Huskies sharpshooter Terrence Ross.

    If they can manage to swap point guard Jose Calderon for a decent big man, they could be a sneaky team to watch next season.

    As for Ross, he joins a young team that already has rising star DeMar DeRozan and former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani. Ross is a tall, lanky guard/forward who reminds some of former Lakers guard Eddie Jones. He has a solid jumper, finishes well on the break and is an avid defender.

    Ross showed flashes of brilliance at UW, and the same can hold true in Toronto. With Lowry now in the fold, the Raptors have yet another offensive weapon, which will make life easier for Ross. He can slip into the starting five and feast on open jumpers while teams focus on Bargnani and DeRozan.

    With his ability to produce on both ends on the court, Ross can become an integral part of this Raptors team. His ability to shoot offsets the style of DeRozan, who is more of a slasher. Ross can also make things exciting when he gets hold of a loose ball on defense.

    Ross is a nice dark horse when picking under-the-radar nominees for the Rookie of the Year. He's in a great position to succeed as another piece on a team that suddenly looks pretty interesting. With so much focus on those around him, Ross can carve a name for himself with his eclectic skill set.

7. Jeremy Lamb, SG, Houston Rockets

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    Houston had three first-round picks in last week's draft, and any one of them could make their case to be on this list. Royce White can play small or power forward and he's a good rebounder with a decent jump shot. The same for Terrence Jones, another combo forward with real potential.

    The highlight of that group, to me, is former Kentucky guard Jeremy Lamb. Lamb is a freakish athlete with amazing length. He stands 6'5 but has a 6'11 wingspan, which will make him a pesky defender for years to come. He has a great jumper and can be very dangerous if allowed to catch and shoot.

    The only potential obstacles is Lamb's lanky frame and the presence of veteran Kevin Martin. Martin is currently entrenched at shooting guard and it remains to be seen if the team decides to trade Martin or move him to small forward to make room for Lamb.

    With so many young guys with potential on this Houston roster, moves are going to need to be made to give the team a more defined rotation.

    White and Jones are the team's future at forward, but they join a crowded depth chart with Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris on the roster. It will be tough to find playing time for everyone.

    With Lamb, his presence on the court with Martin makes the Rockets more devastating on offense. Both are very talented shooters with the long arms to be make things difficult in passing lanes.

    Lamb is a better finisher than Martin and, as the younger and cheaper option, the team may be more inclined to turn things over to him sooner rather than later.

    For now, Lamb is another weapon on a team filled with young talent. If he gets the opportunity to get significant minutes, I like his chances of outshining his fellow rookie teammates as well as a lot of other rookies in this year's class.

6. Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State Warriors

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    Harrison Barnes is another rookie who fell to a team that had a huge need at his position. The Warriors desperately needed a young small forward, as Richard Jefferson is too long in the tooth to be a part of the team's future plans.

    With Barnes falling to them at No. 7, Golden State has what looks to be an excellent starting five. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the backcourt, Barnes rounds out a group that includes All-Star big men David Lee and Andrew Bogut.

    Barnes had a ton of hype during his North Carolina career and critics spent a lot of time picking him apart last season, especially during the NCAA Tournament. The main weakness for the former Tar Heel is his inability to create shots for himself.

    However, Barnes is a good spot shooter and he makes his mark with the team by giving them another premier shooting option besides Curry.

    Barnes may turn out to be nothing more than a Glen Rice clone who relies too much on his jumper. Keep in mind, though, that Rice made a great career out of being a one-dimensional shooter.

    Barnes may not be the superstar many thought he would be early in his North Carolina career, but he fits in perfectly on a Warriors team that desperately needed someone of his ilk.

    He was the missing piece to a young starting five with a lot of potential, and he could be the key to the Warriors' rise going forward.

5. Thomas Robinson, PF, Sacramento Kings

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    Thomas Robinson puts the word "power" in power forward. He's a strong, athletically-gifted rebounder with a high motor that brings an intensity to the game that is almost Kevin Garnett-esque. In Sacramento, he'll team with center DeMarcus Cousins to give teams nightmares on the block.

    Robinson has a 7'1 wingspan at 6'9 and has the hops to become a good defender. He isn't afraid to mix it up in the paint to crash the boards, and his jumper is decent enough that teams have to pay attention to him if he decides to step back.

    The former Kansas Jayhawk doesn't have much of a back-to-the-basket game, but he's aggressive enough inside to get his points at the line. His energy and intensity is a welcomed asset to a Kings team that too often lacked hustle.

    He's going to be a perennial double-double machine and, while I have no problem with the Bobcats' selection of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, I think he'll make Charlotte regret passing on him.

    You can't knock how things turned out for T-Rob, though. He joins a team that could develop into something, and he and Cousins can become one of the best interior 1-2 punches in the game if Cousins has his head on straight.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is going to succeed this season by default. As arguably the best player on one of the worst teams in the sport's history, MKG is going to be spending the bulk of his debut season carrying the Bobcats on his back.

    Kidd-Gilchrist brings many things to the table. He's won on every level he's played at from high school to college. He's the poster child for hustle and hard work.

