5 NBA Lottery Picks with Most Difficult Path into the Starting Lineup
Players selected in the NBA draft lottery are typically expected to come into a team and compete for a starting position right away. After all, the teams that drafted these players need immediate help and the name they called on draft night is seen as a key ingredient in ensuring that these teams aren't in the lottery again the following season. However, cracking the starting lineup of an NBA team isn't always that simple, even for some of the best college players in the country.
While Anthony Davis is sure to start the season as a pillar in the New Orleans Hornets' starting lineup, his lottery-mate Austin Rivers will have a tougher job earning a spot in the first five.
Rivers has an NBA ready game as his shooting, ball handling, and moxie all translate to the pro level quite nicely. However, Rivers comes to Hornets with little experience playing point guard and will have to earn his stripes as playmaker and set up man that can help make his teammates better before he can be trusted to man the point full time.
This means that Rivers will likely begin his pro career as a shooting guard and slotted behind Eric Gordon on the depth chart. This should not be seen as a slight to Rivers, however. Gordon was just inked to a max contract by the Hornets and is seen as a franchise cornerstone in the Big Easy. But it does mean that Rivers will need to wait his turn and learn the nuances of running a team before he can join Gordon in the back court instead of backing him up.
In the long run, beginning his career on the bench could actually aid Rivers' development. He'll be able to learn the pro game behind one of the league's best young shooting guards while also getting a feel for how the game unfolds watching from the sideline. By all accounts, Rivers is a quick learner and should be able to pick up the pro game well. Just don't expect him to be in the starting 5 right out of the gate.
Harrison Barnes was viewed as a great value pick by the Warriors when they were able to snag him at #7 in the draft. His combination of size, shooting ability, and polish make him a strong pro prospect. In the Las Vegas Summer League he exhibited his skill as a scorer and showed good poise against his peers.
However, even after the Dorell Wright trade, Barnes comes to a Warriors team that's crowded on the wing making his ascension into the starting lineup far from a formality. Barnes will need to beat out the returning Brandon Rush, a player that offers a very similar skill set to what Barnes possesses but is a more experienced player. Barnes will also need to prove a better option than Richard Jefferson whose all-around game and veteran leadership will be valued on a young roster that's looking to make the jump from perennial lottery participant to playoff team.
There's little doubt that Barnes will make an impact in his rookie campaign. Coming out of college it was believed his game would translate better to the pros and he's already shown that his jumper is NBA ready over the summer. However, his position on the depth chart is fluid and he may just find himself behind veteran incumbents to start the season.
Terrence Ross comes to the Raptors as a nice shooting guard prospect that should be able to provide the outside shooting this team has lacked from this position in recent seasons. His ability to space the floor from the wing while also showing good ability to get to the basket should give his team a nice offensive addition next season.
That being said, while Ross has good size, it's doubtful that at this point in his career he can play small forward and that lack of positional versatility puts him in direct competition for a starting spot with DeMar DeRozan. At this point in their respective careers, DeRozan is the better player, especially defensively, and that readiness to defend will be a major factor in determining who starts for the defensive minded Dwayne Casey.
When you combine DeRozan's presence with the off-season signing of former Knick Landry Fields, Ross has some good veteran players he'll need to beat out for playing time this season.
In Kendall Marshall, the Suns nabbed the 2nd best point guard prospect in the draft. His ability to run a team and be a fantastic set up man has never been in question and the Suns surely see him as a key player for their organization for years to come.
However, Marshall will have a nearly impossible task of unseating Goran Dragic to earn the starting point guard spot for the Suns this upcoming season. Dragic returns to the Suns as one of the better young PG prospects in the league, flashing a complete offensive game that only continues to grow. Dragic can shoot from the outside, finish at the basket, and create for himself or others in the pick and roll. So while Marshall shows tremendous promise, Dragic is already an impact starter in the NBA.
Marshall's time to start may come one day and there's potential for him to play next to Dragic in small ball lineups should Alvin Gentry decide to take advantage of Dragic's ability to space the floor as shooter by playing him off the ball. However, for now, Marshall is the clear number two behind Dragic.
The second of two lottery selections for the Blazers, Myers Leonard fills a glaring need for his new team with his size and athleticism. Ever since Greg Oden's injury ravaged career never got off the ground, the Blazers have sought a big man that could come in and play next to LaMarcus Aldridge to relieve some of the burden that the all-star big man carries nightly.
While Leonard offers good qualities, there's a question as to whether he's really pro-ready coming out of college. He certainly has an NBA body and his college stats show a very good prospect, but even without a lot of quality centers in front of him on the Blazer roster it may be hard for him to begin the year as a starter.
Instead, the better option for the Blazers will likely be to play small ala the Miami Heat and continue to use Aldridge as the do it all big man. Aldridge possesses enough size and length to play in the post and his ability to play a post up or perimeter game while also being a great option in the pick and roll will keep the lane open and allow the Blazers more versatility on offense.
Leonard will surely have utility as a big man off the bench and there will times he's paired with Aldrdige to give the Blazers the size to better match up with teams like the Lakers. However, most nights, he'll likely start the game as a reserve.