10 NBA Rookies with the Most To Lose in 2012-13
The 2012-13 NBA season sports an entertaining group of talented rookies from a deep draft class. Some first-year players are expected to make a huge impact right away, while others would be viewed as pleasant surprises if they had a solid campaign.
Depending on the situation, some NBA rookies have a lot to lose if they don’t meet expectations. If they don’t contribute in their specific role or get outplayed by other players on the roster, they could be on the outside looking in on a coach’s rotation.
The following players, for some or all of these reasons, have the most to lose during the upcoming season.
10. Fab Melo
The Boston Celtics’ decision to draft Fab Melo wasn’t a very popular one among Celts fans—just ask Bill Simmons of Grantland.com. Simmons believes that the NBA is evolving and becoming quicker and faster. Centers are becoming obsolete (unless you have a guy like Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum), and athletic wing players are what teams need to compete with the likes of Miami and Oklahoma City.
Melo’s statistical averages in his final year at Syracuse (7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game) leave a lot to be desired. The 22-year-old Brazilian is a solid shot-blocker, as he averaged 2.9 blocks per game for Syracuse a year ago. Nevertheless, first-round talents need to be more than one-trick ponies.
The Celtics reloaded the roster this offseason to make a final championship run (or two). Melo could play a key role for Boston as a shot-blocker and rebounder who could move Kevin Garnett to his natural position of power forward.
Even so, Melo is a very raw basketball talent. He’s a one-dimensional shot-blocker who has a lot to learn before he adapts to the NBA. Learning from Garnett, a future Hall of Famer, should help Melo’s growth, but he won’t get playing time on a championship-caliber team if he struggles early.
9. Marquis Teague
During the regular season last year, the Chicago Bulls went 18-9 with Derrick Rose sidelined due to injury. That 18-9 record excludes a win in which Rose played just 11 minutes against the Nets and another win against the Miami Heat when Rose had a 1-of-13 shooting performance in 25 minutes.
That impressive record without Rose can be attributed to head coach Tom Thibodeau and the other Bulls starters. However, a huge reason Chicago stayed afloat without its floor general was the backup point guards.
C.J. Watson and John Lucas III played admirably in Rose’s many absences. As a result, the Bulls had a record well above .500 without the former MVP.
Now that those two backup point guards have left Chicago, it will be up to the trio of Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague to take over ball-handling duties. Considering that Robinson is more relied upon as a spark plug off the bench, Teague could be called upon in his rookie year to log some important minutes at point guard.
The chances that Teague remains in Thibodeau’s rotation if and when Rose returns from injury are remote. If Teague fails to perform up to par with the other guards on the roster to start the season, he may not even see playing time with Rose sidelined.
8. Anthony Davis
I have a hard time putting Anthony Davis higher on this list because he has all the tools necessary to succeed. He gained valuable experience playing on this summer's U.S. Olympic basketball team, which was certainly better for New Orleans than watching him play against rookies and scrubs during the summer league.
Realistically speaking, even if Davis plays below the hype associated with his draft status and athletic accolades, he’ll still play above the level of most rookies.
Davis has a huge amount to lose though, considering he’s the future of the Hornets franchise. But only an injury or very poor play will derail his promising career. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that happen far too often to former No. 1 picks.
7. Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal has had a solid start to his NBA career. He was named to the All-Summer League team in July, and he may be the Wizards’ starting shooting guard when the season starts if he manages to beat out Jordan Crawford for the job.
Having the team’s first-round pick (third overall) play well enough to grab the starting job in his first year is the ideal situation. Nevertheless, even a guy as hyped up as Beal has some room to improve.
Although Beal made the All-Summer League team, he shot just 41.8 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. Considering that Beal was labeled one of the best pure shooters in the draft class, those numbers aren’t good.
Beal needs to play well and improve his shooting efficiency if he hopes to land the starting job over Crawford. If not, the Washington Wizards as a team will fail to meet the expectations that accompany their many new additions.
6. Andre Drummond
The athletically gifted Andre Drummond may have the highest ceiling of all rookies in his class, but his raw basketball skills dropped his stock to the ninth overall selection in the draft.
The Detroit Pistons ultimately decided that the reward with Drummond outweighed the potential risk. Thus far, the organization has to be happy with that choice.
Despite some initial nerves, Drummond performed well in his first preseason game, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News.
