6 NBA Rookies Who Will Absolutely Defy Expectations
For all the money that is spent on scouting and other talent evaluation services, the NBA Draft is still basically a crapshoot.
While it's clear that Anthony Davis will have a stellar career (barring injury), a team doesn't necessarily need the No. 1 overall pick to select someone who will have a major impact on the next level.
The 2012 draft is proof of this: There may not be many franchise players in the bunch to be sure, but several of them will defy the expectations that many have placed upon them entering the season.
Just as the All-Rookie teams won't be comprised of players drafted entirely in the lottery, expect several first-year players to star. Who knows—they may possibly even establish themselves as one of the best young talents at their respective positions. For some, namely Portland's Damian Lillard and Washington's Bradley Beal, that process has already begun.
Damian Lillard, Portland
Much like Cleveland's Kyrie Irving did last year, Damian Lillard will leave no doubt as to who the best point guard is in the 2012 draft class.
Not only that, but he'll make a serious run at the NBA's Rookie of the Year honors this season. By no means is it a foregone conclusion that the award is Anthony Davis' to lose: After a stellar run in the Vegas Summer League (26.5 PPG, 5.6 APG and 4.0 RPG), Lillard has followed it up with a solid preseason campaign that has put the league on notice.
"He's unbelievable," said Meyers Leonard in an interview with the International Business Times. "His ability to finish around the rim, shoot, create plays for others, defend, play hard—he's a special player."
Mike Scott, Atlanta
In just four months, University of Virginia product Mike Scott went from mid-second round pick with an average chance of securing an NBA contract to a vital player on the Atlanta Hawks' roster. Scott isn't resting on his laurels, however—the 24-year-old knows that he has his work cut out for him.
“I’m just trying to learn," said Scott in an interview with Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I think each day I’m getting better and better but I still have a lot more to go.”
Even with decent preseason numbers (9.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG), Scott is stuck in the frontcourt rotation behind Atlanta's two best players (Josh Smith and Al Horford). However, if injuries strike (or if the Hawks decide to go big at times by sliding Smith to the 3), the 6'8" rookie has proven that he's capable of mixing it up in the paint.
Andre Drummond, Detroit
Andre Drummond has arguably been more impressive in six exhibition games this season than he was all of last year at UConn.
Drummond didn't live up to the lofty expectations that many had for him in Storrs, Conn., but the 6'10" center undoubtedly has the skill set that could make him one of the league's best big men in very short order. While Drummond figures to start the year on the bench, his per-36 minute averages so far this preseason (20.2 PPG, 11.9 RPG) are on par with those of an NBA All-Star.
"He definitely has the tools to be a really good big man," Pistons' center Greg Monroe told USA Today earlier this month. "As far as the mental part of the game, he has a ways to go, but as far as the physical skills, he is one of those guys who, any ceiling he reaches, you won't be surprised because of the physical tools he is blessed with."
Jae Crowder, Dallas
Jae Crowder's NBA learning curve has been virtually non-existent so far this preseason. The 6'6" forward is grabbing rebounds, racking up steals and shooting from downtown with the savvy of a veteran player.
Despite his early success, Crowder still has a long way to go to earn the full faith and confidence of Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle. But while Carlisle may not yet be willing to go all-in, Crowder may soon force him (and many others around the league) to pay the small forward some much-needed attention.
"I just put my hard hat on and just go to work," said Crowder in an interview with ESPNDallas.com. "Hopefully, if I do it night in and night out, I’ll get the minutes I deserve."
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston
The Houston Rockets won't be able to get away with playing Omer Asik for 30-plus minutes per night, opening the door for Lithuanian forward/center Donatas Motiejunas to shine in 2012-13.
Motiejunas is a seven-footer who can fill it up from anywhere on the court. At the Vegas Summer League in July, the 22-year-old Motiejunas averaged 16.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG while shooting 62.2 percent from the field.
It's probably far-fetched to expect Motiejunas to usurp Asik at the starting center position anytime soon, but it won't take long for those in the know to realize that the 2011 Eurocup Rising Star is truly the best big man on the Houston roster.
Bradley Beal, Washington
It was clear that Bradley Beal would excel on the pro level—otherwise, he wouldn't have been selected with the No. 3 overall pick. However, with John Wall out indefinitely with a stress injury, we'll quickly see just how good Beal can be.
The Ray Allen comparisons are obviously a bit premature (as are the Eric Gordon analogies, for that matter), but Beal will waste no time in becoming one of the better young shooters in the Eastern Conference.
The 6'3" guard has quickly acclimated himself to the NBA game after a pedestrian freshman season at Florida, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him average 13 points per game this year.