    He brings it every second of every game and that type of motor is bound to rub off on a young team searching for a leader. He's at his best attacking the rim and will eventually become one of the league's best finishers.

    There are some negatives, though.

    While he possesses all the intangibles to be a leader on this team, his overall skill set isn't suited to being the best player on the team. He's going from a loaded Kentucky team where he was the second or third option to being the alpha dog on a hapless Bobcats team.

    Also, for all his athletic prowess, Kidd-Gilchrist doesn't have much variety to his offensive game. He isn't a great shooter and he's not going to stretch the floor. It will be interesting to see how he overcomes his limitations on a team with not much talent around him.

    MKG was still a good pick for the Bobcats at No. 2. He'll go hard every play, crashing the boards and playing tough defense. The hope is that his intensity rubs off on guys like Kemba Walker and Tyrus Thomas and the Bobcats rise from the depths of the NBA's cellar.

    When you're talking "impact," MKG will have the most of any rookie in this draft because he has to. He's the team's best player by leaps and bounds, and it will be interesting watching him go from sidekick to franchise cornerstone.

    Teams will continue to be successful by having guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on their team. It just remains to be seen whether having a guy like that as your best player can translate to success. It's seem to work for MKG everywhere else he's been.

3. Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards

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    If I had to make a pick right now for Rookie of the Year, it would be Bradley Beal.

    While undersized for a two-guard at 6'4, Beal has a strong build and I like the way he attacks the basket. He's a bit like the Hornets' Eric Gordon. He's a good shooter but isn't afraid to drive to the hoop and make plays. I also think having John Wall in the backcourt with him will pay dividends for him.

    The Wizards lacked a pure scorer, and new acquisitions Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor are more defensive-minded players. Beal fills that scoring void and takes pressure off Wall to carry the team every night.

    Beal and Wall will form one of the quickest guard tandems in the game, and it will be tough to stop them if they get on a fast break.

    Washington won't be very good but they'll be fun to watch. If the right things bounce their way, they could challenge for a playoff spot. Ariza and Okafor might be overpaid but, if their defense helps set up transition baskets, they'll help guys like Beal and Wall flourish.

    It will be interesting to see how Beal defends NBA shooting guards, but his well-rounded offensive game will allow him to make an immediate impact on a Wizards team sorely needing a talented scorer.

2. Austin Rivers, SG, New Orleans Hornets

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    Like Bradley Beal in Washington, Austin Rivers enters a situation in New Orleans where his offensive talents are desperately needed.

    Outside of fellow guard Eric Gordon, the Hornets don't have another player on the roster who can provide consistent offense. Fellow rookie Anthony Davis will need time to refine his offensive game. The same can't be said about Rivers, though.

    Rivers is a dynamic scorer with a great pedigree, as he's the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. He's a good shooter and is very good at creating his own shot. He's a solid athlete with a great first step, and he'll be even more dangerous when he shares the court with a guy like Gordon.

    What will allow Rivers to have an even bigger impact, however, will be whether he can show the team he can be an NBA point guard.

    Rivers played mostly shooting guard in college, and his average of 2.3 turnovers a game at Duke is a bit disheartening. He's not much of a passer but, hopefully, those are things that can be developed quickly.

    At the end of the day, the Hornets' best hope will be attacking teams with the Gordon-Rivers-Davis trio every night. If Rivers can handle the point for New Orleans, his selection at No. 10 will be a steal.

    His talents as a scorer will provide the most immediate impact for the Hornets, but he'll only be more valuable if he develops as a passer.

1. Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Hornets

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    In his 25 observations about the NBA draft, ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin said that Anthony Davis' ceiling is mega-star and his basement is franchise power forward.

    Davis' immediate impact for the Hornets will come on the defensive end, as he's coming off a freshman season with Kentucky where he averaged nearly four blocks a game. His offensive game is a work in progress, but Davis' promise has fans in New Orleans excited.

    If Davis becomes everything many expect him to be, his impact won't be able to be stated into words in this piece. Even when New Orleans had Chris Paul, free agents didn't flock to play in New Orleans.

    Anthony Davis could change that.

    It's one thing to bring your talents to the hardwood and become a great player on the court. It's another thing when your presence changes the culture of an NBA franchise and catapults them into instant relevance. The Hornets aren't just on the rise. They are on the verge of something big.

    Davis has the potential to make the Hornets something that nobody contemplated them being since the days of Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson: NBA title contenders.

    It all starts with health. Davis gave Hornets fans a scare when he sprained his ankle last week. The NBA has been riddled with big men taken No. 1 overall that have seen their careers derailed by injuries. New Orleans needs Davis to be less Greg Oden and more Tim Duncan.

    Time will tell whether Davis lives up to the hype. What we know is this: If Davis is on the court, he's going to hit the boards hard and contest any shot that comes within his 7'6 wingspan.

    His continued progress will make the Hornets a very intriguing team next summer with a star-studded free agency class and a ton of cap room.

    The expectations are huge and understandably daunting for the 19-year old Davis, but they will pale in comparison to the Hornets' fortunes if he manages to play closer to his ceiling than his basement.