Four NBA Rookies Who Will Dominate Rookie of the Year Conversation
In just a few short weeks, we will witness the impossible being done, as rookies around the league will finally get to live out their childhood dreams. For many people, this dream was abruptly cut short but for these rookies, it's only just beginning.
As the 2012 NBA draft class awaits their chance to play their first professional game, they also wait for the chance to establish themselves among the more seasoned players in the league.
Of course, every rookie isn't going to be as successful as they were in college. Some will be forced to ride the bench, some will have a hard time fully adjusting to playing professional ball and some will dominate the league.
There are plenty of rookies who have already set themselves apart from a highly talented draft class.
Here are the rookies you should pay attention to in the 2012-2013 season.
Sullinger scoring in a preseason game against Emporio Armani Milano
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Sullinger sparked a lot of interest in the draft and should have been chosen much higher, but concerns about back issues dropped him to 21st overall.
Nevertheless, Sullinger has been a steal and a pleasant surprise for the Celtics this offseason.
After just two preseason games, Sullinger has stood out as a rookie with potential to excel in the regular season. In his first game against Turkey's Fenerbahce Ulker, he scored 16 points off the bench and grabbed eight rebounds.
His solid play in the first game got him moved into the starting lineup for the second preseason game. The Celtics won that game by a score of 105-75 and Sullinger was again dominant on the court. He's playing better than expected and he's doing so with the poise of a veteran.
Even the Big 3 have nothing but praise for the rookie's abilities. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce reflected on Sullinger's high basketball IQ and Rajon Rondo claimed he is the smartest rookie he's played with so far.
Sullinger does struggle a bit on defense, but with Garnett as his mentor, he should improve in no time.
He blends well in whatever lineup Rivers places him in, making him a versatile player for the Celtics. We haven't seen yet how Sullinger will fare in a regular season game, but he's already shown how important to the team he will be.
Sullinger has not been given the attention he deserves, but his impressive play will quickly change that.
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The year long wait is finally over, Raptors fans! Jonas Valanciunas will finally display his skills in the NBA after spending the 2011-2012 season playing overseas for Lietuvos Rytas in Europe.
Valanciunas averaged 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 23.5 minutes in 23 games last season with the Lithuanian team. These stats are pretty impressive for the 6'11" center. Valanciunas' solid season in Europe earned him the FIBA Europe Young Men’s Player of the Year award in 2011.
His addition to the Raptors not only brings excitement to a team that has struggled to do well over the past couple of seasons, but it also gives them hope for the future.
Of the three centers who are currently on the roster for next season, Valanciunas is the second most efficient, right after Andrea Bargnani.
Valanciunas can finally give the Raptors the chance to have a true center. Former Raptor Chris Bosh was their center occasionally, but he also doubled as a power forward. Andrea Bargani plays both positions too. Valanciunas can be the true dominant center the Raptors have gone without for so many years.
As a rookie, Valanciunas may not get many minutes initially. If he continues to impress his coaches however, he will be moved up to the starting unit.
If developed correctly, Valanciunas has the potential to become a star in the league.
Anthony Davis rookie photoshoot
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The New Orleans Hornets scored big when they drafted the former Kentucky center as the overall number one pick in the draft. As a freshman last year with the national champions, Davis averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.6 blocks in addition to shooting 62.3 percent from the field.
Blocking a whopping 186 shots in his only year with the Wildcats, Davis is one of the best defensive players in the 2012 draft class.
Though strong on defense, Davis isn't particularly known for his offensive abilities. His offensive game is still a work in progress and the preseason gives him time to hone his skills. In fact, in this past Tuesday's preseason match against the Charlotte Bobcats, Davis posted 22 points, had nine rebounds and blocked one shot.
He has already been in the ROY discussion, but as a center/forward, it will be harder for him to adjust and assert himself in the league than it will be for guards.
If he continues to work on his shooting, look for Davis to be a definite contender for the award.
Damian Lillard's rookie photoshoot
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If you wondered why Damian Lillard was drafted sixth overall in the draft, just take a look at his stats.
After playing just four games in the summer league, the rookie averaged a blazing 26.5 points per game, 5.3 assists and four rebounds.
Lillard ended the summer league taking home the honor of co-MVP.
However, the summer league is not the best determiner of how well Lillard will play in the regular season because he did not have much competition. Lillard was not tested by any players who could challenge him and thus he found his way in the paint, scoring at will and just abusing his opponents.
The real test of his abilities will come during the regular season but Lillard will still find a way to get to the basket.
His ball-handling abilities surpass many players because he has dual dexterity, able to control the ball with either his left or right hand. Lillard's vision, athleticism and speed will be on display with the Blazers because he will get sufficient playing time.
Lillard will hardly be the star of the team behind LaMarcus Aldridge, but if he can play as well during the regular season as he did during the summer, he will be one of the brighter rookies to look out for.