Following one of the strongest NBA drafts in recent memory, there are a lot of uncertainties and predictions. Who will perform up to expectations; who will be the biggest steal; who will underwhelm?
It's hard to predict the futures of the newly-drafted NBA players, but you can always make predictions based off of what you've seen.
Here are my bold predictions.
Anthony Davis will end up as one of the top five power forwards in the NBA, if not the best in the league. It says a lot that he is an Olympian before even playing an NBA game.
Although Davis should achieve long-term success ahead, I'm not sure it will happen right out of the gate.
Davis had problems in college with big men that were bigger than him. Not height- or length-wise—Davis has a big advantage there—but strength-wise. I see Davis struggling at first adjusting to the strength of NBA players.
Although he isn't strong enough now, history shows that many of today's elite players put in the work to get stronger. Just look at LeBron James and Dwight Howard, who were as thin as Davis coming into the league. Howard could now easily be mistaken for a bodybuilder to someone who doesn't follow sports.
Davis will put up pretty solid stats in his rookie year—enough to make the All-Rookie first team—but he will not win the Rookie of the Year award.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was one of my favorite players coming out of college for a reason: The guy just plays his heart out and does what he needs to win.
Although he is limited offensively with his ability to penetrate, Gilchrist will come into the NBA and be a top defender right out the gate.
He won't make the All-Rookie first team is because of the situation he's stuck in.
Being drafted by a team like the Charlotte Bobcats, which needs a scorer more than anything, will not help him early on. They will look to him to create on offense and be a No. 1 or No. 2 option to Kemba Walker, but he is not ready to carry the offensive load yet. This will force him into low shooting percentages and high turnover averages early on.
Although he will struggle offensively in his rookie year, MKG has the work ethic and will adapt to the NBA and hone his skills on that side of the ball.
Beal is a scorer. He knows how to get his shot off, even with his size disadvantage. He's also a good spot-up shooter and can take it to the rim due to his strong upper body.
Beal has a chance to lead the team in scoring and ease some of the burden put on Wall. Beal's scoring will allow Wall to focus on setting up his teammates and playing great defense like he's shown he can.
Dion Waiters comes from Syracuse University, a school known for running the zone defense. Here is where the problems start.
Waiters struggled greatly on defense in the summer league because he hasn't played man-to-man defense in so long. He's accustomed to the rarely-run zone defense.
Offensively, Waiters is used to being a spark plug off the bench who can light up a scoreboard. He will most likely start and will not be the No. 1 option anymore, which is rightfully Kyrie Irving's role on the team.
Expect Waiters to struggle mightily in his rookie season, leading even more to question his spot as the fourth overall pick in the draft.
This isn't putting down Thomas Robinson in any way. He's one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft, and he has the NBA body and focus to take him a long way. He's shown he can be a beast both physically and on the stat sheet, as he averaged around 18 points per game at Kansas.
The doubts are with how many touches he'll get playing for the Sacramento Kings. Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins are all scorers first, and scorers second.
Robinson is extremely skilled, and he landed on a team that needs a guy to contribute at the power forward position. His production will come in the form of rebounding, tough defense, leadership, discipline and hard work—all traits missing in Sacramento.
The last thing the Kings need is another scorer.
The summer league was proof enough that Damian Lillard is a leading contender for Rookie of the Year. However, he's sure to meet plenty of competition from other talented rookies. What gives him the edge is that he will lead rookies in assists per game.
Lillard was asked to be a scorer at mid-major Weber State, so he didn't pass much, but he has already upped his per-game assist numbers from 4.0 his senior year to 5.3 in the summer league. Conversely, guys like Kendall Marshall had the luxury of having three other first-rounders on their team.
More to the point, Lillard only averaged 15 field-goal attempts per game for Weber State—a low number for someone who was the best player in his division.
This prediction may be realistic, as Marshall won't be starting like Lillard will be from day one due to the Phoenix Suns signing Goran Dragic. Lillard will have the ball most of the time and will create for himself and others.
While Harrison Barnes has a knack for scoring, two players will be in the way of the top spot among rookies: Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard. Both are great scorers who may see a lot more touches than Barnes.
