NBA Predictions: Top Rookies Who Will Struggle out of the Gates

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIOctober 29, 2012

NBA Predictions: Top Rookies Who Will Struggle out of the Gates

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    In just a few short days, another NBA season will be upon us. While 2012's draft class was considered by many to be "thin," it's the rookies that are making plenty of preseason buzz.

    But not everyone can be a star straight out of the gate.

    Whether you're an elite scorer learning to play the point, or an unselfish player at a selfish position, everybody has to face a learning curve.

    For some that curve takes multiple seasons to get over. For others, it takes just a couple months.

    Either way, here's a look at some of the NBA's rookies expected to see some form of adversity this season.

Austin Rivers

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    The New Orleans Hornets are a team with a chance for a very good offense. With Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, there's a lot of scoring potential.

    But what they really need is some glue. A floor general to hold things together.

    I don't know if they drafted Austin Rivers with that "glue" in mind. But if they did, they're sure to be disappointed.

    Rivers has a great skill set, and he could become an electric scorer. But he has a shoot-first mentality at this point. That's not what the Hornets need.

    They also don't need his turnovers to assist ratio from Duke (2.3:2.1).

    Rivers has room to grow, but it's going to take more than the NBA preseason to get there. I'll be surprised if he develops into anything more than a role player for the Hornets this season.

Damian Lillard

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    Let me start by saying, I think Damian Lillard is going to be a very good player for the Blazers, and if anyone can give Anthony Davis a run for rookie of the year, it's him.

    But I think some people are expecting him to play like Brandon Roy straight out of the gate.

    Lillard was fantastic in the Summer League, but that's when he was the team's leading threat. He has to learn how to be a contributing member while playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.

    And don't forget, the Blazers will face the Lakers, Thunder, Mavericks, Clippers and Spurs all in the first two weeks of the season. It's tough to learn to be an NBA star against teams like that.

    While Lillard will get plenty of looks, it'll take time for the Blazers to find their true offensive flow. But once they do, that's when he'll explode.

Fab Melo

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    With the loss of Ray Allen, the Boston Celtics will rely more on interior scoring than in seasons past. That means they need the best out of their bigs.

    Sometimes in college, having size is enough. It certainly was for Fab Melo, who could plant his feet and stop any player in their tracks.

    But to be a true NBA star you need IQ. You need to learn how to utilize your size, whether that means running pick-and-rolls or crashing the boards.

    Melo just isn't at that level yet, and it'll take plenty of time before he is.

Terrence Ross

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    Terrence Ross has the chance at being a great NBA shooting guard. He's got the talent and athleticism, and a little development in his game will go a long way.

    Some think Ross lacks confidence, which is why he plays unselfish ball at a selfish position.

    Chances are, Ross comes out of the NBA gate looking to play his unselfish game. He'll defer when he feels necessary, and that will hold back his scoring stats.

    But very soon Ross will learn to trust his shot. With Toronto's back court, no doubt he'll get his hands on the ball plenty.

    The sooner he understands he's got to be a primary scorer, the sooner his game will ramp up.

Jared Sullinger

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    Another Celtic rookie makes the list. And why Melo's development is going to be a long-term project, Jared Sullinger should start paying dividends at some point in his first NBA season.

    Sullinger is the opposite of Melo. He's a guy who likes raw size, but oozes NBA intellect.

    He's also used to being a star. He was the go-to player at Ohio State, and now has to learn what it's like to be a role player. That's where he'll struggle out of the gate.

    But if that's his learning curve, there's no better place to be than Boston.

    Sullinger's surrounded by veterans and has a head coach who's excellent at getting rookies into valuable roles. It shouldn't take him long to adjust, and once he does he could even give Brandon Bass a run for his starting spot.