2012 NBA Draft logo2012 NBA Draft

Early NBA Rookie of the Year Award Predictions

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIJuly 25, 2012

Early NBA Rookie of the Year Award Predictions

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    A new era of basketball is upon us. A youth movement has begun with one of the deepest draft classes in the history of the NBA. From explosive athletes to the fundamentally sound, every one of the players drafted has the potential to spend quality time in the NBA.

    They also have the potential to push the aging right on out and insert themselves amongst the NBA's elite in no time at all. The question is, which rookies are ready to make that leap?

    The first step towards that level of recognition, of course, is each player going through their rookie season.

    From the trials of adjusting to the pace of the NBA to the glory of establishing themselves as legitimate weapons, this year's class of first-year players will set a new pace for future generations.

    The question is, who will emerge as the best of the best? With our first look at this year's Rookie of the Year award chase, the following slides will answer that very question and more.

Honorable Mention: John Jenkins, Atlanta Hawks

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 21

    College: Vanderbilt

     

    Making His Case

    Everyone loves a sharpshooter. It just so happens that John Jenkins is the absolute best jump shooter in this entire draft class.

    And don't think Atlanta will allow that to go by unnoticed.

    Jenkins will play a key role in the Hawks' run to the postseason. He's an elite spot-up marksman who also thrives off the catch-and-shoot. Jenkins is also better at taking an opponent off the dribble than he's given credit for, although his bread and butter will be working with the point guard to create open looks.

    Something that he's more than capable of doing. Something that will garner recognition as one of the best young shooters in the game and in turn bring him into the conversation for Rookie of the Year voting.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    8.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 39.4% 3PT

10. Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 20

    College: Ohio State Buckeyes

     

    Making His Case

    Jared Sullinger of the Ohio State Buckeyes will have season averages that suggest mediocrity. Much like Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets, however, that will simply come as a result of a long progression of increasing playing time.

    Many have referred to Sullinger as a carbon copy of the Boston Celtics' current power forward, Brandon Bass.

    Sullinger is actually a much more complete player than Bass, as his low-post game is much more well-honed and his rebounding ability is far superior. Even on defense, Sullinger is a much better option.

    With that being said, Brandon Bass is clearly the NBA-ready player. This will offer him a significant advantage in terms of playing time and Sullinger will not see the court early on.

    As the season goes on, however, Sullinger will find the court more often and produce accordingly.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    9.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG

9. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Position: Power Forward/Center

    Age: 18

    College: Connecticut

     

    Making His Case

    Andre Drummond is one of the true enigmas of this class of rookies. On one hand, you have an explosive athlete who has drawn comparisons to Dwight Howard. On the other hand, you have an intelligent player whose basement is that of a starter in the game for the next 10 years.

    No matter which distinction he lives up to, Andre Drummond will be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

    Greg Monroe has become the face of the Detroit Pistons' franchise for his well-honed offensive skills. He's also one of the more passive defenders in the NBA and he struggles mightily in the defensive low-post.

    This simply opens up opportunities for Drummond to be involved on a surplus of defensive plays. It also creates chances for him to crash the offensive glass and make his name known as a force in the paint.

    Regardless of how you cut it, Andre Drummond will make his name known from day one in the NBA.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    7.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 0.6 SPG

8. Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets

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    Position: Power Forward/Center

    Age: 21

    College: N/A

     

    Making His Case

    Donatas Motiejunas could start for the Houston Rockets at either of their two weak frontcourt positions. As a result, Motiejunas will play a key role in the Rockets' offensive and defensive approach.

    His statistics will impress accordingly.

    While the Lithuanian big man will not lead the Houston Rockets to the postseason, he will establish himself as the next great European player. He's a talented scorer and a monster on the glass who will rival Jonas Valanciunas for the title of "best Lithuanian player in the NBA."

    Monitor that battle with a keen eye, as both men will be involved in the Rookie of the Year hunt.

    Motiejunas is the more offensive-oriented player of the two. He has a smooth stroke with three-point range on his jump shot. While it's far too early to crown him as the next Dirk Nowitzki, his size and shooting ability bear resemblance.

    His outstanding rebounding ability, however, is an entirely different animal.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    12.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 36.0% 3PT

7. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 19

    College: Florida

     

    Making His Case

    The Washington Wizards closed out the 2012 season on an 8-2 run. They have a superstar in the making in John Wall, who is coming off of a season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 8.0 assists.

    Considering Wall had one of the worst supporting casts in the NBA, that assist number becomes all the more impressive. It's also likely to improve with the arrival of Bradley Beal.

    The Washington Wizards have been in need of a spot-up shooter who can work with John Wall on the drive-and-dish. Beal is just that, as his form is impeccable and range is without limit. He's also solid off the dribble and an elite rebounder for his position.

