10 NBA Rookies Being Set Up to Fail in 2012-13
Being an NBA rookie could never been easy, but for some of the 2012 draft class it's going to be an especially hard first season.
The NBA preseason has produced answers regarding some of the top rookies, but it also has raised a ton of more questions. How many rookies will see big minutes? How many are really NBA ready? Is everyone in the right situation to maximize their talent?
Unfortunately for the players (and their teams and fans) the answers for many of those questions won't be positive. A good number of the rookies on this list should have decent first seasons, but will fail to live up to expectations. Some are just in bad situations, and some won't fit in their expected system.
Here are ten players set up to fail in their rookie year, ranked in order by the magnitude of the pitfalls they'll find themselves in.
No. 10: Thomas Robinson, Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson has an exceedingly bright future. He's got great athletic abilities and has been praised in camp by the Kings coaching staff for his work ethic and defensive tenacity.
That said, expectations are set too high for Robinson's first season. He should not yet be the Kings starter at power forward and needs to prove himself before he's given serious playing time.
Robinson's athleticism is a great addition and fills a Kings' need, but veteran bigman Jason Thompson should return as the starter for now. Thompson was quietly efficient last season, finishing with a PER (player efficiency ranking) of 16.4 according to basketball-reference.com.
The Kings need consistency in their post play, and they are not guaranteed that with the rookie Robinson. So far in the preseason, Robinson is averaging six points and five boards on 40 percent shooting. He's show some bright spots (including this dunk over Los Angeles' Dwight Howard) but he needs to be more patient and consistent before he snags big minutes and the starting role.
Robinson won't have a bad rookie season, but he will fail to live up to lofty expectations. After a season or two, he will prove that he was worth a top selection in this draft class.
No. 9: Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics
If Jared Sullinger comes off the bench for Boston and plays about 20 minutes a contest as a depth player, he will have a productive rookie season.
If Boston expects Sullinger to play huge minutes and/or start while also expecting the Celtics to contend for a championship, all parties will be disappointed. Brandon Bass should be getting the starting role, not Sullinger.
To his credit, Sullinger is having an excellent preseason. He’s averaging 10.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on 56.1 percent shooting. He looks like he'll prove to be a steal for Boston, but when the real games start, he needs to be coming off the bench.
Bass is not the long term fit for the Celtics power forward position, but he fits better for now. He and Kevin Garnett had a great feel for each other last year and Bass' defense improved dramatically over the season. According to Synergy Sports, Bass allowed just .69 points per defensive possession which was 16th best in the league.
Sullinger can make the case he's a better rebounder than Bass. NCAA stats and NBA stats don't make for the best comparisons, but Bass had a true rebounding percentage of 11.5 percent last year compared to Sullinger's 23.89 defensive rebounding percentage at Ohio State. Defensively though, Bass is better.
Coach Doc Rivers has apparently settled on a starting lineup, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston. Even if he has a startling lineup planned for their season opener, Rivers also told Forsberg that he expects the starting lineup to move a around a lot. "I do think this is going to be an unusual team in that I don't think we'll have a starting lineup for most of the year," he said.
Hopefully for Celtics fans that shifting doesn't happen too much at power forward. Until Sullinger proves himself at Bass' level defensively, he shouldn't be considered a starter for this Championship chasing squad.
No. 8: Kendall Marshall, Phoenix Suns
Three preseason games into his NBA career, two things are clear about point guard Kendall Marshall. One, he's got NBA level passing skills, and two, he's nowhere near an NBA level scorer.
Marshall is averaging 3.7 assists in 23.7 minutes (or 7.6 assists per 48 minutes), but his scoring has been poor in three games. He's shooting 12.5 percent from the field, and even while that is only on eight shots he doesn't show a comfort with his own shot yet.
Baring an injury to starter Goran Dragic, Marshall is safe on Phoenix's bench and he'll have plenty of time to develop before he's called upon for big game situations. He needs a lot of time to develop his offensive game to match his passing ability.
No. 7: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats
For Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte is a bad situation this season. He's a multifaceted player who will thrive as an elite-level role player for years to come, but he will be called upon too much by the Bobcats this year.
Charlotte is hurting for talent, and Kidd-Gilchrist is their best player. He isn't a great scorer though, and he may be expected to carry more of the offensive load this season than he can.
He's shown his great defensive skills in the preseason, but offensively he's still fairly raw; he's shooting just 36.7 percent from the field. He isn't a top scoring talent and he might never be one, but if he's expected to be, it'll be a disappointment for all involved.
In three or four years, hopefully Charlotte will have a true No. 1 scoring option. Kidd-Gilchrist will prove himself as an elite defender who can do just about everything on the court, and with a No. 1 scoring option next to him he’d be a great player for years. For now, being the Bobcats best player will hurt him.
No. 6: John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are set at the guard spots with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but they're far less sure at the forward spots. That spells trouble for the raw, high potential prospect in John Henson.
Henson has played 17 minutes a contest in Milwaukee's three preseason games, so it isn't like they will need him to start. He is raw, especially offensively; he’s shooting 36.8 percent from the field, which negates his defensive and rebounding abilities.
