Rewriting Top NBA Rookie Scouting Reports Three-Quarters Through Regular Season

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIMarch 15, 2013

Rewriting Top NBA Rookie Scouting Reports Three-Quarters Through Regular Season

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    Leading up to the 2012 NBA draft, scouts and analysts attempted to dissect every college player with NBA potential. As the 2012-13 regular season hits the final stretch, our vision of what these players were supposed to be has both drastically changed and surprisingly stayed the same.

    It's time to rewrite scouting reports on the top NBA rookies.

    Some players have exceeded expectations in specific areas, proving to be a more polished product than previously projected. In that same breath, we've seen sure-thing prospects struggle to perform in the manner expected of them.

    So how should our preliminary scouting reports have looked?

    All statistics compiled in this slideshow are courtesy of 82games.com and Hoopdata.com unless otherwise specified.

10. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 7

    Position: Small Forward

    2012-13 Season Averages: 10.91 PER, 25.4 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 APG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    Entering the college ranks, Harrison Barnes received praise as an elite athlete that had all the tools to be the next best player in the NBA. For those who believe that is an overblown evaluation, note that Barnes became the first freshman in NCAA history to be a preseason All-American.

    After two years at North Carolina, however, scouts and analysts felt unconvinced of his stardom.

    They often referred to Barnes as "smooth," which is another way of saying he moves well but isn't explosive. That latter word is what many look for in an age of run-and-gun madness.

    Here's what Bleacher Report's Josh Martin had to say:

    ...he lacks the creativity, the ball-handling skills and the sheer explosiveness.

    For whatever reason, the physical ability that Barnes showed off at the pre-draft Combine never quite translated to his game at the collegiate level. The absence of a powerful first step made it difficult for Barnes to get to the rim, and once there, he was a decidedly less-than-fantastic finisher.

    Were Martin and the rest of the basketball world right? Is Barnes just not explosive enough to play in the NBA?

    Although a logical evaluation due to his style of play at UNC, we'll side with an emphatic "No."

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    In terms of production, Harrison Barnes has been as inconsistent as his playing time. When it comes to being a game-changer, however, he has displayed an uncanny ability to attack the basket and finish with ferocity.

    Exhibit A and Exhibit B.

    Through all of the jeering, the word "smooth" truly does apply to Barnes. He glides effortlessly across the floor and has the upside to be an elite defender because of it.

    With a wide base and a strong frame, Barnes has proven capable of taking contact while defending. The key for Barnes, however, is to respond to that contact by pressing up rather than giving space.

    Against elite scorers, the latter is the perfect way to provide openings to finish. Barnes appears to be learning that and adjusting accordingly.

9. Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 21

    Position: Power Forward

    2012-13 Season Averages: 13.58 PER, 19.8 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    Coming out of college, two major concerns caused Jared Sullinger's top-10 talent to fall to the 21st draft choice. The first was the understandable questions about his size, as he stands closer to 6'8" than his listed height of 6'9".

    According to Chad Ford of ESPN, the other concern—the one that truly pushed him down—was the medical red flags about his back:

    Ohio State Buckeyes big man Jared Sullinger has been medically red flagged by NBA doctors, multiple league sources told ESPN.com on Monday. 

    Sullinger, who is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft, underwent a series of medical tests at the NBA draft combine a week ago. According to sources, the doctors who looked at Sullinger were concerned with Sullinger's back. 

    Let's clarify.

    The first concern was that Sullinger's height would not permit him to score or rebound at a high rate in the NBA. Although he has polished fundamentals in that capacity, as Sullinger is the elite of the elite in terms of boxing out and using his body, many expected him to struggle against taller players.

    The other issue was the potential for Sullinger to suffer a back injury. So how has that all turned out?

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    On one hand, Sullinger leads the Boston Celtics in offensive rebounding and started five games for a respected contender. For that reason, we're inclined to believe that the scouting report was off and the concerns about his size were unjustified.

    On the other hand, Sullinger is out for the season after undergoing surgery on two herniated disks in his back. One concern disproved, the other becomes a harsh reality.

    When on the floor, Sullinger proved to be one of the best rookies out there. He displayed a much more polished face-up game than expected and diversified his back-to-the-basket low-post moves.

    As a defender, Sullinger also proved to be a quality interior presence. In fact, he led all qualified rookies in defensive rating.

    Sullinger had played more like a top-10 pick than the 21st overall selection when he went down. Unfortunately, he did suffer from the injury that had him red-flagged.

8. Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Drafted: N/A

    Position: Guard

    2012-13 Season Averages: 10.72 PER, 26.6 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.6 RPG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    When Alexey Shved arrived in the NBA, the average American fan knew him for his performances at the 2012 London Olympics. Shved ranked third in assists at the Olympics and managed to create well for himself in transition.

