5 NBA Rookies Who We're Still Waiting on to Blossom
Now that the 2012-13 NBA season is a few months in, the rookie landscape is starting to take shape. After being drafted over the summer, some recently drafted youngsters have adjusted well to the professional level. Guys like Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard have captured the fans' hearts as a result.
Other rookies, however, have yet to break out of their shell.
As is the case with every NBA draft class, some rookies just don't have what it takes to compete in the league from the get-go.
Take Austin Rivers of the New Orleans Hornets, for example. He was a fine shooter at Duke, but has yet to produce the same consistency as a professional. Similarly, larger forwards who were explosive in college or overseas have yet to find the same firepower in the NBA.
Not surprisingly, fans are starting to get impatient when it comes to waiting for these players to start playing like All-Stars.
No. 5: Thomas Robinson, Sacramento Kings
2012-13 Stats: 4.5 PPG, 4 RPG, .659 FT%, .409 FG%
Robinson was an explosive power forward his junior year at Kansas. He was able to utilize his jump shot, drive hard to the basket, and rebound to the tune of 17.7 points and 11.9 boards per game. With a 6'10", 237-pound frame, it appeared as though he was set to become a powerful scoring and defensive forward, a la Amar'e Stoudemire.
Unfortunately for Robinson, he has yet to find his place in the league. He plays for the Sacramento Kings, who already have a crowded frontcourt featuring DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson.
The Kings are a team on which he could do some fine work, but the team's uncertain future in Sacramento leaves management in an awkward position. Do they develop him, or try and use him as a trade chip to bring in a top superstar?
Either way, Robinson has been a shell of his former self in Sacramento. That could all change with a little more playing time, but the fact that he has produced so little in over 15 minutes per game thus far says it all.
The former Jayhawk still has a lot to learn before he makes an impact in the NBA.
No. 4: Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
2012-13 Stats: 7.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, .524 FG%
Valanciunas was drafted in 2011, but had to stay in his native Lithuania for a year to pay the buyout of his contract with his former team, Lietuvos Rytas. He debuted for the Raptors this year, but has yet to fully adjust to playing center in the NBA.
He is only 20 and has good size for the position at 6'11", 231 pounds, but playing center in Europe is different than playing the position in the NBA. Overseas, the center is often called upon to use his jump shot, as offense is a bigger part of the game.
Valanciunas has had a hard time staying in the paint and getting physical in the middle. His potential is there, but he is playing just a bit soft for someone his size.
In time, he can hopefully become a valuable big man and play a key role for the Raptors moving forward. For now, he is just another European import struggling to find success in the NBA.
No. 3: Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets
2012-13 Stats: 7.8 PPG, .349 FG%, .358 3P%
In his sole year at Duke, Rivers proved to be a reliable scorer and three-point shooter. He averaged 15.5 points per game, and shot 36.5 percent from long range.
However, at 6'4", 200 pounds, Rivers wasn't much of an athlete outside of his scoring skills. He entered the NBA draft despite that and a lack of defensive prowess, and the Hornets took him with the 10th pick.
An injury to Eric Gordon made him the starting shooting guard, and Rivers has struggled mightily. His consistency has been nonexistent, and he has scored in double figures just nine times in 29 games played.
Granted, Rivers has good NBA genes (his father is Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers) and could break out of funk with time and patience.
Still, he has not been the offensive spark fans hoped he would be, and has thus been one of the greatest disappointments of this year's draft class.
No. 2: Kendall Marshall, Phoenix Suns
2012-13 Stats: 0.9 PPG, 0.8 APG, .273 FG%, .200 3P%
When the Suns drafted Marshall out of North Carolina, I did a double take. Marshall was anything but the right choice for a team that runs a fast-paced offense.
In two years with the Tar Heels, Marshall averaged eight assists per game, but just 7.1 points. Phoenix sent him to the D-League to work on his offense, but that only created more concerns.
In nine games with the Bakersfield Jam, Marshall shot just 31 percent from the field and 22 percent from long range. His passing was the best part of his game, at 7.6 dimes per contest.
The fact of the matter is that if Marshall is going to make it in the NBA, his offense needs to improve. The Suns' offense calls for a point guard who can score consistently and also pass, and Marshall only fits half of that bill.
Given how Phoenix is in rebuilding mode, it may be time to reconsider drafting him unless his performance shows significant improvement down the stretch.
No. 1: Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers
2012-13 Stats: 4.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.8 BPG, .546 FG%
Portland needed a center entering the 2012 draft, and Leonard wasn't that bad of a choice. He has good size at 7'1", 245 pounds, and posted 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to go with 13.9 points per game his sophomore season at Illinois.
In the NBA, however, Leonard has proven to be something of a raw talent. He has been slow moving up and down the court, and does not have the strength necessary to stand and bang in the middle with more experienced centers.
That isn't to say that Leonard is an absolute lost cause. He's only 20 and still has plenty of time to develop his game on both sides of the floor. He also averages just 16.6 minutes per game, so playing time could be the issue behind his low production.
Just the same, Trail Blazers fans are going to be looking for Leonard to step up and produce consistently next season, assuming that J.J. Hickson leaves for another team. Unless he starts separating himself from the pack soon, then the fans will be setting themselves up for disappointment.