NBA Rookies Already on Path to Stardom

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2013

NBA Rookies Already on Path to Stardom

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    Every draft is declared a "weak draft" until later on, when the guys start playing in front of a broader audience. This happens because people find it hard to imagine that players who aren't stars yet will make it as stars eventually.

    The 2012 NBA draft wasn't especially heralded, though people had high hopes for Anthony Davis. Aside from The Brow, stardom was far from promised for any of these guys. 

    A few months later, and the narrative has shifted. This draft is looking strong, deep even.

    Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond were once "question marks." Today, we have a few more answers about some promising young rookies. 

Andre Drummond

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    Here's a fun exercise. Search Google for stories that include the words "Andre Drummond" and "Kwame Brown." 

    You'll find a lot of stories from this summer, and I'm assuming that you'll never find such stories again. Drummond has proven such a comparison ludicrous already.

    Andre Drummond is far more athletic than Kwame Brown ever was, and Drummond claims far more dexterous hands. The combination of athleticism and touch has allowed Drummond to claim a top-10 rebound rate. 

    Andre obviously needs to work on his terrible free-throw stroke, but his game is impressive in so many other aspects. He's got as much defensive potential as anyone in the league, and that includes Anthony Davis.

Damian Lillard

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    Damian Lillard is the consensus leader for a ROY award, and he's already the focal point of his team's offense. In his movements, he conjures something of a comparison to a more athletic Chauncey Billups.

    It is difficult to project just how great Lillard will be because he's older for a rookie at the age of 22. We've rarely seen a rookie point guard this good, but most of the ones we do see are a bit younger. 

    Regardless of what Lillard's ceiling is, he's set to be a good NBA player. In his first year, he's averaging more than 18 points and six assists. He also boasts one of the better three-point shots you'll see from a younger player.

Anthony Davis

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    Anthony Davis, in my humble opinion, has been the best rookie so far. Damian Lillard is receiving most of the accolades because he plays bigger minutes and he dominates the ball. Though Damian's fantastic, he's just not at Davis' level, per possession.

    The rookie big man is second among rookies in PER and he plays nearly 10 minutes more than first-ranked Andre Drummond per night. He's also an emerging force on the defensive end, with a 1.9 block average in his 29.6 minutes per night. 

    Davis can be the rare big man who's able to guard any position. He also boasts touches around the rim, dribbling ability and a fluid jumper. Other than heft, Anthony Davis has almost every attribute needed for eventual superstardom.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is already a good player and he can barely hit a jump shot. He also isn't much of a dribbler or a passer.

    If this sounds like I'm insulting him, I'm not. I'm making the point that a 19-year-old rookie has claimed an above-average PER, despite being oh, so raw. It speaks to having a lovely foundation right off the bat.

    If MKG can improve on his shooting, as players often do, he should become an All-Star down the road. Kidd-Gilchrist is already a devastating transition finisher and dogged rebounder. The kid just needs to smooth out some other aspects of his game.

Jared Sullinger

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    Jared Sullinger will likely never be an All-Star, but he's a great pick and has a lot of promise. The Celtics lucked out when the rugged rebounder fell all the way to No. 21 in the 2012 draft.

    There were fears that Sullinger would get his shot blocked too often at the rim, but he's hitting half of his shots. That's nice, because Jared addresses a weakness for his Boston team.

    Long a poor-rebounding franchise, the Celtics hope to change that as Jared Sullinger develops. Right now, the wide power forward is second among rookies in rebound rate, behind Andre Drummond. 

    Jared Sullinger also has a nice mid-range jumper, which can help an offense spread the floor in pick-and-roll situations. That shot will be key if Sullinger is to exceed his "role player" expectations.