Comparing Every Rookie 1st-Round Pick to a Former Rookie of the Year
With training camp less than a month out and rookies excitedly looking to make their mark on the NBA, their styles of play will invariably be compared to someone who laced up their shoes in past years.
After the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft was completed, college stars Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Jeremy Lamb all heard their name called by David Stern. They'll also all hear their name called in comparisons of their game as they progress in their careers.
Since those comparisons are already in progress, let's take a look at a more interesting aspect of these first-round rookies and what kind of ceiling they might have. All will be vying for the elusive Rookie of the Year award, and these comparisons could turn into a benchmark for what kind of season each will need to take home the award at season's end.
1. Anthony Davis: Lew Alcindor
Before he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lew Alcindor won the rookie of the year award as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1969-1970 season. He had just finished another national player of the year, first-team All-NCAA and championship season at UCLA, which is the same criteria boasted by Davis.
Both men have similar body types and their college resumes might have been more similar if all the Kentucky talented hadn't bolted for the NBA after their championship last season.
But Davis has a long ways to go to match the NBA's all-time leading scorer on the offense end. On defense, Davis is supposed to bring some of the same shot-altering ability that Alcindor did during his early days as a Buck, but it remains to be seen if he can dominate both ends of the court.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: Vince Carter
Carter and MKG both played their careers at distinguished programs, and both had a slew of talent on their teams with NBA potential.
Kidd-Gilchrist had one of the greatest groups of draft prospects out there, while Vince Carter boasted Antawn Jamison and a collective cast of talent.
Game-wise, both were proficient in college at running the fast break and getting above the rim. Of course, Carter is one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the league, and comparing him to MKG isn't exactly fair.
But if anyone can do it, it's Kidd-Gilchrist, who enters the Charlotte lineup in a similar way that Carter did in Toronto — without much help and a heavy burden to score points for the offense.
3. Bradley Beal: Mitch Richmond
Richmond, who made the title slide picture, was integral to the "Run TMC" offense that Golden State employed over the course of their heyday in the early part of the 1990's. He played well off of Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin, scoring over 20 points a game during his time in the trio.
Beal enters a similar situation in Washington, where he and John Wall will form a duo looking for someone else to step up and be a part of their big three. Richmond won the rookie of the year award while averaging 22 points a game for the Warriors, and Beal should put up similar numbers in an offense that will center around Wall's ability to create for teammates.
The 1989 rookie of the year bounced around after "Run TMC" broke up, but he still was a scoring threat and eventual NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. Beal has a similar ability to score from both outside and at the rim, just like Richmond did in his first year in the up tempo Golden State system.
4. Dion Waiters: Dave Bing
Dave Bing was a graduate of Syracuse University, and the winner of the 1966-67 award. A member of the Detroit Pistons, Bing was an undersized combo guard at 6'3" and 180 pounds.
Waiters, also an ex-Orangeman and somewhat undersized for the role scouts envision him to play in the NBA, is out to prove that he's no slouch at either guard position. He's 6'4", but supposed to join Kyrie Irving in the Cleveland backcourt and play off the ball.
Bing was no slouch, averaging 20 points per game for his NBA career and throwing in six assists just for good measure in 12 seasons. Though many were surprised Waiters went at No. 4 after only one college season, he's got some serious skills. However, he's got a long way to go to catch Bing.
5. Thomas Robinson: Maurice Stokes
If you've never heard of Stokes, the big man who averaged close to 17 rebounds per game before a horrific injury derailed his life and career, you should do so.
The descriptions of his game are close to that of Robinson, who put up big numbers in his final two seasons at Kansas. Both Stokes and Robinson are big men, somewhat undersized for their position, who used good body positioning and determination to take care of the glass on both ends of the court.
Here's hoping Robinson doesn't compare to Stokes in the injury department. He and DeMarcus Cousins make up an exiting new front court for the Sacramento Kings, and is capable of putting up a double-double every game -- something he's shown during his collegiate career.
6. Damian Lillard: Steve Francis
"Stevie Franchise" was known for his slick handles, ability to get above the rim as a smaller guard and a bad attitude that followed him from the time he was a first round pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies.
Lillard, the impressive Las Vegas summer league Co-MVP with Josh Selby, has similar handles, is similar in size and has the ability to score the ball in the same way Francis use to during his time with the Rockets, Magic and Knicks.
Francis shared the ROY award with Elton Brand in the 1999-2000 season. Lillard is my dark horse for the award, especially after summer league and his place as the starting point guard in new Portland head coach Terry Stotts' rebuilding effort.
7. Harrison Barnes: Grant Hill
Barnes and Hill will probably face each other quite a bit this season, as Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers are set to play each other multiple times this season.