    This analysis matched what DraftExpress put out prior to his signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves:

    He’s got great size for either backcourt position at 6-5 and is an extremely fluid, creative player with the ability to create his own shot, which is rare for a European prospect. He has all the typical tricks you see from Euro-style slashers, relying heavily on timing, pace, change of speed and herky-jerky shakes and crossovers to get his man off balance, but he also has an extra gear he can go to to get by his man using either hand, particularly in transition.

    With nearly a full year of NBA experience under his belt, we now know what to expect from Shved. So how accurate was his scouting report back then compared to where he is today?

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    DraftExpress hit the nail on the head with its evaluation of Alexey Shved. Not only was it right about his size and ability as a pick-and-roll player, but it touched upon the most important aspect of his game.

    For Shved, it's all about "timing, pace, change of speed and herky-jerky shakes and crossovers." That's exactly why he's struggled as a scorer during his rookie season.

    The paces of European and NBA basketball are entirely different. The European style is system-based and relies upon constant motion in the half court, while the NBA has developed into more of a read-and-react league in transition.

    Shved is capable in the latter, but he's also learning how supremely athletic NBA players are. Once he develops a further understanding of how to properly attack an NBA defense, Shved could be in store for big things. 

    Who doesn't like a 6'5" point guard?

7. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 5 (2011)

    Position: Center

    2012-13 Season Averages: 13.68 PER, 21.5 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    Prior to the 2011 NBA draft, the NBA became infatuated with Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas. Billed as the opposite of what we're used to seeing with European players, Valanciunas was said to be a physical and athletic big.

    The issue was that he was not polished on offense. Instead, he was more of an effort player with superb athleticism.

    Chad Ford of ESPN broke it down:

    While Valanciunas has tremendous offensive potential, it is based more on his athleticism than his skill level. Right now, he scores most of his points off energy plays like offensive rebounds, fast breaks and in the screen-and-roll game, where he gets a running start to the rim. 

    His lack of strength doesn't allow him to get close enough to the basket yet to utilize any low post moves. And his passing out of the post is average at this point.

    The question is, how true is Ford's evaluation in comparison to what Valanciunas is doing today?

    Simply, Ford was quite accurate with his depiction of the big man. It just so happens that Valanciunas has improved over the course of the season.

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    Much like Ford reported, Valanciunas is an energy player who makes his living by flat-out competing. He crashes the offensive glass, works down low and scores a majority of his points in the lane.

    In fact, 77.7 percent of Valanciunas' field-goal attempts have come in the paint or restricted area.

    While not spectacular, Valanciunas shoots an encouraging 35.8 percent from mid-range. What's discouraging is that he does so while attempting just 1.1 mid-range field-goal attempts per game.

    It's safe to say that his unpolished skill set has been on full display—as have his work ethic and ability to continuously improve.

    Valanciunas has five double-doubles and averages 1.9 offensive rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game. Valanciunas ranks 10th amongst rookies in rebounds per 48 minutes and has proved to be a reputable shot-blocker.

    The key for Valanciunas is to keep his head up in the post, as he's currently become predictable in his approach. Still, activity and athleticism are great ways to carve out a lengthy career.

6. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 2

    Position: Small Forward

    2012-13 Season Averages: 14.23 PER, 25.8 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 BPG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    Entering the 2012 NBA draft, analysts praised Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for his elite athleticism, smothering defensive presence and nonstop motor. He received criticism for his lack of ball-handling skills and below-average jump shot.

    Bleacher Report's Josh Martin broke down a scouting report by Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress:

    If Kidd-Gilchrist is to maximize his potential at the pro level, he'll have to refine his still-raw skills—namely, his shot and his dribble.

    According to Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress, MKG shot 30 percent on spot-ups, 25.5 percent on threes, 25 percent on jumpers and 24.4 percent off the dribble during his one and only season at Kentucky. Those are all brutal numbers for a wing player—even one whose game is predicated more on hustle and physicality than finesse—but aren't exactly surprising when considering how hideous his jumper is.

    Quite harsh, but is that the reality? According to the numbers, it is.

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    Thus far in 2012-13, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist shoots 27 percent on mid-range jump shots. Furthermore, MKG attempts 68.8 percent of his field goals in the paint or the restricted area.

    In the restricted area, 59.5 percent of his shots fall, while 23.4 percent fall from in the paint.

    Perhaps most concerning of all, MKG has attempted nine three-point field goals through 61 games. We're aware that it's a weakness, but one could make a case that Kidd-Gilchrist's game is limited by his inability to keep a defense honest by at least attempting the shots.