A good sign for the future is his improved free throw shooting abilities—at North Carolina last year he sank 51.1 percent of them, but in his three preseason games he made 72.7 percent of his tries.
Henson will be out the remainder of preseason with a left knee sprain according to the Associated Press. Missing this training camp is just another bad sign for a player as raw as Henson is. He won't show his real potential for another few seasons.
No. 5: Jeremy Lamb, Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are a team in flux. How long will Kevin Martin remain with the squad? How much can the Rockets expect out of Jeremy Lin? How will the three Houston rookies perform?
For one Rockets youngster, it isn't looking so hot. While it’s still preseason, Jeremy Lamb has been inefficient and is shooting only 36.7 percent from the field. He's taking 7.5 shots a contest, so he's getting his chances to score, but he hasn't been able to connect.
If Houston does decide to trade Martin (according to ESPN's Marc Stein, Martin was on the trading block in the offseason) Lamb will be the obvious starting replacement. Aside from Jeremy Lin, he's arguably the squad’s best scorer; he averaged 17.7 points at UConn last year and none of the Rockets veteran players (aside from Martin) scored more than 10 points a game last year.
It's possible that Houston will need Lamb to handle a good deal of the offensive workload. Again, it’s only preseason, but he hasn't yet proven he can do that efficiently.
No. 4: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond has been great so far this preseason, but Pistons fans should tamper their excitement for now.
Drummond was a high-risk, high-reward prospect coming out of UConn this season. His extreme athletic gifts and raw skills make him an interesting player, but Detroit won't know exactly how good he'll be for a few years.
He's been impressive in the preseason, averaging 9.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 65.1 percent from the field. He's been coming off the bench for Detroit, and some of his production comes from playing against fellow second-stringers, so hopefully he isn’t expected to start yet.
Jason Maxiell starts alongside star Greg Monroe, so it may be easy for Piston fans to hope the exciting Drummond snags the starting role. Against starting NBA big men, Drummond won't have it as easy as he has had it in preseason though.
Of the six squads the Pistons have played against, only Miami (Chris Bosh) and perhaps Toronto (Andrea Bargnani, arguably Jonas Valanciunas) have legitimate NBA big men. Charlotte, Milwaukee and Orlando all lack serious talent in the paint. Drummond has yet to be truly tested against true NBA post talent.
If Drummond is given the starting job, expect his effective preseason stats to plummet. He'd be best on a squad with big man depth where he can learn and develop, but in Detroit he may be called upon too quickly for his raw talents.
No. 3: Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas won't be a failure in terms of on-the-court production this year. He has all the skills to have a decent rookie season and a long, fruitful career in the NBA. He will be a failure only according to the exceptionally lofty predictions of a talent-starved fan base.
Valanciunas is expected to be a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year award, which is setting the big man up for immediate failure. He has started in three preseason games for the squad so far, and while he's been solid he hasn't looked like a ROY candidate; he's averaged 6.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 22.8 minutes a game.
Those are solid stats, and it is only preseason, but he hasn't shown anything yet to back up the overzealous expectations. While he should have a nice year, don't pencil him in as a ROY winner until we see some serious minutes.
No. 2: Dion Waiters
It's commonplace nowadays to be low on Dion Waiters, but it'll be a while before we know if he was worth a top four selection.
In 22 minutes so far this preseason, Waiters has averaged eight points on 36.0 percent shooting. Kyrie Irving spoiled Cavaliers fans last season when he dominated from the start and averaged 18.5 points a contest. Waiters is far more raw, especially defensively.
His best game so far in the preseason was at Chicago on October 12th when he was the game's top scorer with 18 points. He shot an excellent 4-4 from downtown and also showed off his solid passing skills with three assists. It was a great game for the rookie, but if it's a sign of things to come expect those things to meet further down the road.
Waiters has the potential to prove in the long run that he was the right choice for Cleveland to make at No. 4. He won't prove it his rookie year, and it’ll be a long season for both Waiters and his fans in Cleveland.
No. 1: Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets
Austin Rivers is not a point guard, but he may asked to pretend to be one this season. For a rookie on a young team, that spells disaster.
Last year at Duke, Rivers finished with more turnovers than assists. He was the top scoring option, and even if he wasn't the most effective one (43.3 percent shooting), he proved he could score.
When it came to being a floor general, Rivers left much to be desired—he had an assist percentage of 12.99 percent, which is poor for a point guard. Again, Duke needed him as their top scorer, so one can only fault Rivers so far.
Yet if the Hornets expect Rivers to be their point guard (and according to Alex Cassara of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, they do) they're forcing him to play out of his natural position.
Unfortunately for Rivers, he's stuck behind off-guard Eric Gordon. Gordon and Rivers are a lot alike—both are shooting guards who can pass the ball, but shouldn't be asked to run the floor.
Hopefully for Rivers, he either develops the needed point guard skills or proves early enough that he can't be what the Hornets want him to be. They'd be playing him out of position and wasting his natural talent.
Note: Rivers suffered an ankle sprain in the Hornets preseason contest on Monday night, but according to Marc Stein of ESPN, Rivers doesn't believe it is a serious injury.