Both small forwards come from the ACC, and played in opposite schools in one of the fiercest rivalries college sports has to offer -- North Carolina and Duke.
Many thought Barnes would enter the draft after his freshman season, but he stayed, and is likely better for it. He has all the talent of a guy like Grant Hill, who was a four-year letter winner at Duke, but didn't stay long enough to turn it into the kind of numbers Hill put up in college.
Barnes should find other comparisons of high-character, hard-working players that made a name for themselves for many years in the NBA.
8. Terrence Ross: Walter Davis
Davis was known as "The Man with the Velvet Touch" during his playing days with the Phoenix Suns. He had a smooth stroke from mid range, and was about the same height and weight as Ross during his playing days.
Averaging 24.2 points during his rookie campaign earned him the award, and it's going to take a similar season to win Ross the award, as well.
Here's a look at an old VHS tape for season ticket holders that had highlights of Davis, Larry Nance and Alvin Adams, three of the best Suns in franchise history.
As for Ross, he'll have to compete for time with new Raptor Landry Fields for playing time, which makes it unlikely he'll be able to match Davis' stellar rookie campaign. Still, these two are eerily similar, so look out for good things, Raptor fans.
9. Andre Drummond: Emeka Okafor
While the obvious correlation to both men playing at Connecticut is there, there is also the fact that both were standouts in the Big East on defense and were both high draft picks.
Certainly Drummond has more upside than Okafor, even though the latter was the No. 1 overall pick and a ROY winner. They will see plenty of each other this year in the Eastern Conference, since Okafor has joined the Washington Wizards in the offseason.
Drummond didn't have the collegiate career that Okafor did, but their presence on the defensive end is similar, and they should be fun to watch go head-to-head all season.
10. Austin Rivers: Allen Iverson
Iverson and Rivers were both prolific collegiate scorers, and both did it at programs that are powerhouses among their prospective conferences.
Iverson led the league in scoring four different seasons, and is widely considered the best undersized shooting guard in the history of the league. Too high of praise for Rivers, you say?
Well, Rivers only spent the one season in college, he averaged 15.6 points per game on 45 percent shooting. How that translate to the NBA remains to be seen, but there is evidence to suggest Rivers might be the purest scorer in this entire draft.
It's likely going to take several seasons to live up to anywhere close to Iverson in his prime, but having Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon on the same team will help.
11. Meyers Leonard: Don Meineke
Meineke was the inaugural winner of the Rookie of the Year award after the 1952-53 season as a center for the Fort Wayne Pistons. "Monk", as he was known, led the league in fouls and totaled 26 DQ's the year he won the award, a mark that still stands in the league.
I see Leonard having some of the same trouble in his first year in the league. He's an accomplished college athlete after spending two seasons and averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds this past year, but he'll jump into a role meant for Greg Oden and not filled but any of the potential candidates Portland brought in over the years.
Meineke was a bit undersized at 6'7", but he averaged 10 points and about 7 rebounds for his career, which would be great for Leonard alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and for the Blazers.
12. Jeremy Lamb: Darrell Griffith
Griffith was known as "Dr. Dunkenstein" for his ferocious attacks on the rim. Lamb did a nice job of throwing down dunks of his own in college, and has a nice reputation for attacking the rim that should shine in Houston.
Also, a little known fact about Griffith is despite only averaging 33 percent from the three-point line for his career, he led the league in percentage from downtown during the 1983-84 season.
That wouldn't win in today's NBA, but you must also factor in that it was a different time back in the 80's, when the three-point line was just coming into popularity among players. Lamb has similar skills and athleticism that Griffith also possessed, and Lamb has an outside chance to win the award.
13. Kendall Marshall: Mark Jackson
Jackson had the ability to lead a team like very few point guards in the league during his time. His leadership, fiery attitude and ability to hit big shots made him a valuable teammate for guys like Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing.
Marshall possesses some of the same attributes and his leadership will come in handy once he takes the reigns in Phoenix. Both point guards are excellent, unselfish passers and share an ability to find ways to win.
14. John Henson: Ralph Sampson
Henson loses five inches on Sampson, the former Houston Rockets standout that formed one of the first "twin towers" with Hakeem Olajuwon. However, their games and styles of play are similar in more ways than one.
The tall, lanky forward/centers have good back to the basket games, and both had/have the ability to step out and knock down the mid-range jumper.
Here's hoping Henson doesn't have the same medical problems as Sampson, who had his promising career derailed by injury when he was in the midst of averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game playing next to Olajuwon side-by-side.
15. Maurice Harkless: Kevin Durant
This one is sure to rouse the feathers of Thunder faithful. Harkless didn't put on the offense show that Kevin Durant did at Texas. He doesn't even really play the same position, as some scouts project him to be a power forward.
