5 Biggest NBA Rookie Sleepers Heading into 2012-13
Most of the players named to the NBA's All-Rookie teams each year were lottery picks in their prospective drafts, but that may not be the case this year.
While Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a number of high selections figure to have strong freshman campaigns, there are some not-so-obvious names that will turn a few heads this season. And what makes this rookie crop even more interesting is that many of its future stars weren't even drafted at all.
Despite all of the money spent on scouting and talent evaluation each year, there are always those special talents who don't get the attention they deserve. So before the 2012-13 season gets underway, let's take a look at the five biggest rookie sleepers in the NBA.
5) Kim English, Detroit Pistons
With only four guards currently under contract for the Detroit Pistons, Kim English is all but certain to log a healthy amount of minutes during his rookie season.
English had a strong showing at April's Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (18.3 PPG), and he followed that up with a solid run in the Orlando Pro Summer League last month (11.4 PPG and 3.8 RPG).
The 6'6" English isn't a prolific shot creator, but he should be able to space the floor for his teammates. "Kim English is the type of guy you have to have on your team," Pistons president Joe Dumars told Keith Langlois of the team's official website.
If nothing else, English figures to be the Pistons' designated long-range specialist. In his senior season at Missouri, English shot a scorching 45.9 percent from beyond the arc.
4) Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets
More than a year after he was selected with the No. 20 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Donatas Motiejunas finally made his debut with the Houston Rockets at the Vegas Summer League in July.
It was a debut worth waiting for.
Motiejunas shot 11-for-13 from the field and finished with 25 points and nine rebounds in just 25 minutes of action. Not only did the 7'0" center show a vast array of low post moves, but he also displayed a legitimate stroke from three-point range. In four summer league contests, Motiejunas averaged 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 62.2 percent from the field.
All of his statistical production was accompanied by a not-so-subtle dash of confidence. Opening night is still months away, and Motiejunas has already displayed more fire than most European players show in their entire NBA careers.
"This is the thing: either they will kick my (butt) or I will kick their (butt)," Motiejunas told Rockets.com last month. "If you’re scared to be here, then sit on the bench."
3) Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn Nets
The re-signing of Deron Williams was the key to the Brooklyn Nets' offseason, but the team's least-heralded move of the summer might turn out to be one of its best.
Brooklyn signed Mirza Teletovic to a three-year, $9 million deal last month, and the 6'9" forward is considered by some to be the best power forward in Europe.
At the very least, he was one of the best players in the top-level Spanish league last season. In 10 games with Caja Laboral, Teletovic averaged 21.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as he was named to the All-Spanish ACB League Team.
With his versatility, Teletovic is more than capable of playing both forward spots in the Nets' rotation. So while the names Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries have considerably more star power, it may be the Bosnian-born Teletovic that makes the biggest impression in Brooklyn next season.
2) Jae Crowder, Dallas Mavericks
Trying to fit Jae Crowder into one of the five standard basketball positions is an exercise in futility. While he's technically a small forward, the 6'6" Crowder has the skill set of a power forward and the jump shot of a shooting guard.
Define him how you wish. The bottom line is that few players in the NBA—regardless of size—have a motor that's in the same class as Crowder's. The former Marquette star is 235 pounds of kinetic energy—hustling for rebounds one second and giving opponents fits on defense the next.
"Jae is probably viewed as one of the top two or three hardest-playing guys in the draft, just in terms of his energy and how he goes at it," Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle was quoted as saying.
Dallas has a logjam at both forward positions, but Crowder is so talented and versatile, there's a very good chance that he'll be able to carve out significant playing time almost immediately.
1) Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves starting lineup just became a bit more diverse with the addition of Russian shooting guard Alexey Shved. After starring for the past six years overseas, the former CSKA Moscow standout is now looking to shine on basketball's biggest stage.
If Shved plays anything like he did against Argentina in the bronze-medal game at the 2012 Olympics (25 points, seven assists, five rebounds), then his three-year, $10 million deal could be the steal of the summer.
The 6'6" Shved excels with the ball in his hands, but he's a well-rounded player with a solid skill set. With Ricky Rubio as his running mate in Minnesota, there's a very good chance that Shved could be named to one of the NBA's All-Rookie teams next year.