NBA Preseason: 6 Rookies That Have Impressed Their New Team
The NBA doesn't tip off the 2012-2013 season for another two weeks, but the NBA preseason is going strong. And a few rookies are using the preseason to impress their new teams with some great performances before the season starts up.
They may just be exhibition games, but the preseason is still the first time that most rookies face real NBA competition. Their preseason play can go a long way in determining their role on the team for the rest of the year.
With that being said, here are a few rookies who have looked particularly impressive thus far.
Anthony Davis: New Orleans Hornets
Averages: 27.7 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg,, 1.3 bpg, .436 FG%
Top Game: 30 mins, 22 pts, 9.0 rebs, 1.0 blk, 9-18 shooting (against the Charlotte Bobcats)
Let’s be honest, after seeing how well Anthony Davis played alongside LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the Olympics, he could sleepwalk through this preseason and no one would worry too much about it.
But Davis and his unibrow have (to no one’s surprise) come out balling and haven't given New Orleans Hornets fans much to complain about.
That’s not to say that this year’s No. 1 pick hasn't had some rookie moments. Davis has struggled a bit with shot selection, taking too many jumpers, and has even blown a few defensive rotations that have led to easy points.
But overall, Davis is still looking very, very good. He’s been active on the boards and has displayed a remarkable ability to close out on shooters.
As always, the timing and athleticism with which he blocks shots is just phenomenal, and he’s also been great attacking the basket and getting to the line.
Again, there’s some tuning up to do, but considering that these are his first few games against NBA competition, Davis has been as good as advertised.
Damian Lillard: Portland Trail Blazers
Averages: 28.7 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.7 rpg, .474 FG%
Top Game: 24 mins, 14 pts, 7.0 asts, 5.0 rebs, 6-11 shooting (against the Los Angeles Lakers)
Damian Lillard was red-hot in this year's Summer League, and he's brought that same form with him in the preseason.
Everyone already knew that Lillard could score, but in the preseason he’s shown an ability to get everyone in the offense involved. After Portland’s win against Los Angeles, teammate Nic Batum told reporters (per The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman):
That’s why he’s going to be one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year. He ran the show. He put us all in good spots ... he got the ball to lots of guys and he took good shots. He did it all.
Lillard’s attacking mentality is perfect in Portland, as the Blazers lack a true impact player outside of LaMarcus Aldridge.
And though he’s still pretty rough around the edges (he’s averaging 3.7 turnovers per game), Lillard’s play this preseason is still incredibly promising for a team that trotted out the perpetually overweight Raymond Felton at point last season.
Lillard’s going to have control of the Portland offense from day one. It might be a bumpy ride at first, but if this preseason serves as any indication, he’ll end up with a pretty good idea of what to do with it.
Bradley Beal: Washington Wizards
Averages: 27.5 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, .435 FG%
Top Game: 26 mins, 15 pts, 5.0 asts, 5.0 rebs, 4-9 shooting (against the New York Knicks)
Before John Wall’s injury, the Washington Wizards had a legitimate chance at sneaking in the postseason as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. With Wall out, that dream has all but died, but fans can at least find relief in the play of shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Beal, the No. 3 pick out of Florida, has scored well and in a number of ways, hitting three-pointers, mid-range jumpers and attacking the basket off the dribble.
But outside of the scoring, one thing has really stood out about Beal—his willingness to play within the Wizards’ offense.
A lot of rookies coming into the league get a little trigger-happy, but Beal has shown the ability to make the extra pass and to score his points in the rhythm of the offense.
Beal is not the kind of player who’s going to break off a play and hurl up a contested 17-footer, which is good because the Wizards already have a guy like that in Jordan Crawford.
He’s instead been willing to sit back and let the game come to him, which is particularly impressive considering that he’s a rookie and is playing with some inexperienced point guards.
If he can perform this well with A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack setting him up, then just imagine how good he'll be with a playmaker like Wall. That thought alone should be enough to keep Wizards fans going until Wall’s eventual return.
