Under-the-Radar NBA Rookies You Need to Know

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

Under-the-Radar NBA Rookies You Need to Know

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    While Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis soak up most of the 2012-13 NBA rookie spotlight, there's a group of lesser-known newcomers who are positive additions to their clubs and are on track for successful careers.

    Every year, we tend to keep a close eye on the top 10 picks and the lottery selections, but there are some late second-round and undrafted 2012 rookies who are giving their teams great value.

    The key for any first-year pro is to give maximum effort and minimal mistakes within the role they've been assigned.

    Some of the less-heralded or less-athletic players don't dominate the game, but they work to give their teams what's needed while the stars are on the bench.


    Statistics gathered from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, accurate as of 1/7/13.

7. Kyle O'Quinn, Orlando Magic F/C

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    Height: 6'10"

    From: Norfolk State

    Drafted: 2nd round, 19th pick (49th overall), 2012 draft

    It's not surprising that Orlando Magic center Kyle O'Quinn is flying under the radar: He's averaging 5.2 minutes per game. 

    He has yet to record double-digit minutes in a game, but he remains ultra-productive in the time Jacque Vaughn grants him.

    O'Quinn can play physical, finish with either hand and knock down 15-18 foot jumpers. His repertoire includes a couple of post-up moves and a developing step-back shot.

    In this clip, he demonstrates a willingness to screen away from the ball and move quickly to the hoop before the defense can rotate.

6. Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn Nets F

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    Height: 6'8"

    From: Bosnia

    Drafted: Undrafted

    Brooklyn Nets rookie forward Mirza Teletovic was low enough on Sacramento's radar that he was able to scorch the Kings for 14 points off the bench.

    The Bosnian plays a grand total of 6.9 minutes per game, but when he does happen to get more than a few sequences in a row to get in the flow of the game, he's a confident shooter.

    Teletovic isn't shy about tossing up shots when he gets the chance, and as a result, his three-point percentage is under 30 percent.

    But his recent exploits against the Kings shows he's become more active in all phases of the Nets' game plan, as he's protecting the rim and asserting himself on the boards.

5. Nando De Colo, San Antonio Spurs G

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    Height: 6'5"

    From: France

    Drafted: 2nd round, 23rd pick (53rd overall), 2009 draft

    Spurs rookie Nando De Colo gets irregular playing time, and he's even bounced to and from San Antonio's NBADL affiliate Austin Toro's. But when Gregg Popovich does call his number, he doesn't disappoint.

    The French guard's court vision and passing skills make him a threat to drop a half-dozen dimes when he's in the rotation. If he can curb the turnovers a little more, he'll be a viable backup point guard.

    His shooting prowess is another asset for San Antonio. He can use the dribble to create mid-range shots, but he also does some damage beyond the arc. De Colo is shooting 40 percent from distance thus far.

    He's no Manu Ginobili, but it looks like De Colo was another good overseas choice by the Spurs organization.

4. Bernard James, Dallas Mavericks F/C

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    Height: 6'10"

    From: Florida State

    Drafted: 2nd round, 3rd pick (33rd overall), 2012 draft

    Bernard James' underwhelming mobility and subpar explosiveness make him a mismatch against certain opponents.

    Fortunately, he has the positional awareness, coordination and drive to compensate, as the Dallas Mavericks are giving him double-digit minutes over the first couple months of 2012-13.

    James has a nifty baby hook, a nose for putbacks and he's active on the glass. If he averaged 36 minutes per game, he'd post 11.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per night, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

    The featured clip here isn't astounding, but it does showcase his good hands to catch the bounce and finish quickly away from the help defense.

3. John Jenkins, Atlanta Hawks G

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    Height: 6'4"

    From: Vanderbilt

    Drafted: 1st round, 23rd pick, 2012 draft

    John Jenkins was a scoring machine during his time at Vanderbilt, and he continues to fill the hoop in spurts with the Atlanta Hawks.

    Using his quick release and textbook form, Jenkins is able to burn opponents from deep before they have a chance to contest his shot.

    In addition to scoring off screens and spot-ups, Jenkins can also put the ball on the deck and get to the rim. He's not too athletic by NBA standards, but his touch allows him to score with his left or through contact.

    His 53 percent shooting and 44 percent from three-land can't fly under the radar for too much longer.

2. Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks G

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    Height: 6'3"

    From: Argentina

    Draft: Undrafted

    Even though he's a New York baller who led the Olympics in assists, Pablo Prigioni gets overshadowed by Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and a slew of other Knickerbockers.

    If you haven't had a chance to watch him play, take note of his intensity and superb passing skills. The Argentinian rookie is a 35-year-old who plays like he's 21.

    Prigioni leads all rookies in steals-per-minute rate, as he swipes 2.6 per 36 minutes.

    He's also taken advantage of the extra possessions during Raymond Felton's absence, dishing nine assists on a couple occasions.

    What he does isn't flashy, but he gets the ball to its destination quickly and efficiently.

1. Brian Roberts, New Orleans Hornets G

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    Height: 6'1"

    From: Dayton

    Drafted: Undrafted

    When we assessed all the talented newcomers entering the NBA in the fall of 2012, Brian Roberts wasn't on the forefront of anyone's mind. It turns out he's one of the best guards in the whole group.

    College hoops darlings Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers garner a lot of attention, which is why Brian Roberts still runs unnoticed by the casual fans.

    The New Orleans Hornets' undrafted playmaker first made his mark with a 16-point, eight-assist game on November 9 against Charlotte, and he's been firing away ever since.

    Roberts' ball-handling allows him to get his shot off where he wants it, as he uses his quick release to put up jumpers or toss quick passes into the seams of the defense. His shooting percentage isn't ideal, but his assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4) isn't bad for a rookie.


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