10 NBA Rookies Destined to Struggle in Their 1st Season

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IISeptember 25, 2012

10 NBA Rookies Destined to Struggle in Their 1st Season

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    Every rookie entering the 2012-13 season thinks that he has what it takes to compete for the 2013 Rookie of the Year award and become a legitimate star in the NBA.

    The unfortunate truth, as history has taught us, is that most rookies will struggle during their first year in the league.

    Of the 60 rookies drafted this past June, only a handful will go on to have superstar-caliber careers in the NBA. The majority of the rest will either struggle or have mediocre careers.

    Ahead is a list of 10 rookies from the 2012 NBA draft class who will struggle during their first year in the NBA. 

Terrence Jones, PF, Houston Rockets

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    Why He'll Struggle: Questionable effort 

    The one thing that plagued Terrence Jones' career at Kentucky is the same thing that will hold him back during his rookie year in the NBA—a lack of effort.

    Jones is a physical freak, and if he had put the work in, in the weight room and on the practice court, at Kentucky he could've been a much higher pick than he was.

    There were times during his college years when his team was struggling where it looked like he couldn't care less about what was happening on the court. Jones better get ready, because the Rockets are going to struggle mightily this season, and his tendency to stop caring won't fly in the NBA.

    Jones needs to figure out how to play motivated 100 percent of the time, and he won't learn that during his rookie year. That means his rookie campaign will be a disappointment, and if he doesn't learn from it, it will mean that his NBA career will be short lived. 

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Why He'll Struggle: The Bobcats need him to do too much 

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is going to struggle during his rookie year, and it won't necessarily be all his fault.

    It's the same reason why Kemba Walker struggled last year. The Bobcats will need their star rookie to simply do too much, and they don't have enough talent around him to help him do what they need.

    Kidd-Gilchrist's best partner in crime with the Bobcats is Ramon Sessions or Ben Gordon, and that shows just how little talent they truly have.

    While he has all the talent he needs to excel, and even compete for the 2013 Rookie of the Year award, he won't, because the Bobcats won't allow him to do that. Once he finds his way onto a talented team, Kidd-Gilchrist will reach his full potential. Until that happens, though, he will be stuck in mediocrity. 

Austin Rivers, PG, New Orleans Hornets

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    Why He'll Struggle: Shoot-first mentality

    At Duke, Austin Rivers played point guard. But in reality he was more of a shooting guard because he, more often than not, would look to shoot before he would look to pass.

    He put up close to 12 shots per game, and shot just 43.3 percent from the field. While that's not terrible, it's not the kind of production you want from the point.

    For a point guard, Rivers only averaged 2.1 assists per game, and that's going to hold him back during his rookie year. Eric Gordon is the Hornets' franchise player and he's locked into the shooting guard spot, so Rivers will need to become more of a point guard if he wants to excel.

    During the summer league play, Rivers struggled, and he did so for the same reason why he'll struggle during his rookie year. He needs to be a point guard, but he has a shoot-first mentality. That has to change if Rivers wants to have more than a two- or three-year NBA career. 

Andre Drummond, C, Detroit Pistons

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    Why He'll Struggle: Too raw offensively 

    Andre Drummond is what the basketball world likes to call an "unpolished player." While that's something that won't hold him back over the longevity of his carer, it's exactly why he will struggle during his rookie year.

    At UConn, Drummond was able to rely on athleticism to average 10 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting, but his athleticism alone won't be enough against better NBA talent. In college, Drummond excelled in transition and crashed the boards well, but against bigger, stronger players, he will struggle to do the same at the next level.

    On defense he will be a large body, filling space and making it difficult for opponents to score in the paint. But on offense, he will look out of place and overwhelmed.

    Drummond's rookie year will be a struggle, but that doesn't mean he'll never be a productive center in the NBA. He just needs time to develop. 

John Henson, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Why He'll Struggle: Physically not ready for NBA

    John Henson is a mature, fundamentally sound and disciplined player. But that's not going to help him during his rookie year, because his frame isn't ready to allow him to compete in the NBA.

    At, 6'11'' and 220 pounds, Henson isn't going to be able to hang against the bigger power forwards, and he doesn't have an efficient enough jump shot to excel out on the perimeter.