    As for his defense, Kidd-Gilchrist has posted a defensive rating of 108.7. With that being said, MKG is sixth amongst rookies in terms of points off turnovers.

    He's fourth in fast-break points and has found a way to turn his energy into production. The issue is, Kidd-Gilchrist has not performed at the level he'd like to call acceptable.

    Fortunately, no statistic can measure heart—and MKG has a lot of it.

5. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 4

    Position: Shooting Guard

    2012-13 Season Averages: 14.02 PER, 29.4 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    Entering the 2012 NBA draft, most viewed Dion Waiters as a borderline lottery pick whose exposure in college was limited, at best. The comparisons to Dwyane Wade were present, as their size and style bear reason for comparison.

    Waiters is lethal off the dribble, as he has the ball skills and powerful body to penetrate defenses. He's also a player who thrives in the drive-and-dish and possesses elite transition scoring skills.

    Chad Ford of ESPN projected Waiters as a player whose shooting would be inconsistent and style of play rather selfish:

    Waiters is one of the most electric scorers in the country. He's a terrific athlete who is relentless when it comes to taking the ball to the basket. Although he is a bit undersized, needs to work on his jumper and has the reputation of being a bit selfish at times, he's a big-time talent.

    The question is, how has Waiters' scouting report changed over the span of the 2012-13 NBA regular season? Are we still saying the same things now as we did before?

    Not quite.

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    Dion Waiters has proved to be an elite athlete with a tenacious mindset. Always in attack mode, Waiters has taken advantage of consistent touches by bringing it to the basket and finishing in the paint.

    A high portion (36.2 percent) of Waiters' field-goal attempts come from inside of the restricted area.

    With that being said, Waiters has been inconsistent but promising as a spot-up shooter. He converts at 20 percent on corner three-pointers and 34.5 percent from above the break.

    What has been impressive, however, is Waiters' ability to score from mid-range. He shoots 40.8 percent from said area.

    Waiters also plays very responsibly in terms of turning the ball over. He averages 1.9 turnovers per game despite posting a usage rate of 24.3 percent.

    Waiters' assist ratio of 15.7 percent is rather discouraging due to his high usage rate. More times than not, he looks to score.

    Of his field goals, 68.5 percent have been unassisted. In other words, Waiters is a tenacious scorer.

    The rest will come together before our eyes.

4. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 3

    Position: Shooting Guard 

    2012-13 Season Averages: 13.81 PER, 31.9 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 37.9% 3PT

     

    Original Scouting Report

    When Bradley Beal announced he would forgo his sophomore season to enter the 2012 NBA draft, the basketball world erupted in excitement. Comparisons began to rain down between Beal and players such as Ray Allen and Eric Gordon.

    Chad Ford of ESPN was one of the many who labeled Beal one of the most complete players in the draft:

    Beal already has a NBA body, is an excellent athlete and can do just about everything on the floor. He can handle the ball, get to the basket, shoot the 3 with NBA range and he can even play point guard in a pinch. 

    What surprised a lot of scouts this season is how good of a rebounder Beal is.

    Thus far in 2012-13, Beal has proven to be an excellent shooter and quality rebounder. As for the ball-handling, not so much.

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    Since John Wall returned to the rotation, Bradley Beal has been remarkable. From Feb. 11 onward, Beal has averaged 20 points on 49.3 percent shooting from the floor and 46.3 percent from beyond the arc.

    For a player viewed as an elite jump shooter, Beal has done a marvelous job of fitting the bill. He thrives as a spot-up shooter and is more than capable of running in transition.

    With that being said, Beal proved that without Wall he struggles to create his own shot with efficiency at the NBA level.

    The handles and strength are there, but the creativity has been inconsistent.

    Thus far in 2012-13, 65 percent of Beal's two-point field goals have been assisted. A stunning 95.1 percent of his three-point field goals have come off assists.

    As a result, we can derive that Beal thrives in working off the ball. The next step is for the former Florida Gator to develop his handle.

    Beal leads all rookies in fast-break points. 

3. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 9

    Position: Center

    2012-13 Season Averages: 22.39 PER, 19.7 MPG, 7.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 59.2% FG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    Coming out of college, NBA draftniks commonly referred Andre Drummond to as a "boom-or-bust" prospect. He garnered comparisons to both Dwight Howard and Kwame Brown.

    Even as Drummond proved to be a polished product, scouts and analysts confused elite athleticism with a lack of fundamentals.

