Very Early Predictions for the 2012-13 NBA All-Rookie Team
There's more at stake as a rookie in the NBA than most people realize.
Every incoming athlete has a thirst to prove himself, but his performance—however impressive or unexpected—means little without the proper recognition.
And that's where the All-Rookie teams come in. If a player is able to earn such an honor, it's as tangible a justification to his first-year talent as there is.
We can say Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played well, but does that really mean anything if they're not officially recognized as the league's top rookies?
No, at least not as much as it could; statements, sentiments and scouting reports can only push a reputation so far.
Because nothing matches the praise and validation a neophyte receives when he is named to an All-Rookie squad. Nothing at all.
Second Team: Kendall Marshall, PG, Phoenix Suns
Kendall Marshall may be hesitant to look for his own offense, but I'm anything but hesitant to believe there's All-Rookie honors in his future.
In fact, if his playing time wasn't directly impacted by the Suns' acquisition of Goran Dragic, I'd have him as a member of the first team.
Because as timid as Marshall can be on his own account, he's as aggressive as any point guard already in the league at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates.
That's right, you're looking at the best playmaker to come out of the entire draft. He averaged nearly 10 assists per game last season at North Carolina and has a knack for wreaking unselfish havoc off pick-and-rolls and drive-and-kicks.
Marshall is also one of the best ball-handlers of his class, mastering the art of cautious quickness. He has a great first step and can attack from any angle of the court.
The only thing that's left to do is for Marshall to become a little more selfish. And on a Phoenix team that desperately needs scoring output from its backcourt, he should be forced to do just that.
Second Team: Jeremy Lamb, SG, Houston Rockets
Think of Jeremy Lamb as younger version of his now-teammate Kevin Martin—just with a smoother shooting motion, quicker first step and defensive conscience.
On second thought, scratch that because—at least on the Rockets—Lamb is in a league all his own.
The inbound shooting guard has the potential to get it done in all facets of the game. He's got quick hands and feet on defense, and can score under any offensive circumstances.
Though he's probably most effective as a pull-up jump shooter, he won't hesitate to attack the basket or shoot with his lightening-quick release coming off screens.
And to top it all off, he's as efficient as they come on the perimeter; he averaged 17.7 points on 47.8 percent shooting from the floor at Connecticut last year.
Factor in his above-average rebounding prowess, and the Rockets may have just landed themselves the steal of the draft.
Second Team: Perry Jones III, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder landed themselves a gem in Perry Jones III.
Injury issues aside, Jones has the makings of the perfect—and more importantly, immediate—backup to Kevin Durant.
Like Durant, Jones is extremely athletic and can score from anywhere on the floor, and like Durant, he hoards rebounds with the best of them.
Unlike Durant, though, Jones is a skilled shot-contester. He won't pile up the blocks every night, but he's great at reading pump-fakes and contesting shots without fouling his opponents.
Jones will never be the scorer that Durant is, but he still has the ability to put points on the board. His heightened defensive awareness only further ensures he'll receive ample playing time in Oklahoma City out the gate, providing him with plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
Oh, and to bring in a healthy portion of All-Rookie votes as well.
Second Team: Thomas Robinson, PF, Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson visibly struggled to make adjustments in this year's summer league, but the athletic demon should have no problem finding his niche by season's end.
The power forward out of Kansas is perhaps the strongest finisher of his rookie class. He's great at rolling off screens and cutting to the basket, and is a decent enough ball-handler to where he can attack the lane and breach the rim on his own.
As for his rebounding, though? That's a different story—but only because he's an absolute beast on the glass. He averaged nearly 12 per game in his last season at school; he has no trouble boxing out his opponents and his vertical reach ensures he'll never be out-maneuvered.
The key for Robinson moving forward, though, is to ensure he plays where he feels most comfortable, within 15 feet of the basket.
While he has the potential to knock down some jump shots and defend from the top of the key, his performance isn't as natural there as it is down in the low block.
It's there he can overpower defenders en route to an easy basket. It's there where he can develop a tendency to body-up against opponents on the defensive end.
And it is his performance there that will earn him the right to be named to an NBA All-Rookie team.
Second Team: Meyers Leonard, C, Portland Trail Blazers
At 7'1", Meyers Leonard is big, which is just what the Blazers needed after addressing their vacancy at point guard.
Though he's considered a slight project and isn't especially athletic, he moves well for someone his size and can be a dominating presence on the defensive end.
The 20-year-old is also an excellent shot-blocker—he swatted away nearly two shots per game last season at Illinois—and gives Portland another strong hand on the glass.
Offensively, Leonard needs to refine his post game, but he already has the ball-handling skills necessary to do so. From here on out, it's all about patience and enhanced anticipation.
And with the Blazers in need of some immediate relief in the paint, expect to see Leonard starting alongside LaMarcus Aldridge immediately, a player he can learn from on offense and bail out on defense.