I see Barnes averaging the most points because Stephen Curry is injury-prone. Should Curry go down this year, which I'm banking on, Barnes becomes the No. 2 option behind Klay Thompson on a fast-paced team.
With an NBA-ready body and game, Barnes will use his silky-smooth jumper and uncanny ability to score from anywhere on the court to lead rookies in scoring. Sure, he won't be as ball-dominant as Beal and Lillard, but he can get the job done on offense and should end up being the top rookie scorer.
You'd expect a No. 8 overall draft pick in a stacked class to start right off the bat, but that won't be happening for Terrence Ross—not after the Toronto Raptors gave a large contract to Landry Fields.
Ross will take over the starting spot at shooting guard with DeMar DeRozan moving to the small forward position. Both are athletically gifted with games that complement the other. Ross is a lights-out shooter who can defend, while DeRozan is more of a slasher.
Fields is also more suited to be a backup. He will later find his niche as the sixth man for this young squad, being an all-around threat off the bench with his shooting, defense and elite rebounding for his position.
This is when you search the term "unibrow" and remind yourself who this guy is going up against.
All jokes aside, Anthony Davis is a huge obstacle in Andre Drummond's way to being the leading shot-blocker for rookies, but it can be done. Drummond was a dominant shot-blocker in college, and he is taller and stronger and has a longer wingspan than Davis.
Like Davis, he is also very athletic and can jump with the best. Drummond also has less pressure on him, as he was picked later on in the draft. Both big men will be great defensive presences down low, but Drummond is the more physically imposing of the two, at least in his rookie year.
Remember Drummond should technically be starting his freshman year of college this season, since he opted out of finishing his senior year and went straight to Connecticut.
There are many questions surrounding Austin Rivers. He went into college basketball as the No. 2 recruit in the nation, but he might have disappointed some people with his play at Duke.
Not to say he played poorly, but he didn't dominate college basketball as many envisioned. He still played well, scoring at a high rate.
One issue with Rivers is his ability to create plays for his teammates. After notching low per-game assist numbers at the college level, many expect the same to continue at the professional level.
I'm predicting Rivers to lead the New Orleans Hornets in assists per game. The Hornets backcourt is comprised mostly of scorers like Rivers, but I think he will be most successful finding open teammates, even if it amounts to only four or five assists per game.
His only competition is Greivis Vasquez, who will most likely begin the season starting. But as Rivers slowly takes over, he should become the leader.
Although he is raw offensively, Leonard has soft hands, a strong frame, great athleticism and quickness and a nice release on his jump shot. His hustle and energy will bring him the most playing time, as he can do all the little things.
The only problem is he's a little out of sync and chooses not to do those little things. This will keep him from starting a game for the Blazers, as LaMarcus Aldridge and rookie Joel Freeland will most likely hold down the middle for most of this year.
As he progresses, and if he puts in the right amount of work, Leonard should prove himself as a top-10 center in the future. But as of now, he is a project and needs to earn his minutes.
As a scorer, Jeremy Lamb has a bright future in the NBA. He brings sharpshooting and superior length to his position, and he should be trouble for some defenses to guard.
I predict Lamb to start off his career as a sixth man for the rebuilding Houston Rockets. When it comes to starter's minutes, rookies Terrence Jones and Royce White should give him a run for his money.
Lamb will fully lock up his role as the sixth man though, as long as he shoots the lights out and brings a scoring edge to the Rockets. In the near future, he may even make Kevin Martin expendable.
I see a bright future for Lamb, but he needs to build from the ground up starting off the bench as a key rotation player.
First, he is a below-average athlete. Second, he plays poor defense. These are key factors that will limit his first-year success in the league.
His inability to score won't affect him much—it's not something he needs to do to succeed since he makes everyone around him better. Defense, however, is expected out of every player.
Although he is still raw on offense, he has shown improvement. Combined with his stellar athleticism and shot-blocking ability, one would think it would merit playing time in the NBA. But not when you're paper thin and stuck on a team with options at both big man positions.
I've compared Henson to a poor man's Anthony Davis, but he won't be making as immediate an impact as Davis. He still needs to fill out his frame and gain a couple years of experience to earn playing time.
He has a bright future, but his rookie year won't be that memorable.