Predicting the 2012 NBA Rookie Disappointments
With the 2012-2013 NBA season less than two months away, the speculation grows over how the rookies selected in this year's draft will fare in their inaugural seasons.
Herein lies the crime of which every basketball fan is guilty: overhyping the new guys. We all do it, and if you haven't, chances are you will at some point or another. This is something that all fans do, and when their favorite rookies disappoint, it's as though there was a death in the family for the guilty fan.
Now, that isn't to say that all of the rookies who have bad first seasons will be horrible forever. In some cases, they won't be fully to blame.
For example, Phoenix Suns point guard Kendall Marshall isn't going to put up any impressive numbers this season, but he's also the third-string floor general behind veterans Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair. If certain rookies aren't getting any significant minutes, then who are we to call them disappointments after they spend most of their first year in the NBA riding the pine?
That being said, I have gone through the list of players drafted and picked five rookies who are sure to get plenty of playing time at the start of the season. Once the season is a couple of months old, however, chances are they will be sitting at the end of the bench.
That's because, in their rookie campaigns, these players will do anything but impress.
5. Jeremy Lamb, Houston Rockets
In two years at UConn, Lamb established himself as a talented shooter who could also do some fine work above the rim. In his sophomore season, he averaged 17.7 points while shooting 33 percent from long range. Once draft night rolled around, Houston selected Lamb with the 12th overall pick.
Now, to Lamb's credit, out of all of the rookies on this list, his season will probably be the least disappointing. He has a natural shooting touch and is the heir apparent to Kevin Martin, who will probably have left Houston via a trade or free agency this time next year.
Yet, his lack of a defensive game and reliance on his jump shot will hurt him in coach Kevin McHale's system, which demands excellence on both sides of the floor.
That said, don't expect Lamb to be anything more than maybe a bench shooter this year. He'll get maybe around 20 minutes per game, but his work under the basket and in the midrange will be minimal, as he will probably struggle mightily in both areas.
4. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Shutdown defense has been a problem for the Pistons ever since Ben Wallace left via free agency back in 2006, so it's pretty clear what GM Joe Dumars was looking for when he drafted Drummond ninth overall in June. The 6'10", 270-pound big man from UConn averaged 10 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in his sole season with the Huskies last year.
Yet, his role with the Pistons this season is unclear. ESPN has him as a backup to starting center Greg Monroe, but what about the team's situation at power forward? Charlie Villanueva is too soft to stand and bang under the basket, while Jonas Jerebko is very hit or miss.
Either way, regardless of where he plays, Drummond's rookie season is destined to be disappointing. Not only is his offensive game very limited, but his approach on defense seems a bit lackadaisical at times.
On top of that, there have been questions about his attitude. Thus, with a tough-as-nails coach in Lawrence Frank and a fanbase that will demand results immediately, don't be at all surprised if Drummond's numbers his rookie year are a bit low despite his freak athleticism.
3. Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers
Now that drafting Greg Oden over Kevin Durant has proven to be one of the worst decisions in league history, the Portland Trail Blazers have hit the reset button in their search for a reliable young center who can man the middle with finesse and dominance.
Unfortunately, drafting Meyers Leonard out of Illinois with the 11th pick may prove to be another bad decision. While he has good size at 7'1" and 245 pounds, Leonard carries the possibility of becoming either the next Arvydas Sabonis or the next Shawn Bradley. He'll either be very good or god-awful.
That isn't to say that Leonard won't enjoy a long NBA career. Should he stay healthy, his size will help him find work as a shot-blocker wherever such work is needed. Yet, his college stats from last year say it all.
In his sophomore season, Leonard averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Given his size advantage over most college players, don't those stats seem a bit low?
On top of that, while strong in his upper body, Leonard's footwork is a bit slow for the NBA. When it comes time to face experienced centers, he'll be tossed around like a ragdoll. Throw in disappointing numbers, and his rookie year will be a great disappointment.
2. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
When I watched Waiters during his sophomore campaign at Syracuse last year, he looked like a more electrifying Landry Fields. He could score, shoot from long range, play tight defense and even dunk.
By season's end, he posted averages of 12.6 points and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 36 percent from long range. Sure enough, the Cleveland Cavaliers took him with the fourth pick.
Yet those skills will only take Waiters so far in the NBA. While he shot 48 percent from the floor last year, a third of his shots came from long range. On top of that, at 6'4", he doesn't have the necessary size nor speed to drive the lane and stand and bang with bigger players on the NBA level.
Thus, as a rookie, he'll probably become a bench shooter/pest who gets 18 to 20 minutes per game, maybe more if the game becomes a blowout early. Since the Cavaliers see him as a shooting guard, if he wants more minutes, he'll need to round out his game more on the interior than on his jump shot.
1. Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets picked Rivers with the 10th pick, and out of all of the rookies drafted this year, he is the one who would have benefited the most from one more year at college. In his lone season with the Duke Blue Devils, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers averaged 15.5 points while shooting 36 percent from downtown.
Those numbers aren't bad for a freshman at all, but the fact that Rivers was little more than a shooter in his one college season made one wonder why he was entering the draft so early.
Once the NBA Summer League began, it was clear that Rivers was unprepared for how outmatched he was on the professional level. In two games, he averaged just 10 points while shooting an atrocious 21 percent from the field and 12 percent from long range. Worst of all, he only shot 61 percent from the charity stripe, which is unacceptable for a shooting guard.
That said, unless he has been practicing every day since the summer league ended, Rivers is going to be in for a rude awakening once the season starts.
Given his legendary attitude, he'll spend the season chucking up three-pointer after three-pointer until New Orleans coach Monty Williams decides he has had enough and places the rookie on the bench. The fact that he's undersized for his position at 6'4" won't help Rivers either.
Simply put, barring an attitude adjustment, his rookie season is going to be the most disappointing of all, particularly since his father was an NBA All-Star as a player and has been to the NBA Finals twice with the Celtics, winning a ring in 2008. I guess genetics can only go so far, huh?