Drummond earned praise from teammates, but the 19-year-old is sure to experience some growing pains along the way. Pistons fans need to hope that Drummond doesn’t take too many hits to his confidence throughout the season that will stunt his growth (a la Darko Milicic).
5. Austin Rivers
Leading up to the 2012 NBA draft, one quote in particular via ESPN NBA insider Chad Ford pegged Austin Rivers in an impressively negative light:
Here’s my knock on Rivers. He thinks he's Kobe. He's not. He doesn't have the length, the height, nor the athletic ability. Take those things away from Kobe, and he's Ricky Davis — an irritating ball hog no one wants to play with and who isn't good enough to warrant the diva act.
Whether you agree with Ford’s assessment or not, Rivers is a player who averaged just 2.1 assists per game in college as a freshman. He has always translated better as an undersized shooting guard, but now he’s going to be the Hornets’ point guard of the future.
Adapting to the idiosyncrasies of a new position is difficult enough in college with less competition. Now that Rivers will have to learn to play point guard at the NBA level and get all of his teammates involved, he could struggle to find a groove.
If Rivers learns the position, the Hornets will have a solid young core. If not, he may be relegated to a bench role moving forward.
4. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard has been one of the most impressive prospects leading up to the 2012-13 season.
Although some critics questioned Lillard’s ability to compete at the highest level coming out of Weber State, Lillard silenced those critics in the NBA Summer League.
Lillard dominated the summer circuit, paving his way to co-MVP honors with Josh Selby. He averaged 26.5 points, 5.3 assists and four rebounds per game.
Although the summer league isn’t always the best barometer of how players will perform during the regular season, Lillard set the bar pretty darn high. Portland Trail Blazers fans will already be expecting much better production out of the point guard spot than Raymond Felton provided last season, so Lillard needs to continue his hot streak moving forward.
3. Royce White
Royce White is quickly becoming one of the more intriguing stories leading up to the 2012-13 season. The former Iowa State star has all of the basketball intangibles to succeed (including an uncanny passing ability for a forward), but an anxiety disorder is threatening his transition to an NBA career.
According to a fascinating article by Myron Medcalf of ESPN, White is seeking permission from the Houston Rockets to be able to travel by private bus instead of by plane during extensive road trips.
White’s well-documented fear of flying magnifies his anxiety disorder, according to Medcalf’s article. White is seeking an alternative way to travel to games to keep his anxiety disorder in check, citing reasons such as his “long-term health.”
It’s certainly an unorthodox situation. The Rockets should want to make White as comfortable as possible, but needing to take a bus on road trips could be the tip of the iceberg. He'll need to produce to make that sort of commitment worth it.
2. Terrence Ross
The Toronto Raptors ranked 28th in the NBA last season in points per game. They desperately needed to add more scoring threats to the roster, and Terrence Ross seems to fit that bill.
Ross is sure to get playing time with the new-look Raptors next season, but he’ll have to prove he belongs over other talents on the roster.
Landry Fields signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with Toronto this summer that he needs to justify, and DeMar DeRozan is a mainstay who will look to improve in a contract year.
Ross is a hard worker and a talented shooter. However, his NBA Summer League stats of 37.1 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range were significantly worse than Bradley Beal's percentages, and Beal wasn’t happy with his own summer league performance, according to Michael Lee of The Washington Post.
If Ross doesn’t improve his shooting efficiency and thereby stand out among positional competition, his playing time could take a major hit this season.
1. Dion Waiters
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a rebuilding team that hit a home run before last season by drafting Kyrie Irving first overall. Irving went on to win last season’s Rookie of the Year award by a landslide. The Cavs followed up that draft pick by taking Dion Waiters out of Syracuse with the fourth overall pick in 2012.
Although it’s still early in the process, Waiters hasn’t done much to endear himself to fans.
According to Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Waiters showed up to camp at least 10 pounds overweight, and it truly hurt his summer league performance.
Waiters shot just 30 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point range and had a player efficiency rating (PER) of just 6.67.
In a way, Waiters has the most to gain this season; it shouldn’t be difficult to improve upon those abysmal stats.
However, Cleveland fans finally got a ray of basketball hope when they landed Irving, and if Waiters pans out to be a lousy pick whose performance is topped by those of the players drafted behind him, fans will be back to hanging their heads. Not only that, but the organization will have to replace Waiters with someone better.
Not getting value out of the fourth overall pick would be a disaster for the Cavs. Waiters has a lot to lose if he doesn't get into shape (literally and figuratively).