Andre Drummond: Detroit Pistons
Averages: 17.8 mpg, 10.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg, .690 FG%
Top Game: 25 mins, 19 pts, 10 rebs, 2.0 blks, 9-13 shooting (against the Milwaukee Bucks)
Here are some phrases used to describe Andre Drummond in his Draftexpress.com profile:
"Rarely looked like he actually wanted the ball"
"Ineffective in post-up situations"
"Doesn’t appear to be going 100 percent at times"
Now that’s what you want to hear about your top 10 pick, right?
The Detroit Pistons felt like Drummond would be a perfect fit next to power forward Greg Monroe, so they grabbed him at No. 9 overall. But more than a few people were already writing him off as a bust.
Obviously we’re years away from seeing how Drummond’s NBA career shakes out, but it’s definitely started with off a bang.
The most important thing to take away from Drummond's preseason is that he's playing hard.
That was the scariest knock on him. All the athleticism in the world doesn't matter if a player isn't willing to put in the work on and off the court.
Luckily, Drummond looks like he’s giving his all out there. And it looks awesome.
Drummond still has many flaws—he leaves his feet too often on defense and doesnt have a steady offensive game. But he’s playing hard and is already making it tough for head coach Lawrence Frank to keep him off the court.
It really doesn't get much better than that for the Pistons.
Perry Jones III: Oklahoma City Thunder
Averages: 26.0 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, .643 FG%
Top Game: 30 mins, 17 pts, 4.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 8-10 shooting (against the Charlotte Bobcats)
Perry Jones has looked every bit the top-tier talent that he was originally projected to be. The Oklahoma City Thunder snatched Jones up at No. 28 in this year's draft after Jones fell down draft boards thanks to a medical red flag concerning his knee.
But there have been zero red flags with his play so far. Jones has done a little bit of everything for the Thunder—scoring in transition, attacking players off the dribble and hitting shots from deep.
I don’t think it would be outlandish to say he’s the most athletic player on the team. And on this team, that’s saying something
The best thing about Jones is that, like Beal, everything he’s done has come within the flow of the offense.
Jones hasn't tried to force anything offensively. That works well because the Thunder don’t need a guy that’s always looking for his own shot—Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can already do that.
The real question for Jones is—where will he find minutes?
It would be hard to exclude someone this talented and versatile from the rotation, but the Thunder roster is pretty stacked. Head coach Scott Brooks is going to have to work some magic and get Jones some floor time.
However it works out, Perry Jones looks like another weapon for a team that arguably already had the most firepower in the NBA.
Jae Crowder: Dallas Mavericks
Averages: 9.3 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, .529 FG%, .571 3p%
Top Game: 15 mins, 20 pts, 5.0 rebs, 2.0 asts, 8-15 shooting (against the Houston Rockets)
Ignore the averages. Crowder’s game against Houston is the only one that really matters.
Crowder, the No. 34 overall pick in this year’s draft, scored 20 points in just 15 minutes, connecting on four of his seven three-point attempts.
It may have been garbage time at that point, but Crowder still plays with an energy and a level of confidence that few rookies can match.
Rick Carlisle doesn’t often like to play rookies, but he’s already raved about Crowder, saying (per Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas):
He was the Big East player of the year, so he’s a good offensive player. But the reason people love him so much as a prospect is because of his attitude, his disposition, his toughness
This is a markedly different Mavericks team than in years past, and it’s hard to say which new additions will pan out and which won’t.
If the outside touch Crowder showed against the Rockers wasn’t a fluke, then he could grow into a valuable rotation player for Dallas.
Meyers Leonard: Portland Trailblazers
Averages: 18.0 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, .769 FG%
Top Game: 21 mins, 14 pts, 8.0 rebs, 1.0 blks, 5-8 shooting (Against the Phoenix Suns)
Andrew Nicholson: Orlando Magic
Averages: 22.7 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .438 FG%
Top Game: 32 mins, 14 pts, 9.0 rebs, 2.0 blks, 6-12 shooting (Against the Cleveland Cavaliers)
Terrence Jones: Houston Rockets
Averages: 24.0 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, .464 FG%
Top Game: 25 mins, 20 pts, 6.0 rebs, 8-14 shooting (Against the Oklahoma City Thunder)