2012-13 NBA Rookie Stock Watch, Opening Week Edition

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2012

2012-13 NBA Rookie Stock Watch, Opening Week Edition

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    The 2012-13 NBA regular season is finally here, which means we'll get to see whether the preseason's most impressive rookies continue excelling.

    Several first-year performers have taken advantage of the exhibitions by stepping up in key roles and proving they can help their teams win.

    A bundle of power forwards outshined the rest of the class and have high stocks entering the season, but a pair of wing players is hot on their heels.

    Which rookie enters the first week of the season with the highest stock?

Best of the Rest

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    DeQuan Jones, ORL guard: Stock is Up (10.4 PPG, 55 percent FG shooting)

    Thomas Robinson, SAC forward: Stock is Up (17 points, eight rebounds in final preseason game)

    Perry Jones, OKC forward: Stock is Steady (9.8 PPG, 57 percent FG shooting)

    Terrence Jones, HOU forward: Stock is Steady (10.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG)

    Donatas Motiejunas, HOU center: Stock is Steady (9.8 PPG, 51 percent FG shooting)

    Tyshawn Taylor, BKN guard: Stock is Up (8.0 PPG, 3.0 APG)

10. Bradley Beal, Wizards G

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    Stock Report: Down

    Washington's young shooter began the preseason strong, and his stock was one of the best in the rookie class.

    A gradual decrease in productivity and subpar shooting nearly knocked him out of our stock watch, as he shot 8-of-27 over his last three games.

    Nevertheless, Beal showed everyone why the Wizards chose him with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. Not only can he shoot from outside, he can drive the ball to the tin and finish with finesse or strength.

    Shot selection and overall efficiency will be his biggest goals moving forward. If he can't fix that, don't expect him to remain on this list.

9. Andrew Nicholson, Magic F

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    Stock Report: Down

    He cooled off a bit since mid-October, but Orlando Magic forward Andrew Nicholson's preseason display earned him a nice chunk of regular-season playing time.

    The 6'10" St. Bonaventure graduate has the tools to work in the post, but he also has the skill to drill mid-range jumpers.

    Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson will take the bulk of Orlando's shots in 2012-13, and with good reason. But it would be wise for the Magic to invest in their future by giving Nicholson frequent opportunities to excel.

    If head coach Jacque Vaughn can give Nicholson 15-20 minutes per game, it will benefit the club in 2012-13 and in the long term.

8. Andre Drummond, Pistons F

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Throughout October, Detroit Pistons fans got a taste of how good the low-post tandem of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond can be.

    When Drummond is active and in a groove, he can dominate the paint by altering shots, effectively rebounding and finishing with ferocity.

    It's common knowledge that his offense is raw, but what's encouraging from the rookie is his commitment to efficiency. He shot 62 percent in the preseason, as he tried to get the best position possible and convert favorable looks.

    Drummond probably won't put up Rookie of the Year numbers, but the Pistons will be satisfied if he continues rattling rims and swatting shots.

7. Chris Copeland, Knicks F

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    Stock Report: Steady

    Chris Copeland's hard work in Europe and the NBADL has paid off, as he finally made an NBA roster.

    He was the survivor of the New York Knicks' month-long tryouts, as the New York Times reported he earned the final roster spot.

    Copeland's scoring ability was evident over the past few weeks, as he scored at least 15 points in four of New York's six preseason tilts. The Times' Nate Taylor notes that he and reserve guard Pablo Prigioni form a potent duo off the bench:

    Prigioni has illustrated how effective Copeland can be on offense by making assists to him on pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop plays. The two players could be a part of Woodson’s rotation.

    With Amar'e Stoudemire sidelined with knee issues, Copeland may actually see some meaningful minutes as the regular season kicks off.

6. Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors F

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    Stock Report: Up

    The Celtics, Knicks and Nets tend to receive the bulk of the Atlantic Division attention, but Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas will draw some interest north of the border.

