5 Biggest Projects in the 2012-2013 NBA Rookie Class

Ehran Khan@@ekhansworldContributor IIIFebruary 8, 2013

5 Biggest Projects in the 2012-2013 NBA Rookie Class

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    This just in: NBA rookies are works in progress!

    OK, so maybe it's not a shocker, but NBA fans do tend to be prisoners of the moment. 

    It only takes one bad month for people to start labeling a kid who is under the legal drinking age as a bust.

    Conversely, a few good showings (even in limited minutes) by a player has fans drawing comparisons to current All-Stars or even Hall of Famers of the same position.

    We won't know if our enlightened conclusions are correct for several years at least. Let's learn to take a step back and let players learn the NBA game.

    I'll kick off the renaissance today by discussing five guys who have gotten off to slow starts but still have brighter days ahead of them in this league.

Austin Rivers

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    Yes, Austin Rivers has been possibly the worst player in the NBA (ESPN Insider only) to receive significant minutes this season.

    But that doesn't mean he'll always be this terrible. 

    Given all the injury issues the New Orleans Hornets suffered through to begin the season, Rivers was relied upon for too much too soon through no fault of his own.

    He's probably best suited to be a sixth man who comes in off the bench to give the team an offensive boost. He's shown some signs of improvement lately as a reserve.

    Over his last five games, Rivers is averaging 12 points and four assists per 36 minutes on 46 percent shooting. As paltry as that sounds for the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, it's a big step up from his early-season play.

    Don't forget about his NBA pedigree either. Things can only get better from here.

    Actually, after watching him go grocery shopping...maybe not.

John Jenkins

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    John Jenkins, the 23rd pick in the draft, is far from a household name. In fact, the Atlanta Hawks still haven't quite fully integrated him into their lineup.

    That's more to do with their glut of small guards than anything else, but since Lou Williams went down with an injury, Jenkins has gotten more burn.

    He'll never be a superstar, but Jenkins is destined for a long NBA career thanks to his silky stroke from the outside.

    Jenkins has connected on 39.7 percent of his threes this season, second among all rookies. He also shot nearly 44 percent from deep over three years in college.

    That trait alone will earn him more minutes in Atlanta, and if he can add a drive-and-dish component to his game, he could be a very underrated trade chip going forward.

Thomas Robinson

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    Remember when Thomas Robinson was widely thought of as the correct choice to be the No. 2 pick in the draft and that the Sacramento Kings got a steal when he fell to fifth?

    No? Well, I can't blame you because Robinson hasn't shown much of anything this season.

    It's not really his fault though. Imagine being a rookie within the most dysfunctional organization in the league.

    Not only is Sacramento's roster an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle, the franchise is undergoing a likely ownership handover while its fanbase anguishes over a looming move northward to Seattle.

    Talk about a difficult working environment.

    Still, Robinson averages a double-double per 36 minutes, and when things settle down he should be a perfect complement as a frontcourt banger next to DeMarcus Cousins.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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    Is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the next victim of the Curse of No. 2?

    Since Kevin Durant was selected second overall in 2007, each successive No. 2 pick has been a disappointment (2008, Michael Beasley; 2009, Hasheem Thabeet; 2010, Evan Turner; 2011, Derrick Williams) and MKG's 10 points and six boards a game for the league's worst team would seem to fall right in line with them.

    But despite the meager numbers, Kidd-Gilchrist has a future in the league. His offensive repertoire leaves you wanting more, but the kid is still in his teens and has plenty of time to hone his skills on that end.

    What separates him from most rookies is his capability to be an elite defender. That's where most of his value lies. That's why, in spite of the raw numbers, he's still fourth among all rooks in value added and estimated wins added (h/t ESPN.com). 

Bradley Beal

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    The No. 3 pick in the draft has also struggled with his first taste of pro ball.

    Bradley Beal is shooting less than 40 percent from the field, and his team lost 28 of their first 33 games. Beal is another rookie who was forced into a role larger than he could handle right away.

    The Washington Wizards have also been hit hard by injuries, and Beal didn't have the luxury of playing next to John Wall until his last few games before sustaining an injury that currently has him out of the lineup.

    Even so, Beal turned a real corner before he got hurt. In his first 13 contests after the calendar flipped to 2013, Beal averaged nearly 15 points a game on 45 percent shooting from the field and a scorching-hot 51 percent from three-point range.

    Beal's combination of skills and youth (he's also still a teenager) provides him with nearly as much upside as anyone in the class of 2012.