    Henson certainly has a lot of potential, but reaching that full potential is going to be difficult if he doesn't add some bulk and muscle to his frame. If Henson can put on 20 pounds over the next year or two, he can be a legitimate star in the NBA because he has all the skills and tools to do so.

    Henson's 7'6'' wingspan will certainly help him thrive on the defensive side of the ball, but it won't help him become a productive offensive player. The good news is that Henson has what it takes to succeed in the NBA. Now he just needs to put in the work in the weight room. 

Terrence Ross, SG, Toronto Raptors

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    Why He'll Struggle: Defers to teammates too often 

    The Toronto Raptors need Terrence Ross to shoot the ball like he did in college—averaging 13.4 field goals per game on 45.7 percent shooting.

    The only problem with that is that Ross, at times, can defer to teammates too often. If that happened in college, it will certainly happen against the elite talent in the NBA.

    Ross is a shooting guard at heart, and he needs to fully embrace the position to succeed with the Raptors. At times though, he plays with a lack of confidence and looks to teammates rather than relying on his own talents. While that's okay, it will lead to him struggling during his rookie campaign.

    It will take a year or two for Ross to develop confidence in his own game to become a true shooting guard in the NBA, and until he does that he will struggle a bit. Once he embraces his shoot-first mentality, he'll be ready to become a star player—similar to a player like Brandon Roy. 

Meyers Leonard, C, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Why He'll Struggle: Lacks fundamentals in the paint

    Meyers Leonard is an athletic monster. At 7'1'' and 245 pounds, Leonard has an NBA-ready frame that he's almost ready to use.

    The only problem is that he lacks the fundamental post game that it will take to excel at the next level. To say that he is a raw player is an understatement, and that's what will hold him back during his rookie year.

    With that being said, his size and motor will be enough to help him thrive on the defensive size of the ball.

    Leonard has all the physical tools he needs to excel. Now he just needs to put the work in on and off the court to start reaching the potential that exists in his game. 

Royce White, F, Houston Rockets

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    Why He'll Struggle: Immaturity off the Court

    When he plays to his full potential, Royce White has what it takes to be an NBA All-Star. But when he allows his immaturity and lack of discipline off the court to define his game, he's a liability on the court.

    He is a very complete player, and that's why he averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and five assists per game last season at Iowa State.

    It could be hard for him to carry that versatility onto the court if he allows off-the-court issues, like he did at Minnesota to keep him from achieving success. At Minnesota, White was suspended from the team for alleged misdemeanor theft and fifth-degree assault charges. White later decided to leave Minnesota for Iowa State. While that was quite a few years ago, there's a tendency for player's off-the-court issues to follow them into the NBA.

    With his past, his anxiety disorder and his major fear of flying, White has the odds stacked against him. While I hope White succeeds, it will be an uphill battle for him if he lets his off-the-court issues trickle into the locker room and onto the court. 

Fab Melo, C, Boston Celtics

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    Why He'll Struggle: Low basketball IQ

    Unless you are one of the most gifted athletes in the world, you can't excel in the NBA without intelligence, and Fab Melo is going to find that out this season.

    Melo has a great NBA frame, but he doesn't have the intelligence it takes to utilize his size just yet. It will take a lot of work for Melo to develop into a legitimate center, because right now he doesn't understand the game at the level he needs to.

    Because he's not the most athletic player in the world, Melo needs to understand how to best utilize his size, especially since he'll be going up against players who are more athletic than him.

    The good news is that Melo can certainly learn the game from teammate Kevin Garnett. The only question is whether he'll be mature enough to put the work in to become great. 

Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Why He'll Struggle:  Inconsistent jump shot

    Consistency is the name of the game in the NBA, and while Waiters is a scorer with highlight-reel potential, he's not the most consistent. 

    Waiters is a streaky shooter, and when he's on, there are few players who can stop him. The problem for Waiters is that it's going to be a lot more difficult for him to get hot in the NBA.

    Waiters did shoot 47.6 percent from the field last year at Syracuse, but a majority of his production came on the break and on mid-range shots. At just 6'4'', it's going to be harder for Waiters to get those type of shots, which means he'll have to settle for more perimeter jumpers.

    There's no doubt that he will develop into a productive shooting guard in the NBA, but his rookie year will be held back by his now-inconsistent jump shot.