The 2012-13 NBA regular season should be an exciting one to watch for local Kentucky basketball fans. Six former stars from the national championship-winning roster will make their professional debuts, with some even pairing up with other Kentucky greats on the same roster.
With that being said, all six players have different expectations set upon their shoulders; whether it be because of the team they fell to or their draft status. Therefore, the following slides will go into detail about the different set of expectations placed upon each player during their rookie year in the NBA.
Of all the Wildcats that were drafted, perhaps none of them will face less pressure out of the gate than Doron Lamb. He is being drafted to a Milwaukee team that needs a shooter off of the bench, so Lamb fills a need in that area.
At the same time, the Bucks have low expectations for next season, and Milwaukee generally stays out of the limelight and avoids major media attention that other teams receive in abundance.
Therefore, Lamb should be able to avoid immediate scrutiny while also securing a spot on the roster that only he can currently fill. Playing behind starting guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, Lamb should be the first guard off the bench and can sub in at either spot because of his skills as a backup point guard.
He will not get starter minutes quite yet, but playing in Milwaukee should allow Doron to develop at his own pace. At the same time, learning from a player like Ellis should help Lamb achieve consistent success in the NBA sooner rather than later.
Rookie Expectations: Sixth Man, efficient scorer off the bench.
Darius Miller gets to reunite with former Wildcat teammate Anthony Davis as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. He was drafted in the second round, and has plenty of skills and intangibles to bring to the franchise.
From the outset, Darius's leadership qualities will be relied upon in the locker room. The Hornets feature a very young team, and Miller will likely be one of the oldest members on the roster. With his championship pedigree and great leadership qualities, he should be a great locker room presence for the rest of the team's prospects.
With that being said, Miller is also expected to make an impact on the court. New Orleans lacks options at the small forward position; only Al-Farouq Aminu stands betweeen Miller and the starting lineup. Aminu is a superior athlete, but Miller has a higher basketball IQ and a superior perimeter stroke.
Therefore, it is likely that Darius will find some playing time early on his NBA playing career. He should settle in as the backup for Aminu and could even spare other players playing the shooting guard or power forward spot as well.
It is unlikely that Miller starts during his rookie season, but he should receive plenty of minutes and could provide great intangibles and versatility on the roster.
Rookie Expectations: Role player, versatile backup for multiple positions.
Marquis Teague committed to Kentucky and followed in the footsteps of John Wall and Brandon Knight as Calipari's next great point guard recruit. They were big shoes to fill, but Teague developed over the course of the 2011-12 season and eventually became a national champion.
He falls into a similar situation with the Chicago Bulls. The team drafted him No. 29 overall in the draft and are expected to give him plenty of minutes early on. Teague will be the backup point guard to another Calipari guard in Derrick Rose once he returns from injury.
However, Teague could be named the team's starting point guard early in the season while Rose is recovering from surgery. This will be a golden opportunity for Marquis to prove his worth as a young point guard and to solidify rotation minutes once Rose returns.
There will be some bumps along the way, as he has a lot to learn in becoming an NBA-level point guard. However, he proved at Kentucky that he could improve and lead his team to the highest of heights. He hopes to receive a similar opportunity while wearing the red and white of the Chicago Bulls during his rookie season.
Rookie Expectations: Starter while Rose is out, potential sixth man once Rose returns to lineup; permanent backup point guard.
No player on this list plays on a stranger roster than Terrence Jones. As a member of the Houston Rockets, he is simply one of multiple wing players who stand 6'8" or higher on the team.
Featuring former Wildcat greats Patrick Patterson and Josh Harrellson places a strong local focus on the Rockets. All three players play similar positions on the court, so it is unsure how they will all fit together with the rest of the team's forwards that they have acquired during the NBA offseason.
One good sign for Terrence Jones is his quality performance at the Las Vegas NBA Summer League. He scored beyond double figures in every game and also played ferociously on the boards. Being a so-called "tweener" makes it that much more important for Jones to find a few areas in which to excel, and rebounding should be one of them.
Another strength comes on the defensive end. Terrence is a great shot-blocker and averaged nearly two per contest during his Kentucky days. If he can keep up that energy and focus while on the basketball court, then he will likely ensure a spot in the main rotation, and could even challenge for the starting power forward spot now that mainstay Luis Scola has been amnestied.
Jones faces plenty of pressure in his rookie season simply because of the amount of competition on the roster, but head coach Kevin McHale likes his style of play and should give Jones a chance to play some key minutes for the team next season.
Rookie Expectations: Sixth or seventh man in rotation, solid-impact rookie.
There is a good possibility that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist turns out to be the best rookie in this entire draft class. He announced his presence in a big way during his first NBA Summer League game, in which he carried the team on offense and was a disruptive force on defense.
Finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals, Kidd-Gilchrist displayed his all-around game that most other players do not possess at his age. He was the emotional leader for Kentucky's national title team and appears ready to become the vocal leader for an NBA team in his first professional season.
His never-ending motor and relentless play on defense will cause havoc for the opposing team and should lead to a culture change for Charlotte, who endured the single worst season by any team in the league's history.
On top of that, Michael is a capable player on offense and defense, and should fill up the box scores like no other rookie. He will receive plenty of playing time and should be a serious contender to win the Rookie of the Year award by season's end.
Rookie Expectations: Challenger for NBA Rookie of the Year, high-impact starter, terrific defender and transition finisher.
Let's just face it: Anthony Davis is having the single greatest season by any college basketball player in history. Seriously, what hasn't he accomplished during his lone year playing for the University of Kentucky?
First, he breaks the school record for blocks in a season—only midway through the schedule! Next, he sweeps all of the National Player of the Year awards. Davis follows that up with a nomination to the First Team All-America roster.
Meanwhile, he breaks the NCAA record for blocks by a freshman. Then he leads the Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship and is named as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
His journey to the NBA culminated by being selected first overall in the NBA draft. Now to top it all, he is playing for the USA Men's Basketball team in the 2012 London Olympics—before playing a single minute as a professional!
In other words, Anthony Davis has had a fabulous year of basketball and has lots of hype building up about his impact on the league as a rookie. It is unknown how he will develop, as his offense is certainly raw and he needs to strengthen up badly.
Yet here he is holding his own against the best basketball players in the world and bonding with the likes of Kobe Bryant. Davis is facing a ton of pressure as the franchise-savior for the Hornets, but so far he is handling everything in stride and is experiencing the greatest learning experience that any rookie can have.
He should have a similar impact to Blake Griffin's rookie season, albeit with more emphasis on defense than offense. Davis will not be a superstar from the get go, but he will establish himself as a future dominant force during his rookie season.
Rookie Expectations: Rookie of the Year winner, high-impact starter, near the league lead in blocks.