NBA Preseason 2012: Rookies Who Have Earned a Starting Role

Mike MoraitisAnalyst IOctober 20, 2012

MILAN, ITALY - OCTOBER 07: Jared Sullinger # 7 of Celtics looks over during the NBA Europe Live game between EA7 Emporio Armani Milano v Boston Celtics at Mediolanum Forum  on October 7, 2012 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images)
Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

The NBA preseason isn't thought to be an important part of the 2012-13 campaign for most teams, but for some rookies, it has become a chance to show they belong in their team's starting lineup.

It's never easy for a rookie to crack the starting five, but these rookies are certainly earning the right to begin their careers as a starter.

Let's see who they are.


Bradley Beal, SG: Washington Wizards

It's shaping up to be another long, depressing season for the Wizards, but Beal might give Washington's fans a reason to cheer.

Beal has gotten off to just the start the Wizards would like. The No. 3 pick in the 2012 NBA draft is averaging 14.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Beal's all-around ability is quite apparent early on in the preseason.

A starting spot in the Wizards lineup is no certainty, however. Beal will have to battle it out with Jordan Crawford for the starting shooting guard role on the team.

If Beal can continue to show he's a good shooter and an even better scorer than Crawford, the Wizards should choose Beal. When star point guard John Wall returns from injury, for the first time in his career he will have a talent like Beal who will take the pressure off him, as well as give the point guard someone reliable to pass the ball to on the perimeter when he penetrates.


Jared Sullinger, PF: Boston Celtics

Brandon Bass is the early favorite to start at power forward for the Celtics, but Sullinger is giving himself a chance to sneak in to take that spot.

Sullinger is averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per game thus far, showing he has the ability to not only score but rebound as well.

In his first preseason game, Sullinger racked up 16 points and eight boards in a losing effort. Sullinger also notched nine rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets, a preseason high.

Kevin Garnett will be roaming the middle for the Celtics, and we all know how great he plays defense. That will allow Boston to play an inexperienced, less talented defender like Sullinger in the starting five, giving the Celtics a bit more offense to go along with what they already have.

Sullinger has the potential to be a very good scorer in this league, and that upside far outweighs Bass, who we already know isn't a talented scorer by any stretch.


Andrew Nicholson, PF: Orlando Magic

Knowing what we already know about Glen Davis and the slew of other power forwards on the Magic roster, Nicholson should have a great shot to crack the starting five if he continues his solid play.

Nicholson is averaging 11.3 points and five rebounds per game in the preseason. His numbers would look even better if not for a lackluster debut against the New Orleans Hornets.

But since then, Nicholson has scored in the double digits in three straight games, and his nine rebounds and two blocks against the Cleveland Cavaliers were both preseason highs.

Nicholson could add some much-needed athleticism to Orlando's lineup, and he certainly has the defensive ability and size to hold his own in the paint.

It's going to be a rebuilding season for the Magic during the 2012-13 season, but increased minutes and success from Nicholson will help soften the blow.