It's often said in college sports that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. The same goes for the NBA, wherein players tend to improve by leaps and bounds after their rookie campaigns.
For most, it's a matter of acclimating themselves and their respective repertoires to the speed of the NBA game, the quality of the competition and the rigors of an 82-game season. The process was somewhat skewed for last season's newbies, if only because the lockout resulted in a compressed 66-game schedule that left little time for training camp or in-season practices.
Those rookies who succeeded, then, did so despite being thrown out of the collegiate frying pan and into the professional fire without some of the luxuries usually enjoyed by players of their ilk. As such, it's reasonable to expect that those who fared well under such circumstances will thrive amidst challenging but somewhat less hectic conditions, ones wherein back-to-backs are less prevalent and playing three games in as many nights is practically unheard of.
That won't necessarily be the case for Ricky Rubio and Iman Shumpert, both of whom suffered devastating knee injuries late in the season. Neither will such prognostications apply to Jonas Valanciunas or Donatas Motiejunas, two Lithuanian big men and 2011 draftees who will be debuting in the NBA this season.
For these five sophomores-to-be, though, the experiences of their inaugural season will go a long way toward ensuring further growth and improvement in 2012-13.