    Throw in his defensive prowess and you have the formula for star potential. Year 1 will offer a preview of those abilities.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    12.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 37.0% 3PT

6. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 18

    College: Kentucky

     

    Making His Case

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is an elite perimeter defender whose mere presence will improve the all-around quality of the Charlotte Bobcats. He's also an explosive athlete who will fit right into head coach Mike Dunlap's uptempo offense.

    Expect big things out of the second overall draft choice.

    Kidd-Gilchrist will make his name as one of the game's best young defenders. His steal and block numbers will be solid, but respect will come from his tenacity and relentless pursuit of containing his opponents.

    The fact that he's capable of putting up 20 points every now and then should only strengthen his case for Rookie of the Year.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    13.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.7 BPG

5. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 20

    College: Syracuse

     

    Making His Case

    Dion Waiters is entering a situation in which his backcourt mate will draw a majority of the attention. He'll also be playing the roles of both lead perimeter scorer and secondary ball handler.

    Consider Dion Waiters' role with the Cleveland Cavaliers similar to the rookie role of one of the game's true superstars: Dwyane Wade.

    Waiters' game bodes eerie similarities to that of D-Wade. He's outstanding off the dribble and attacks the basket without fear. While his jump shot is the furthest from consistent, he's lethal enough without the ball in his hands to make a living around the basket.

    As voters mark their ballots, expect Waiters to sit in their Top 5. He'll score well and even put up solid assist numbers.

    What will truly give him an edge over other competitors for the crown, however, will be his ability to get out in transition. After all, highlight reels are as influential as anything these days.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    16.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.4 SPG


4. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 20

    College: North Carolina

     

    Making His Case

    Harrison Barnes may be in the best position of any rookie in this draft class. He plays the weakest position in an otherwise postseason-ready starting lineup, which means the opportunities to shine will come on a consistent basis.

    Opportunities that Barnes will make the most of.

    Unlike a majority of the other names on this list, Barnes is in a situation in which he's surrounded by veterans. This means that his role will be more defined as he'll be required to focus more on the defensive end of things.

    It also means that he will see more open looks as he will not be forced to take on the role of lead scorer.

    This will lead to one of the game's best mid-range shooters knocking down jumper after jumper and padding the stat sheet.

    The fact that he's solid on the glass, an excellent passer and a lockdown defender will only further placate those who wanted more out of the UNC alum while at the NCAA ranks.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    15.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 SPG

3. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

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    Position: Center

    Age: 20

    College: N/A

     

    Making His Case

    The Toronto Raptors are one of the Top 10 defensive teams in the NBA. They held opponents to just 94.0 points per game in 2012 and did so with a defensively inept Andrea Bargnani and undersized Amir Johnson in the frontcourt.

    Just imagine how dominant they'll be with a seven-footer in the paint who places defense above everything.

    Jonas Valanciunas is not your typical European import. He's a physical defender who gets after the ball and pushes opponents out of the paint. With Bargnani working alongside him, expect the need for his help defense to lead to high block numbers.

    Also expect Valanciunas to control the glass in a way that rookies are not supposed to be able to achieve.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    11.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 0.7 SPG

2. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 22

    College: Weber State

     

    Making His Case

    Damian Lillard has become a fan favorite in no time at all, torching the Summer League for averages of 26.5 points, 5.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.

    While at least one of those averages are likely to go down during the regular season, it's worth noting that those were nearly identical to his college averages.

    Could Lillard translate his dominance after all? Yes. Just not as a rookie.

    Lillard's season will be similar to that of Kyrie Irving's from a statistical standpoint. While his shooting percentages will drop slightly lower, his point- and assist-per-game averages will be close in resemblance.

    This will make him a favorite to win the award in many eyes. Unfortunately, it will not provide enough leverage to overcome Anthony Davis in the pursuit of the rookie crown.

    Damian Lillard, however, will take the fast route to stardom.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    16.5 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 19

    College: Kentucky

     

    Making His Case

    Even as a rookie, Anthony Davis is already an elite interior defender. He's also playing in the Olympics alongside reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and superstar power forward Kevin Love.

    Throw in the influence of championship-caliber veterans Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and you have a rookie whose on-court maturity is bound to be well beyond that of the average rookie.

    Statistically speaking, Davis will be as well-rounded as any in his class. He is much better on offense than most would suggest, pairing a decent mid-range jump shot with the ability to take a defender off the dribble. He's also a dominant shot blocker and will be the New Orleans Hornets' best rebounder.

    Consider him in perfect position to string together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in quite some time.

     

    Projected Season Averages

    10.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.9 BPG, 0.7 SPG

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