NBA: Top Rookies Bound to Struggle in Debut Seasons
For some NBA rookies, the transition to the NBA appears seamless, as every year a select group of first-year players electrify the league, producing at a high level and giving ailing fan bases a reason to cheer. Players like Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose are heralded as stars from day one, and through their success, they gain the confidence needed to excel at the NBA level.
However, the jump to the NBA is not so smooth for all rookies. For every Griffin there is a Jordan Hill, for every Irving a Jimmer Fredette. It is inevitable that, each year, some rookies will adapt faster to the NBA game than others.
And so, we take a look at some of this year's top draft picks who are bound to trip, slip and stumble their way through their inaugural season.
Kendall Marshall, Phoenix Suns
School: North Carolina
Goran Dragic is on the verge of a full breakout season with the Suns, and minutes will be scarce for Kendall Marshall backing up such a talented young veteran.
Marshall has great vision and can score when he wants to. The problem: He almost never wants to. In order to free up his teammates, Marshall needs to draw opposing defenders, and that means attacking the lane and being a threat to score.
Marshall should get some spot minutes playing alongside Dragic and should learn a lot from the guard who was mentored by Steve Nash. But it will take time before he has the opportunity to produce at a high level.
Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets
Austin Rivers is a talented scorer with a slick handle, but he enters a less-than-ideal situation with the New Orleans Hornets. Rivers will be asked to learn the point guard role and will likely get a ton of minutes at that spot considering the only true point guard on the roster is Greivis Vasquez.
Unfortunately, Rivers simply does not play like a point guard. Rivers can create shots but only for himself. He is turnover prone and has minimal experience at the point guard position. But with Eric Gordon locked into the shooting guard spot for New Orleans, Rivers' only chance at playing time may come at the point.
Rivers should be a solid pro, but first he will need to figure out his position.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond attracted a lot of attention coming out of high school, but after an underwhelming freshman campaign at UConn, don't expect him to have much of an NBA impact right away.
Drummond has great size (6'10", 270 pounds) and looks like a premier shot blocker, but his offensive game and decision making are severely lacking. He will struggle to stay on the court early in his career.
Drummond's main issue may be that he spends too much time developing the wrong skills. In summer league, he showcased a smooth one-footed step-back jumper, but looked completely lost in post ups and failed to achieve any sort of offensive rhythm.
Drummond looks to be one of many big men struck with the bug of trying to play like a guard, and if he wants to succeed in his rookie season, he needs to hone in on developing the skills that will allow him to do so.
Fortunately for the Pistons, Drummond just turned 19 and still has plenty of time to develop.
Thomas Robinson, Sacramento Kings
After a phenomenal junior season at Kansas, Robinson should step right into the starting power forward role for the Sacramento Kings, where he will have the misfortune of joining ball-demanding head case DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings are made up of a whole lot of players who love to score, but not too many who love to facilitate. As a rookie, Robinson should do a great job of pulling down boards and defending the paint. However, he may struggle to find touches offensively while playing alongside players like Cousins, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans.
Even when he does get the ball, there is no guarantee Robinson will score. He certainly wasn't an efficient scorer in the summer league, where he shot 34 percent from the field and 54 percent from the line.
Robinson will be a great pro down the line. His heart, athleticism and drive will ensure that. However, on a team as dysfunctional as the Kings, success might not come right away, even if the minutes do.
Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Dion Waiters, like Rivers, is a dynamic shooting guard blessed with great athleticism and rare finishing ability.
However, unlike Rivers, he will not be asked to play much point guard in his rookie year. Kyrie Irving will make sure of that.
Waiters will have the opportunity to play in his position, but that hardly guarantees a successful rookie campaign. Waiters was easily the most disappointing player in the summer league, shooting just 30 percent from the field and 17 percent from three-point land while failing to make significant contributions in other areas.
Waiters has the potential to be a great player, but the Dwyane Wade comparisons seem a tad overdrawn.
After serving as the sixth-man for Syracuse during college, Waiters may be best suited to that bench role and could struggle in his debut season to win the approval of coach Byron Scott through his questionable defense and poor shot selection.