    Josh Martin of Bleacher Report summed up the popular theory about the big man:

    Interestingly enough, where Drummond's "tenderfootedness" within the game shows most is as a defensive rebounder. Drummond has a penchant for going after defensive boards without putting a body on his man first. He relies on his size, strength and athleticism—all of which are off the charts—yet too often is beaten to the ball because he fails to put a body on someone first.

    Not exactly.

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    According to NBA.com, Andre Drummond has the highest Player Impact Estimate of any qualified rookie. A major reason is his ability to dominate the glass, patrol the paint and come up with rebounds at an astonishingly high rate.

    Drummond leads all qualified rookies in rebounding percentage, defensive rebounding percentage and offensive rebounding percentage.

    Contrary to what was previously said about Drummond, this has to do with his positioning. He knows how the ball will come off the rim and exactly where his body needs to be.

    That is a product of fundamentals, folks, not his supreme athleticism.

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 1

    Position: Power Forward

    2012-13 Season Averages: 21.12 PER, 28.2 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.1 SPG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    With a 7'6" wingspan, polished skills and the presence of an elite interior defender, Anthony Davis had it all coming out of college. In fact, Davis was the decided No. 1 overall draft choice months before the event even began.

    According to Chad Ford of ESPN Insider, he was what scouts call a "can't-miss prospect":

    Davis is a lock as the No. 1 pick in the draft. The college basketball player of the year is the rare prospect who has virtually everything you want in a player. He's got elite size, length and athleticism. He produced at a high level on the court (he led all NCAA players in PER this season) and still has tremendous upside going forward. He's a great kid and a hard worker. 

    Yes, he needs to get stronger and he'll need to continue to improve his offensive game, but at this point he's considered a can't-miss prospect by every NBA scout and executive I've spoken to.

    How accurate was this depiction? Is Davis actually a can't-miss prospect somewhere between solid and elite in almost every area?

    More or less.

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    Damian Lillard's rise to stardom has caused some to believe that Anthony Davis has put on a lackluster season. Those people clearly haven't watched the former Kentucky Wildcat play.

    Davis has been magnificent.

    Davis leads all rookies in rebounds, blocks and steals per game. He's also first in Player Efficiency Rating and second in Player Impact Estimate.

    How does he perform outside of the numbers?

    Davis has a tendency to rely too heavily upon a below-average mid-range jump shot. With that being said, the reason his percentage is so low—28 percent—is a tendency to short-arm the shot.

    This is something correctable and not a mark of a poor season.

    On the defensive end, Davis has displayed phenomenal footwork. He almost always keeps a wide base, never crosses his feet and maintains position on smaller scorers.

    As a result, Davis has picked up where he left off at Kentucky as a dominant interior defender.

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Drafted: First Round, Pick No. 6

    Position: Point Guard

    2012-13 Season Averages: 16.81 PER, 38.5 MPG, 19.0 PPG, 6.4 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG

     

    Original Scouting Report

    Approaching the 2012 NBA draft, there wasn't much that scouts could find to dislike about Damian Lillard. Most labeled him as the best point guard in the draft and noted his scoring abilities that fit the way the position has changed over the years.

    Most importantly, Lillard was one of the most efficient players in the nation in college. During his final year at Weber State, Lillard posted a PER of 33.58.

    According to Bleacher Report's Josh Martin, however, Lillard played a style that requires him to experience a relatively steep learning curve:

    Lillard has shown that he can be a willing passer, though he registered only one assist every five possessions or so as a senior at Weber State. As such, there figures to be a learning curve for Lillard as he adjusts to a new role on a new team on a new plane of basketball existence.

    That was an understandable and, quite frankly, rational belief. However, all who believed that Lillard would have a learning curve were immediately proved wrong.

    He may be a rookie, but this young man outclasses veterans and All-Stars on a nightly basis.

     

    Updated Scouting Report

    Damian Lillard has been absolutely sensational in virtually every phase of the game. His pure shooting ability has made observers marvel, while his facilitating has been at a quality level considering the post-up style of Portland's offense.

    In fact, Lillard leads all rookies in scoring, assists and three-point field goals made; he is 62 field goals made ahead of the second-leading three-point shooter.

    Perhaps most impressive of all, Lillard is one of the most poised and controlled rookies in recent memory. His ability to come up in the clutch and sink shots with the game on the line may be the most impressive aspect of all.

    He's 12th in the NBA in terms of clutch scoring.

    With all of this noted, Lillard has not yet approached the realm of elite defenders. In fact, he struggles with players who thrive as jump shooters and can be vulnerable when taken off the dribble.

    In due time, that will improve. If you don't believe it, just look at how far he's come from a mid-major point guard no major schools wanted to touch to the prospect every team wishes it had drafted.