Those are hardly unfavorable circumstances. In fact, Leonard is in a near-perfect situation, pressure of potentially starting aside.
And that alone should be enough to propel him to an All-Rookie team.
First Team: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers' rookies are going to be very busy this season.
Damian Lillard, the NBA summer league's co-MVP, will be handed the offensive reins from the get-go in Portland. While that puts added pressure on him to perform, it also gives him additional playing time in which to learn and showcase his far-reaching abilities.
The former Weber State point guard is as talented of a scorer as this summer's draft had. He's great at attacking the rim and an efficient shooter from the outside as well; he averaged 24.5 points on 46.7 percent shooting from the field last year.
Though the Blazers' newest floor general will need to hone his playmaking abilities and learn to set up his teammates more frequently, what he lacks in unselfishness, he makes up for in rebounding.
Lillard is easily the strongest rebounding guard coming out of the draft and his aggression on the glass is only matched by his will to, well, score.
Portland is still trying to forget about the disaster that was Raymond Felton last season, and courtesy of Lillard's versatile skill set, said disaster should be but a distant memory by next spring.
First Team: Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal can be described with two words: Adaptive and crafty.
Simply put, the wily shooting guard is good at anything he sets his mind to, within any position he is put in.
No, Beal won't wow you with his athletic ability, but he'll destroy the opposition with his superior shooting touch, resourceful ball-handling, savvy rebounding (6.7 per game at Florida last year) and intellectually based defense.
This is a kid who can make a two-way impact without even blinking. He's not very big, but he can play either the 1 or 2, and excel at both. Because as voluminous a scorer as he has the potential to be, he's also modestly unselfish.
And while his passes won't always lead directly to a basket, it's his willingness to pass out of double-teams or feed the bigs down low instead of forcing the action himself that must be acknowledged here.
This summer, the Wizards set out to draft John Wall a capable sidekick who could relieve some of the offensive burden and thrive in transition.
In Beal, Washington got just that. And so much more.
First Team: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte Bobcats
If the Bobcats have any reason to be optimistic for the immediate future, it's because of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The small forward out of Kentucky won't overwhelm you in one aspect of the game, but that's okay, because he's efficient in all aspects of the game.
Kidd-Gilchrist is easily the best perimeter defender entering the NBA, someone who's great at anticipating first steps, pump fakes, spins and even how the passing lanes will unfold.
The former Wildcat is no stranger to hard work on the glass either, as he grabs boards with a toughness that implies he's much taller and more defined than he actually is.
Offensively, Kidd-Gilchrist has some work to do. His jumper is borderline broken and he has this Kendall Marshall-like hesitance about him when it comes to looking for his own offense.
That said, he's extremely effective when attacking the basket. He's a great ball-handler with the coordination necessary to navigate his way in and out of the paint until he sees a definitive opening.
No, Charlotte's head is anything but above water. However, with Kidd-Gilchrist in the fold, on his way to All-Rookie honors, there's reason to believe the team will climb out from the depths of oblivion one day.
First Team: Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Hornets
There's nothing Anthony Davis can't do.
The lanky big man out of Kentucky is easily the most versatile player coming out of the draft. He's a defensive powerhouse, with the tools necessary to develop into an unstoppable scorer as well.
Though Davis is in need of adding some definition to his otherwise fragile frame, he has managed to establish himself as a terrific rebounder and deft shot-blocker nonetheless. His defensive quickness and timing are superior, and he can guard any position on the court.
And while Davis has plenty of work to do on offense, he's already proven to be a multi-faceted scorer. Not only can the power forward step back and hit both mid- and long-range jumpers, but he has the ball-control necessary to take his defender off the dribble as well.
Yes, Davis' post game is anything but refined and he will have to pack on some muscle if he wishes to bang down low with the NBA's bigs on a daily basis, but the stage is set for him to become an immediate star.
One who not only earns an All-Rookie selection, but Rookie of the Year honors too.
First Team: Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas will prove to be worth the wait for the Raptors.
After playing overseas in Europe last season, the seven-footer is officially ready to make his NBA debut, and Toronto couldn't be more ecstatic.
Though Valanciunas earned his claim to fame courtesy of his rebounding prowess and penchant for disrupting shots, he's also proved to be more than capable on the offensive end.
The big man has a great touch around the basket and has incorporated a baby hook shot into his arsenal that has proven tough to defend thanks to his monstrous wingspan.
Valanciunas does need to increase his range—he's most comfortable within 10 feet of the basket—and exude more control with his back to the basket, but what he lacks in self-indulgent playmaking, he makes up for in off ball movement and a quick release.
So, while it remains unlikely that the Raptors have the depth necessary to clinch a playoff berth this season, Valanciunas' relatively polished two-way impact will bring them that much closer.
And earn him the right to pitted among the same class of rookie as Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis