NBA Rookie Ladder: Who Will Be the Top 10 Rookies of 2013?
Can you smell that? It's the scent of a freshly picked batch of NBA rookies less than two months away from attempting to distinguish themselves from the rest of a deeply talented 2012 draft class.
Though we have yet to see what any of the rookies can do in meaningful action, the summer league—and in Anthony Davis' case, the Olympics—has helped us get a feel for which budding young athletes are destined to shine right out of the gate.
They'll be the ones who make the transition from college to the pros appear seamless. They'll be the players who avoid the dreaded rookie wall. They'll be the athletes who lay down a blueprint for their team's future success without delay.
And most importantly, they'll be the ones contending for the highly coveted honor that comes with being named the Association's Rookie of the Year.
10. Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets
Believe it or not, Donatas Motiejunas does exist.
Though Motiejunas spent last season in Europe, he's poised to take the NBA by storm this year.
The forward-center may not have been a member of the 2012 draft class—he was drafted in 2011—yet it's easy to see how refined of a scorer the 7-footer really is.
While Motiejunas needs to add some bulk to his frame, he's improved his aggressiveness on the glass and repeatedly demonstrated his superior range on the offensive end in the summer league.
For a Rockets team in limbo, the big man will be heavily relied upon to bring some offensive intensity in the low post, especially considering Omer Asik is next to useless on that side of the ball.
And he's up to the challenge.
9. Perry Jones III, Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook, watch out, you have another extremely talented forward to ignore in transition.
Strength of his knee aside, Perry Jones III was a steal for the Thunder.
Jones is no Kevin Durant, but he's an athletic freak who's perfect to back up the lanky swingman.
Not only can Baylor's finest score from anywhere on the floor, but he's a deft shot blocker and rebounder, with a penchant for making smart decisions with the ball—a new concept for the turnover-happy Thunder.
While rookies can often struggle to make an immediate impact on a contender, Jones will be an exception. He's simply too versatile to shelf and has too much to prove to not unleash his inner aggressor.
Think of Jones as this year's Norris Cole, only he plays a different position, is bigger, stronger, more versatile and likely to climb higher up the impending season's rookie ladder.
8. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Cheering for the Warriors can often be as taxing as listening to Skip Bayless talk about, well, anything.
Enter Harrison Barnes.
Golden State managed to land the most athletic swingman in this year's draft and it will be rewarded handsomely for doing so.
Barnes is incredibly adept at creating his own offense, but moves without the ball in an almost Ray Allen-like fashion.The rookie struggled to develop offensive efficiency while playing in Las Vegas, but a mere five games is hardly enough to render him inconsistent.
The fact is, given significant playing time, Barnes' inside-out abilities create a matchup headache for even the most suffocating of defenders.
So, despite a lukewarm summer league display, bank on Barnes' versatile offensive skill set to carry him near the top of this upcoming season's rookie ladder.
7. Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers
Portland is the perfect situation for Meyers Leonard.
Not only will the 7'1" center be immediately inserted into the starting lineup, but he has the opportunity to play alongside a star in LaMarcus Aldridge, who knows a thing or two about offensive prowess.
By himself, though, Leonard is already an impressive two-way prospect. He's a strong rebounder and interior defender, and boasts impressive mechanics on the offensive end.
Not many big men are able to shift gears as effectively as Leonard can either. He can adjust his game to fit any system or pace, and balances a soft baby jumper with fierce finishes at the rim.
I'm not going to lie, centers making the jump from college to the pros have it tougher than anyone; their positional expectations and execution change drastically from one level to the next.
But, courtesy of a high basketball IQ and favorable landing spot, Leonard will prove to be one of the hottest rookie commodities of the 2012-13 campaign.
6. Thomas Robinson, Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson is one of the most NBA-ready rookies, and not even the Kings can ruin that.
Though the freakishly athletic specimen struggled to find his groove in the summer league, he still showed an inclination to hit the glass hard and finish strong at the rim when given the opportunity.
And while the usually efficient power forward was erratic at best from the field, he was spending far too much time camped out on the perimeter, outside of his natural range; the rookie was forced to create his own offense, which isn't his strong suit, especially from behind the block.
