7 NBA Rookies Guaranteed to Shine from Day 1 in 2012 Training Camp
In the NBA, there are rookies who impress and those who don't. And then there are the ones who outshine everyone else on their way to immediate glory.
You can't teach star power or general competency. Though there are plenty of incoming athletes who take time to progress and reach their potential, lofty ceilings are present from the beginning.
But some take their game to new heights right away—as early as training camp, in fact.
So, while most of that period is spent pining for the Association's regular season to begin, it is a low-key stage where the most NBA-ready rookies truly shine and indicate how valuable they will be to their team.
Which newcomers are we speaking of here? Which members of the 2012 rookie class are going to turn heads before the actual season even progresses? Who will we begin speaking of now and never look back?
I and seven of our newest friends are so very glad you asked.
Jae Crowder, SF, Dallas Mavericks
Yes, Jae Crowder is going to shine right out of the gate in Dallas.
The undersized forward, who was drafted 34th overall, proved to be a fighter, taking the summer league by storm and averaging 16.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in just over 32 minutes per game.
While the Mavericks are already stacked at the forward spots, there is always a place for the instant offense that Crowder will provide. Consequently, he'll be a primary development focus in training camp, as he'll learn to score on his own more often.
No one better to help him there than Dirk Nowitzki, right?
Crowder has found himself in the perfect situation. His team needs him to do no more than score, and due to such diminished expectations, he'll have no trouble distinguishing himself from Day One of training camp.
Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Hornets
Let's get this out of the way right now: Anthony Davis is going to be a star.
The last player to come out of the draft that was this versatile was LeBron James, and while there are hardly any comparisons to draw, The Chosen One, among other things, is proof potent versatility cannot be completely suppressed.
Davis is going to be thrown into the fray right away. New Orleans drafted him to be a game-changer, and that's what he'll be expected to do immediately upon entering training camp.
As a lanky big man, there will be durability concerns as he continues to battle down low with the most severe of athletes on a nightly basis. That said, what he lacks in bulk he makes up for in mere mobility, which will allow him to avoid the most brutal of contact.
Davis is also one of the best rebounders coming in; he's the only one on the current Hornets docket who truly embraces the art. He's a much more talented scorer and passer than his 14.2 points and 1.3 assists per game at Kentucky indicate as well.
And there's simply no matching his ball-handling ability for someone who stands at 6'10"; he has the control of a point guard and the finish of power forward, and that's a deadly combination.
There are simply too many ways in which Davis can exploit his opponents for him not to succeed from the beginning.
Which is exactly what training camp will be for Davis—the beginning of a prolific rookie campaign.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers
Portland's offense will go as far as Damian Lillard carries it, meaning there's hope for the Blazers yet.
Lillard is the most explosive point guard coming in, with a knack for successfully attacking the rim off the dribble. And while his jump shot pales in comparison to his penetration, he's an adept shooter with unlimited range.
The major concern for Lillard entering training camp is his ability to effectively run an offense. At Weber State, he developed a reputation for being too selfish at times, and his average of four assists per game last season was hardly impressive for a floor general receiving almost 35 minutes of burn a night.
However, Portland's newest gem took great strides toward honing his playmaking abilities at the NBA Summer League, where he was named co-MVP. It was there he showed a willingness to defer, dropping 5.6 dimes per game.
Expect this balance between scoring and passing to continue as Lillard eases into training camp. He knows the Blazers are going to lean on him and that failure isn't an option.
But Portland needn't worry about him failing, because just as he did Las Vegas, he's going to take training camp by storm.
Perry Jones III, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Perry Jones III slid his way down the draft board back in June, and after a strong training camp, he'll wind up sliding his way into the Thunder's everyday rotation.
There are plenty of other rookies with greater instincts and higher motors than Jones, but his Achilles heel at Baylor was a lack of motivation. He was playing in a system that was light years behind what his skill set dictates.
From Day One in Oklahoma City, though, he'll playing in a high-octane system that prides itself on the excessive use of its wings.
No, Jones isn't considered much of a passer—he dished out just 1.3 assists per game last season—but a man by the name of Kevin Durant wasn't much of a passer either at first. Now that he recognizes the importance of making quick decisions, though, he's more inclined to dish it off if the open lane or shot isn't there.
And that's something Jones will come to learn as well. He's under the tutelage of one of the best athletes in the game in Durant and in the type of fast-paced system that will hold his interest and utilize his offensive talents.
Acclimation won't be necessary for Jones with the Thunder. This is the system in which he was born to play, and it will show from the very beginning.
Kendall Marshall, PG, Phoenix Suns
Kendall Marshall is entering the perfect situation in Phoenix.
Though the Suns signed Goran Dragic to help run their offense, he's not nearly as talented a playmaker as Marshall is. He's more of a score-first point guard, which ensures Marshall will be given ample time to prove himself as a floor general.
To make matters even more promising, though, he's joining a system that Steve Nash helped build. That means playing alongside a few players who are familiar with the art of resourceful facilitating.
What this essentially means is that instant chemistry will be established between him and guys like Shannon Brown and Marcin Gortat, who know what it means to be constantly vigilant without the ball in their hands.
This is a point guard who averaged 9.6 assists per game in his last season at North Carolina, and he's joining a team that saw its primary facilitator dish out 10.7 per contest last season.
Simply put, if there were ever an environment for an overly unselfish point man to thrive, it's Phoenix.
And Marshall will distinguish himself accordingly from the get-go.
Royce White, PF, Houston Rockets
Every team that passed on Royce White in the draft is going to be kicking themselves.
Yes, White has an anxiety disorder that renders him liable to self-destruct at any moment, but that's an obstacle he will be able to overcome once he establishes a strong sense of comfort.
Which brings us to training camp. Not only is Houston the understated type of market where even the most polarizing of players can avoid the spotlight—what's Jeremy Lin been up to these days?—but training camp is a near-pressure-free stage where White can hone his talents and learn to cope.
And that's simply huge, because White was easily a top-10 talent in this year's draft. He doesn't have a true position, but that's OK. He can man four of the five spots on the floor and possesses the passing instincts of Andre Iguodala with the inside-out fierceness of Kevin Garnett.
Is there room for improvement? Yes, there is. His jumper is inconsistent, and he has to learn to get out of his own head at times, but there's no refuting the 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and five assists per game he averaged in his only season at Iowa State.
White, anxiety disorder and all, can do it all. And this is a reality we'll all come to acknowledge and accept.
Especially on a roster devoid of proven talent, there's no stopping a multi-faceted player with as big a chip on his shoulder as White. No stopping him at all.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards
Adaptivity is king in the NBA.
Enter Bradley Beal.
Though the shooting guard won't wreak havoc with superior athleticism, he's one of the most versatile and well-rounded rookies making the jump to the pros. He's an asset in every facet of the game.
As a shooting guard, Beal possesses natural scoring instincts, be it from the perimeter or attacking the rim. Unlike most of his peers, though, he's a willing passer with great court vision; he can man the point in a pinch.
Defensively, he's also a stud, specifically when it comes to poking the ball loose and clogging passing lanes, made most evident by his 1.4 steals per game in his only season at Florida.
Beal rounds out his skill set as a strong rebounder. He stands at just 6'3", but he grabbed 6.7 boards per game in Dwyane Wade-like fashion last season.
Simply put, the diligent chameleon that is Beal is going to work wonders for the Wizards, both with and without John Wall.
And his path to stardom won't be delayed; he'll begin to separate himself from the rest of the rookie class immediately.
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