With the 2012-13 regular season fast approaching, the honeymoon period is over for all of the soon-to-be rookies in the NBA.
Their performances in the Orlando and Vegas Summer Leagues no longer matter: It's time for the league's first-year players to answer the bell in games that actually count in the standings.
As with any profession, there are those among them who, for a variety of reasons, have an added level of pressure and responsibility. As the year progresses, it will be interesting to see whether these players shoulder the burden or crumble under the bright lights of the Association.
Every No. 1 pick in the history of the NBA entered the league with great expectations, and Anthony Davis is no exception. While there will be a microscope on Davis' performance this season, the real focus is on the team's continuous improvement over the next few years.
Davis is fortunate enough to share some of the burden with fellow lottery pick Austin Rivers, but if the Hornets' franchise doesn't make significant strides in the near future, the lion's share of the blame—whether justified or not—will be placed on his shoulders.
Fresh off a stint with Team USA this past summer, Davis should be ready to hit the ground running, and is the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors.
As the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Bradley Beal was already slated to face a fair amount of scrutiny in his rookie campaign. But the weight on his shoulders was magnified after news broke that John Wall's patella injury figures to keep the point guard out for at least the first month of the season.
To his credit, Beal is prepared to pick up the slack in Wall's absence: "I've been faced with this situation almost all my life," said Beal in an interview with the Washington Post. "I've always had to grow up faster than what I am."
The Wizards have legitimate playoff aspirations for the first time in five years, and Beal will be counted on to keep the team afloat until Wall returns to the lineup. The learning curve for the dynamic guard is steep, but if he can get out to a hot start this season, he has the potential to be a dark-horse candidate for the Rookie of the Year award.
Prior to the draft lottery last May, most Charlotte fans had their hearts set on University of Kentucky star Anthony Davis. Instead, they had to settle for his former teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who, despite lacking the pedigree of Davis, will still be expected to lift the Bobcats from the dregs of the NBA.
Kidd-Gilchrist is the type of player who does a lot of things well—a much-needed commodity for a team that didn't do much of anything well last season.
With no defined hierarchy in the Bobcats' offense, Kidd-Gilchrist will be counted on to assert himself as a leader early in his rookie season.
Not only does Marquis Teague need to continue his transition from scoring point guard to playmaker, but he will also have to help hold the fort down while All-Star point guard Derrick Rose recovers from a devastating knee injury.
That's quite a bit of pressure for any 19-year-old, even one who just helped the University of Kentucky capture the national title back in April.
As evidenced by his play in the Vegas Summer League in July where he averaged 3.8 turnovers per game on 29 percent shooting from the field, Teague still has plenty to learn about the point guard position.
The Bulls' acquisition of Kirk Hinrich in the offseason will allow Teague to come off the bench, but the former Wildcat will still be counted on to be a major contributor.
Even after drafting Dion Waiters, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still a few pieces away from being a playoff team.
With point guard Kyrie Irving firmly established as the team's franchise player, Cleveland desperately needs someone on its roster to step up and serve as a No. 2 option. And despite not starting a single game on the collegiate level, expectations are that Waiters will emerge as the perfect complement to Irving in the Cavs' backcourt.
Cleveland passed up on a few proven scorers when they selected the Syracuse sixth man with the No. 4 overall pick, and Waiters will have to justify the Cavs' faith in him early in his freshman campaign.
The raw but talented shooting guard doesn't figure to start alongside Irving in the early going, but if he isn't averaging big minutes by the All-Star break, the chorus of fans who thought he was a reach will get progressively louder.