The 2012-13 NBA season is just three weeks away and with that means the exciting debuts of one of the strongest rookie classes in recent years.
Before the start of the season, it's easy to say certain NBA teams will improve because they added a lottery pick to their roster. Often times it doesn't work out that way, because there's no way of telling if a rookie is going to be good until we see him play in a regular season game. Dominating the summer league and the preseason doesn't mean anything and we shouldn't use it as a measuring stick either.
This year's crop of NBA rookies is filled with guys who were impressive in their pre-draft workouts or summer leagues. Since players usually stay in college for just their freshman year, it can be extremely difficultly to predict how their game will translate to the NBA. That's why when players return to college for an extra year, their draft stock often plummets.
Regardless of which rookies will be successful or unsuccessful, there are 10 who come to mind in terms of excitement for their debuts. How will rookie X react to this cruddy, small-market situation? Or how will rookie Z respond to falling in the draft? These are all story lines that fuel the excitement of the approaching 2012-13 NBA season.
Perry Jones III would have likely been a top-10 draft pick had he entered the NBA draft following his impressive freshman year at Baylor. Jones was clearly an unpolished player, but his size and athletic abilities showed promise that he could eventually develop into an exciting NBA player.
Instead of entering the 2011 NBA draft, Jones decided to return to Baylor for his sophomore year. As so often happens when a player returns for another year of college, his game was picked apart by scouts. Jones was still a raw talent and didn't take the step forward in his game most people expected he would.
More importantly, Jones failed to prove he could be a consistent player on a nightly basis for Baylor. If Jones was unable to produce consistently for Baylor, how will he produce consistently in the NBA?
Along with Jones' inconsistencies, Chad Ford from ESPN reported league sources were concerned about a meniscus issue in his knee heading into the draft.
While opinions among NBA doctors vary on the ramifications of the issue, some teams believe the knee could pose a problem down the road and at some point require surgery
In result, Jones' stock crashed and he tumbled down the draft and fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 28. If Jones does become a reliable NBA player, or more so, then the Thunder will be incredibly fortunate.
The Thunder is great situation for a player like Jones, who will need the veteran leadership to keep him honest and working. If Jones fails with the Thunder, it will be because of himself, not because he wasn't given a fair opportunity.
Jones will be a wild card for the Thunder. If he develops quickly, the Thunder may have an easier time parting with James Harden.
The Royce White era in Houston has stumbled onto an interesting road. The Houston Rockets drafted White with the No. 16 pick in the draft. In his only year at Iowa State, White was a force to be reckoned with. He averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
There's no doubt White is capable of developing into a key piece for the Rockets. The issue with White is off the court.
Because of his anxiety, White has yet to show up to Rockets training camp because of his fear of flying. He wants the team's permission to travel to some games by private bus. From ESPN:
"People with mental illness, one of the most important things is that they have that consistency and routine," White said. "The girth of (my request) was, 'Can I travel by bus to close enough games?' "
This isn't a joking matter because anyone who experiences anxiety themselves can relate. The battle with your own mind is sometimes the toughest. But the idea of traveling to some games by bus seems far-fetched.
Once White figures out how he's going to get from game-to-game, it's going to be exciting to watch him play. He has the talent to succeed, but will he be able to overcome his anxiety? We will see.
Like Perry Jones III, Jared Sullinger would have been an NBA lottery pick had he entered the draft following his freshman year. Another year in college actually hurt Sullinger. His play didn't improve that much from his freshman to sophomore year and NBA doctors expressed concern over his back before the draft. In result, Sullinger fell to the Boston Celtics at No. 21.
Unlike Jones, there's no questioning Sullinger's work ethic. The Celtics are a great situation for Sullinger and he will do his best to make the most of his opportunity. Not only will Sullinger play for one of the best coaches in Doc Rivers, but he'll also learn from one of the best big men in NBA history, Kevin Garnett.
If Sullinger were drafted by a lottery team, it could have been a disaster because he's not the kind of player who's going to lead a franchise to a NBA championship. But on the Celtics, Sullinger will be able to contribute right away for a contender, soak in the winning culture, and won't feel the pressure an NBA lottery pick feels.
Sullinger falls under the Tyler Hansbrough category of players who people question will be able to continue their strong play at the next level. Sullinger plays below the rim and today's NBA game is largely played above it. He may never become a star player, but on the Celtics, Sullinger's play will be recognized for the good he brings.
The other big-name rookie drafted by the New Orleans Hornets is Austin Rivers, former Duke guard and the son of the Celtics' coach Doc Rivers.
