7 NBA Rookies Who Are Playing Like Veterans

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 2, 2013

7 NBA Rookies Who Are Playing Like Veterans

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    The difference between most veterans and the younger players in the league is the ability to contribute on a routine basis.

    Veterans are reliable. They take care of business—whether it's in a featured role or a supporting one.

    The following rookies look like they've been playing here for years. The transition process for these guys hasn't been the obstacle it is for most rookies who enter the league. They've provided reliable depth or consistent production despite zero job experience at this level.

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    The numbers don't lie. Damian Lillard is averaging 18.1 points and 6.5 assists, looking every bit of a seasoned NBA point guard. You could almost mistake him for an All-Star.

    Fans watching him for the first time would have no idea he's just a rookie. The Blazers' true veterans have put their trust in Lillard, and have given him the freedom to be the primary decision-maker.

    Lillard exudes the confidence of a player who's been there and done it before, and he passes the eye test with a mature approach to the game and developed NBA body.

    He's illustrated the qualities of a floor general with the ability to take over the game as a scorer or facilitate the offense as a distributor. Lillard is likely to be the first rookie from the 2012 draft class to play in an NBA All-Star Game.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Most big men who only play a year in college need time to adjust to the new size and strength of their opponents.

    Not Andre Drummond.

    He's made an immediate impact for Detroit, and he's doing so consistency.

    Drummond is dominating the interior, averaging over 15 rebounds per 40 minutes while shooting 60.3 percent from the floor. He's fearless at the rim, making his presence known whenever there's a loose ball.

    Though he lacks offensive polish or any legitimate go-to move, he finds a way to make an impact, and that's what veterans do.

Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks

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    Pablo Prigioni has been playing like a veteran—maybe because he is one.

    No, he's not like Robin Williams in the movie Jack, playing ball with the heart of a kid and the body of a man. He's just a 35-year-old rookie.

    Prigioni was nicknamed "Maestro" in Spain because of his ability to orchestrate the offense, and that's just what he's done backing up Raymond Felton in New York.

    He runs the pick-and-roll like a pro and brings a high basketball IQ to the table every single night. Veterans know their roles, and Pablo knows his.

    Never does he overstep his boundaries and try to take a shot away from a featured scorer. He sticks to the game plan and executes it with consistency.

Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics

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    Let's give Jared Sullinger one last shout-out before he goes on injured reserve.

    Sullinger was going to work before his season was cut short. He was putting up 15-rebound games like a boss when he's really just an intern.

    Rarely does a player come into the league with an established post game, but Sullinger was one of the few prospects who had one early in his career. He's illustrated some face-up and back-to-the-basket moves that typically take a few years in the league to develop.

    But it's more of his comfort level and appearance that resemble an NBA veteran. You can question his skill set and overall value, but Sullinger's toughness is reminiscent of a seasoned veteran.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Anthony Davis has the instincts of a player who's been around the block.

    He's scoring 13 points a game on 53.2 percent shooting, which is impressive for a player who's been thought to be offensively challenged.

    Davis is converting pick-and-pop mid-range jumpers and doing his job on the glass, not to mention blocking nearly two shots a game.

    Coaches usually play it safe with rookies, and give them defined roles so they don't get overwhelmed, but Davis is handling multiple responsibilities as a two-way forward in just his first year as a pro.

Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Dion Waiters is averaging more points per game as a rookie in the NBA than he did as a sophomore at Syracuse.

    This boy can score—whether it's against kids or grown men.

    Waiters has the skill set of a J.R. Smith or Lou Williams, with the ability to take over a game off the bench and put up points in bunches. Earlier this year, Waiters dropped 25 in a road win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

    He still has plenty to work on, but having no experience hasn't stopped him from scoring on some of the game's toughest defenses.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

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    Draymond Green gave off veteran vibes as a freshman at Michigan State.

    He's not the impact player he was in college, but Green has given the Golden State Warriors some hard-fought minutes in his limited time on the floor.

    It's the reason why Green is likely to last in this league despite lacking a specialty skill. In fact, you could probably label Green's specialty either "glue" or "toughness."

    Green is only getting 15 minutes a game, but coach Mark Jackson doesn't throw him out there for no reason. His defense, rebounding and passing all have meaning in Golden State's lineup.