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NBA Predictions: Rookies Who Will Carry Their Teams

Bradley Beal played well in the preseason and looks to continue his successes for the Wizards.
Bradley Beal played well in the preseason and looks to continue his successes for the Wizards.Nick Laham/Getty Images
David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVDecember 27, 2016

Every year in the NBA there are rookies that are drafted to be the "savior," to carry their new team.

From practically the Top Five picks in 2003 to Kyrie Irving in 2011, these new players may be the hero in wins and the goat blamed in losses.

It is pretty clear that the difference maker of the 2012 Draft was Anthony Davis Jr.. If you live under an anti-basketball rock and don't know who that is, picture Frida Kahlo.

The 6'10" center out of the University of Kentucky—a school I think should be considered to join the Southeast Division—is going to be the leader of the New Orleans Hornets for years to come.

But he isn't the focus here.

Three other NBA rookies will be called upon to help carry their respective team from the first game of the season.

While John Wall will be the focal point of the Washington Wizards offense, third overall pick Bradley Beal could blossom into a top rookie.

The sharpshooter from the University of Florida has a big role to step into as Washington was 28th in 3-point shooting last season. The Wizards knocked down just five shots from distance per game, but Beal himself could make 2.0 to 2.5 per game.

One commonly overlooked part of Beal's game is his ability to rebound the ball. He averaged nearly seven boards per game in route to earning All-SEC honors as a freshman.

At only 6'3", that number is quite impressive.

 

The Wizards just beat the Heat, too. Was it preseason?

Yes.

Did LeBron play in the fourth quarter?

No.

Must everyone be so technical?

The point is that Washington isn't the same team that finished second-worst in the league last season and Beal is a big part of that.

Beal does have the luxury of playing early games against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats.

He should be fully acclimated with the speed of the NBA and Washington's style by the time tougher competition heads his way in December.

Moving westward, highly-touted Harrison Barnes could be an impact player for the Golden State Warriors. The University of North Carolina product will likely be the starting small forward at the beginning of the season.

Barnes had a productive preseason scoring over 10 points per game and shooting 49 percent from the field—including a phenomenal 48 percent from three point range.

Whether he comes off the bench or not, making nearly every other 3-pointer would be a huge impact for the Warriors let alone any team.

With Stephen Curry healthy, Golden State could find themselves in the running for a playoff spot in April.

Barnes might be the missing piece in a deep, talented Warriors team.

The Portland Trail Blazers selected Damian Lillard sixth overall in April. Lillard, a 6'3" point guard from Weber State, played well in the final three preseason games.

He averaged 34 minutes, 16 points and 7.3 assists per game which should be a good indication of what to expect from the rookie at the beginning of the season.

The biggest challenge facing Lillard is the opening schedule, though.

Portland faces four of the Top five Western Conference finishers of 2011-12 in the first six games. Those teams are the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs.

Talk about trial by fire.

But welcome to the NBA, where competition is the name of the game. Lillard will carry the Blazers the rest of the season, so why not get an early start.

Though not by a departure, these roles have been vacant for some time in each city.

Someone must fill the shoes, and these three players have what it takes to do it this year.

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