But the body types are similar, neither can bench press a wet mop and if Harkless ever learns how to shoot a jumper, he has the athletic ability to get to the same type of spots that Durant does on the court with ease.
Both were freshman when they entered the NBA draft, and while Harkless won't come close to matching Durant's scoring prowess, he should progress nicely in his career considering he averaged 15 points per game as a freshman at St. John's.
16. Royce White: Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor was a true triple-threat in the game of basketball, as he could score at will, pass the ball to teammates like he was a point guard and fight amongst the trees for rebounds with the best of them.
White has the same kind of ability at his position. He and Draymond Green were the only real triple-double threats every time they walked out on to the court this past NCAA season. White single-handedly led Iowa State into contention in the tournament, where they put up a good fight to eventual champion Kentucky.
If White has half the career that Baylor did, it should be considered a success. Baylor also was knocked out of his final college game by the same Wildcats that beat White in 2012.
17. Tyler Zeller: Bob Pettit
Pettit was the third recipient of the award, on his way to an NBA MVP award and multiple NBA All-Star game MVP's. He averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds in his rookie season, good enough for the award and a benchmark for his career.
Zeller doesn't have the scoring ability that Pettit did, but Pettit was Mr. Consistency during his time in NBA, and that's what Zeller should aim to be.
If he can average 13 and 10 for the duration of his career, then he's had a successful mark on the team's he will have played for, just like Pettit.
18. Terrence Jones: Larry Johnson
Both Johnson and Jones were highly touted high school players, carried that over to their college days at competitive programs and were first round picks in their respective drafts.
They're close to the same height, and have some of the same athletic ability and versatility that allows a player to play and defend multiple positions at any time.
Jones is in a crowded Houston front court, and won't have the same opportunity to carry the load like Johnson did during his early days with the then Charlotte Hornets. But he will have a chance to impact the game the same way Johnson did and is an interesting prospect going forward.
19. Andrew Nicholson: Chris Webber
Webber was fresh off of his timeout debacle in the national championship game during the 1993-94 season when he won the ROY award with the Golden State Warriors.
He and Nicholson are both versatile rebounders and scorers at their position. Unlike Webber, Nicholson's final game in the collegiate ranks was a memorable one, and helped solidify his stake in the NBA draft.
Nicholson also had a nice summer league, finishing as a first-teamer at the Orlando league for the hometown team.
Webber could score from almost anywhere on the court, and despite mental lapses at times, he was also one of the smartest players at his position during his time in the league. Nicholson will have a chance to prove he belongs in Orlando, where almost no big names remain and he should see time right away so the coaching staff can gauge his progress.
20. Evan Fournier: Rick Barry
Most fans remember Rick Barry for his outside shooting touch and "granny-style" free-throws, but before that, he fearlessly attacked the rim and still managed to be one of the league's leaders in scoring before an aging body forced him to shoot it more from the outside.
Fournier has one of the same strengths that Barry had early in his career. He can get to the rim at will, which is what Denver is counting on during his time with the team. Hopefully, he'll be able to develop the same kind of jump shot to preserve his career the same way Barry did.
It's unlikely he ever puts up the prolific scoring numbers that Barry did during his prime, but Fournier has a similar ability to score the ball that Denver hopes will come in handy off of their bench.
21. Jared Sullinger: Wes Unseld
Sullinger and Unseld were both considered undersized for their position, but that didn't stop either from putting up nice college careers that included trips to the postseason. Heck, Sullinger even looks a little bit like the 1968-69 Rookie of the Year.
Unseld led the league in rebounding once and was among the league leaders in the stat almost every year he played. His award-winning rookie year he averaged 18.2, which is a benchmark Sullinger hopes to achieve in Boston playing alongside Kevin Garnett and fellow rookie Fab Melo.
Sullinger will have to claw and fight his way for position the same way Unseld did in his Hall of Fame career, but if his college career was any indication, he will get even stronger and more determined in his pursuit of rebounds and a name for himself in the NBA.
22. Fab Melo: Ray Felix
Ray Felix was a center for the Baltimore Bullets when he won the second annual ROY award, and he did so with 17 point and 13 rebound per game averages in 1953-54.
Somewhat of a forgotten man, he only spent 10 years in the league before dropping out of the minds of fans and into the record books. He finished his career with averages of 10.9 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Melo doesn't exactly have the scoring chops to compete with Felix, but the Celtics expect him to be a force on defense and on the glass. He's a quiet kid that's had some off the court problems, and I have a feeling his time at Syracuse will be forgotten in the near future, even though he took home the Big East player of the year award last season.