    Toronto's 2011 selection has made the most of his first preseason, rebounding the ball extremely well and protecting the rim consistently. He also proved he can attack the rim with purpose (check out exhibit A) and draw fouls.

    Valanciunas must work to avoid fouling frequently, as he reached five fouls in two of his last three games. Hopefully for the Raptors, it's something he'll clean up as he gets a better feel for the nuances of NBA refereeing and physicality.

    With a couple of splendid games to cap his preseason, the Lithuanian youngster is primed to put a serious dent in the Eastern Conference in 2012-13.

5. Harrison Barnes, Warriors F

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    Stock Report: Up

    A late preseason surge helped Harrison Barnes earn the starting small forward spot for Golden State, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

    His superb outside shooting definitely helped his cause, but the Mercury-News' Marcus Thompson II said Mark Jackson ultimately chose Barnes over Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson for a different reason:

    Though Barnes has shown he's pretty capable of scoring, his offense wasn't what won over Jackson. Instead, it was Barnes' proving he wasn't a liability on defense that made Jackson feel comfortable enough to start Barnes.

    Barnes' length and athleticism will help him stay in front of most swingmen, and Jackson hopes his 48 percent three-point shooting will continue into the regular season.

    Due to Golden State's depth at small forward, Barnes will need to stay sharp every night and avoid any rookie lapses.

4. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers G

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    Stock Report: Down

    Overall, Portland gunner Damian Lillard had an outstanding preseason, but his stock took a slight dip when he committed 11 turnovers in two games.

    Lillard's final preseason game was his worst, as he shot 4-of-14 from the field, including 1-of-6 shooting on triples and six turnovers.

    But that doesn't change the reality that he's a dynamic playmaker capable of scoring on almost any defender. His skills will instantly make him one of the best combo guards in the association.

    Lillard will endure his share of struggles in 2012-13, considering how much he'll handle the rock. His in-season adjustments will dictate how productive he is and how far the Trail Blazers can go in the West.

3. Jae Crowder, Mavericks F

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    Stock Report: Steady

    In addition to leading all rookies in steals in the preseason, Dallas Mavericks second-round pick Jae Crowder was also fourth in scoring and fourth in overall efficiency.

    So far, he's shown an exceptional ability to take care of the ball and also take it away from opponents.

    When he's not picking foes' pockets or knocking down outside shots, he's finding ways to crash the boards and facilitate. Crowder is a tough player to confront physically and mentally because he has so many tools in his arsenal.

    His age and mediocre athleticism resulted in a second-round selection in June. But when you step back and look at what he can supply on a daily basis, it's incredible that he fell out of the first round.

    Look for him to consistently step up in relief of Dallas' veteran stars.

2. Jared Sullinger, Celtics F

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    Stock Report: Steady

    "Steady" is the perfect word to describe Boston Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger, who was reliable on the glass and in the stat sheet every night.

    The young power forward averaged 10.9 points and seven rebounds per game along with 56 percent shooting, which is solid production for a late first-round pick.

    Sullinger might not crack Boston's starting lineup this season, but Doc Rivers will lean heavily on him off the bench. What he lacks in explosiveness or upside, he makes up for with a high hoops IQ, strength and footwork.

    He's already forming an effective connection with point guard Rajon Rondo, something that's critical to his development as a rookie.

1. Anthony Davis, Hornets F/C

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    Stock Report: Up

    No one finished the preseason stronger than 2012 top choice Anthony Davis, who was the difference in New Orleans' October 26 win over Miami.

    Although it was just an exhibition game, it was still impressive to see the Hornets' prized rookie controlling the glass and converting offensively against the defending champs.

    Overall, Davis has lived up to his No. 1 pick status, notching nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds per contest while fouling less than twice per game. 

    Some doubted Davis due to his slender frame and under-developed offense, but his resourcefulness, coordination and court awareness pick up the slack.

    He won't carry the Hornets to the playoffs, but if they do flirt with .500, he'll be a big reason why.