Many will argue whether or not Rivers will develop into a good NBA player, but there's no denying he'll be the most prepared heading into his rookie season. Not only was Rivers coached by Mike Krzyzewski, but he's been around the NBA his entire life because of his father. Kevin Garnett told WEEI:
"He's going to be one of the best to go down to playing our game. I've always said if he ever joined the C's it would probably be one of the dopest things that ever happened."
Regardless of the fact that Doc is his coach, when was the last time you heard Garnett give another player that sort of praise?
Rivers will experience a tough learning curve. All rookies do to some extent. If Rivers can become the player his father once was, then all of a sudden the Hornets have themselves a promising squad.
Despite Harrison Barnes' inconsistent play throughout his tenure at North Caroline, he was still drafted No. 7 in the 2012 draft by the Golden State Warriors.
On paper, Barnes fits into the Warriors' lineup perfectly. The Warriors have two good low post options (David Lee and Andrew Bogut) and two good guards (Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry). Barnes can plug in well to the Warriors small forward slot. The other small forward option is Richard Jefferson. No thanks.
It's not surprising Barnes has been labeled "special" early into the Warriors training camp. He's always been the king of the offseason. Barnes was a preseason All-American in college before he even played a game for North Carolina.
Barnes can impress people in practice all he wants, but until he proves to be a consistent player in real games during the actual season, it will be the same old story with him.
Thomas Robinson and the fit with the Sacramento Kings has the potential to be dangerous for other Western Conference teams.
Whether or not the Kings stay in Sacramento has no relation to how their roster could look a year from now. The Kings quietly put together an intriguing team in the offseason. They signed Aaron Brooks and traded for James Johnson. And then of course, Robinson fell to them in the NBA draft.
Robinson is the key to a resurgence in Sacramento. It's clear that DeMarcus Cousins is going to be a great player. But one great player doesn't make a team if he's surrounded by scrubs. Robinson is going to be hungrier than ever. Like Cousins, he feels he was slighted in the draft.
With that much dedication, it's going to be exciting to see if Robinson is able to help the Kings regain the fire they had in the early 2000s.
When the Washington Wizards selected Bradley Beal with the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, it seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel was finally visible.
Beal will team with John Wall in a backcourt that has no limitations in terms of potential and excitement. Most pre-draft reports compared Beal to a young Ray Allen. If Beal could become a poor man’s Allen, then the Wizards will be in luck.
Beal was popular in the pre-draft process but it's difficult to think of any memorable moment he had in college during his one year at Florida. For the common NBA fan, Beal may be an unknown.
How Beal meshes with Wall will be a thing to watch. If the two are able to develop chemistry, the Wizards may be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the upcoming season.
People are excited to watch Damian Lillard on the Portland Trail Blazers because no one knows what to expect from him. He could be the next star point guard, a franchise bust, or likely just an average NBA starter.
In Summer League, Lillard showcased his NBA talents. Take it with a grain of salt because it was against many players who won't play a minute in the NBA. Regardless, it was still a positive sign for Trail Blazer fans who are desperate for any good news at this point. At least Lillard won't be the next Jimmer Fredette.
The opportunity in Portland is great for Lillard because he'll have two good teammates right away. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the best power forwards in the NBA and Nic Batum is expected to step into his new 2-guard role in a big way. If Lillard can actually play, the rebuilding process in Portland could be a short one.
There's nothing too flashy about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's game, but there's a great deal to like.
Kidd-Gilchrist has the skills to eventually become a rich man's Gerald Wallace. His offensive game isn't going to blow anyone out of the water, but he's strong, athletic and, most importantly, he gives his 100% every game. Believe it or not, but it's actually a skill to play every game like it's your last. There's no doubt that Kidd-Gilchrist does that. He's relentless on the defensive end of the floor because he never stops going all out.
Nobody will be excited to watch the Charlotte Bobcats at first, but if Kidd-Gilchrist helps change the culture, then you might find yourself doing something you've never done before—checking out Bobcat highlights.
Who's not excited to see Anthony Davis in action against other NBA big men? One thing is for sure on Davis: He will not be a bust. After watching him perform against other professionals in the Summer Olympics, there's no doubt Davis contains the skill set to be a uniquely dominant NBA player. He may not turn out to be the best player in the 2012 draft class, but he'll be near the top at the very least.
Davis' long arms will instantaneously make him a premiere shot-blocker. Strength could be an issue at first, but the guy is only 19 years old. Google pictures of Dwight Howard when he was 19 years old. He certainly wasn't Superman.
The other feature of Davis' game that will translate easily into the professional game is his mid-range jump shot. It has Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett potential. With a jump shot that can keep defenders honest and the ability to protect the paint, all of a sudden Davis is set to make a huge splash in the NBA.
One last thing: How long will Davis keep his unibrow? Hopefully forever.