23. John Jenkins: Mike Miller
Does anyone even really believe that's Miller in the photo? He was a young kid with a great ability to pour it in from the outside, which is what Atlanta finds in John Jenkins.
Jenkins is looking to fill some of the offense that is leaving with Joe Johnson, and he'll look to do so in a very Ray Allen-like way, running through screens and taking perimeter jumpers.
Like Miller, Jenkins has more to his game than just a good jump shot. We might not see it on display any time soon, but the skills are there for Jenkins to be a solid scorer when he is given starter's minutes, which he might get right away in Atlanta.
24. Jared Cunningham: Earl Monroe
It takes a bold man to compare Earl "The Pearl" Monroe to anyone. I'll take that risk and also take Cunningham to make one word about his game be similar to Monroe: Smooth.
Cunningham was smooth on both sides of the ball at Oregon State, earning All-Pac 12 honors and leading the conference in steals at 2.2 per game.
Monroe was the definition of smooth during his time with Wes Unseld and the Bullets. His game on the court was like the ball and his hand were one unit, and that was rare during his time in the league. Cunningham hopes to have the same kind of effect for the Mavericks, who are in desperate need of help in the guard play-making department.
25. Tony Wroten, Jr.: Derrick Rose
Wroten comes out of college with seemingly the same strengths as Rose, showing a great ability to go in and both finish and rebound with bigger players.
The weaknesses are also similar to Rose, specifically a below average jump shot and questionable decision-making at times. Luckily for Wroten and the Grizzlies, Rose was able to fix those two aspects of his game en route to an MVP.
It's unfair to put those kind of expectations on Wroten, especially considering he will be the backup in Memphis and and will need some development before he's ready to be the unquestioned leader of a team. But he's got a Rose-like ability to go to the basket, and that should show during his rookie season.
26. Miles Plumlee: Tom Heinsohn
Heinsohn was both a player and a coach for the Boston Celtics dynasty, winning the award after the 1956 season and in the middle of the Bill Russell-led Celtics reign. He was a smart player who averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds for his career.
Plumlee strikes me as a similar type of player, with the ability to out-work others and the potential to become a coach and/or broadcaster down the line.
There aren't many clips of Heinsohn to compare with Plumlee, but here's one of his broadcasting chops, where he absolutely demolishes the referees during a Celtics game.
27. Arnett Moultrie: Terry Cummings
Cummings put up the best numbers of his career when he won ROY, posting 23 points and 10 rebounds per game while playing power forward and center for the San Diego Clippers.
He never lived up to those numbers for the rest of his career, but he established himself as a solid role player at his position. He had a nice jump shot to go with some athletic post moves, which fits what Moultire did in college to a T.
Moultrie should be the same kind of player for the 76ers, with his outside jump shot nicely complimenting his post moves and rebounding ability. If he puts up 23 and 10 for the Elton Brand-less 76ers, then they are doing all right in the Eastern Conference.
28. Perry Jones: Jamaal Wilkes
"Silk" Wilkes was one of the best shooters and players the game had to offer during the late 70's and 80's winning championships with both the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.
Jones was nothing if he wasn't slick at Baylor, but he also was considered disengaged and uninterested at times, which made his average games seem really bad. If he has the potential to take over games, which he showed in college, he should be more involved than he was when he disappeared in some of Baylor's losses.
Wilkes was one of the most consistent players on some very good, championship caliber teams. Jones should be the same type of player immediately in OKC, where he won't be pressured to be "the guy" behind a superstar like Kevin Durant.
29. Marquis Teague: Chris Paul
Teague was the floor manager for the best college team in the nation last season, and he had to manage six players that are now on NBA rosters. He did so with poise not usually associated with a freshman, and he turned out to be the fourth point guard taken in the draft.
Paul was also a game manager at Wake Forest, taking care of the ball and putting together some nice statistical numbers, but nothing close to the kind of player he has become in the NBA.
The upside could be similar with Teague, who has seemingly already passed his brother in terms of potential in the minds of scouts. He'll get his chance with Derrick Rose out for the first part of the season, and his play could be key to keeping the Bulls in the mix until Rose can return.
30. Festus Ezeli: Woody Sauldsberry
The last pick of the first round might be the least likely to win the award, but the man who he is getting compared to won the award after being drafted in the 8th round in 1957. He went on the win the award after the 1958 season was over.
Sauldsberry put together modest numbers for a center/power forward, finishing with 10.7 points and 7.8 rebounds. Ezeli could be a similar type of talent for the Warriors, who seem to always be in the market for a good center.
They're set with Andrew Bogut, but his injury problems are a concern. Who knows, maybe Ezeli will creep up and win the award like Sauldsberry did back in 1958. Stranger things have happened, and that's one of the great things about Rookie of the Year, and NBA awards in general.
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