So, despite a tepid summer league and Sacramento's tendency to render its newcomers a little more than useless, we have to believe in Robinson. He's a double-double machine with great hands, quick feet and superior awareness.
Given the opportunity to play within his comfort zone, he'll excel to the point of interior domination.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is going to do the unthinkable this upcoming season—instill hope within a seemingly hopeless Bobcats organization.
Horrendous jump shot aside, Kidd-Gilchrist is as fundamentally sound of a rookie as the NBA will see. He's a lockdown perimeter defender with swift hands and sharp footwork, and his ability to get to the rim is nothing short of painstaking—for opposing defenses, that is.
The small forward is going to receive plenty of playing time on a Charlotte roster nearly void of proven talent, setting the stage for him to pick up right where he left off in the summer league.
And for a Bobcats team that saw spotty development from both Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker last season, Kidd-Gilchrist's immediate impact is invaluable.
After all, watching the former Kentucky Wildcat contend for Rookie of the Year honors is as close to winning as Charlotte will come next season.
4. Jeremy Lamb, Houston Rockets
The Rockets have done nearly everything wrong this offseason, yet Jeremy Lamb's addition is an exception.
Lamb is an exceptional scorer who stretches defenses wafer thin. He's also a willing rebounder and perimeter defender, rendering him a younger and more well-rounded version of Houston's own Kevin Martin.
And playing within a rotation in flux, Lamb is bound to receive ample playing time, which is all he needs to show his worth, as his summer league averages of 20 points and over four assists per game indicate.
So, while it's a bit early to declare Lamb a future star, the rookie with a seasoned jump shot is all but guaranteed to rise above most of his peers and claim his place among the most elite of first-timers.
3. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
John Wall, allow me to introduce you to Washington's source of perpetual offense.
While Bradley Beal is easily one of the best shooters coming out of the draft, he's far from a one-trick pony. The essential combo guard can score from anywhere on the floor, in however manner you can imagine.
And the buck doesn't stop there.
On defense, Beal's defensive anticipation is through the roof—an aspect of his game that receives almost no recognition because of the high-scoring highlight reel he is on offense.
The Wizards drafted a statistical and intellectual gem in Beal, and he'll immediately elevate the team's level of play on both ends of the floor.
No, Washington won't see the light of the postseason, but Beal will generate plenty of Rookie of the Year chatter.
And for now, for a reeling Wizards team struggling to establish an identity, that's a sign of hope.
2. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Only a handful of even the best NBA rookies are headed for stardom, and Damian Lillard is one of them.
Lillard, like his teammate Meyers Leonard, will have the luxury of starting immediately, and will be running the offense for a team with plenty of options.
And while we can chastise his court vision and inconsistent defensive sets all we want, Lillard took great strides toward becoming a collective playmaker and diligent defender toward the end of his college career and during his time in Las Vegas.
This kid has anything but a shoddy work ethic, and when you combine a prolific scorer with a willingness to evolve and refine his skill sets, you may be witnessing greatness in the making.
From Day 1.
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets
Fans know they're about to bear witness to a unique talent when an athlete is invited to join Team USA before he even suits up for his first official NBA game.
That's right, I'm talking about Anthony Davis, an athletic freak who excels in all facets of the game.
Not only is the power forward a shot-blocking connoisseur, but he's a rebounding machine, who despite a lanky frame, can battle down low against the meatiest of big men.
Offensively, Davis isn't too shabby either. He leaves plenty to be desired when his back is to the basket, but he's a great face-up scorer, with a strong handle on the ball and penchant for finishing strong at the rim. And let's not neglect to acknowledge his limitless range, as that's sure to exploit many a defender for years to come.
Unlike some of his peers before him, Davis needs to be great; New Orleans is depending upon him to lead the franchise to the type of glory days its never known, even with Chris Paul.
Can he do it? Will Davis actually live up to lofty expectations?
Speaking on behalf of the NBA's 2013 Rookie of the Year, I'm here to tell you that yes, he can.