Teams will know that the futures of their respective franchises may depend on picking well when they're on the clock and will be looking for their first-round draft picks to be genuine stars—something that some players won't end up being.
Not in their rookie seasons, anyway.
Read on to see which likely first-round prospects will struggle in their rookie season.
Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
It's hard to fault Cody Zeller's game a great deal, but at the same time, it's also hard to find a great deal to love about his game. He doesn't necessarily make mistakes, but he isn't going to wow anybody and has seen his draft stock slip from being a potential top-five pick as a result.
Whatever team ends up drafting Zeller (potentially still a lottery target) needs to know that this isn't a guy with a huge ceiling; rather, he is a safe pick whom they can count on for consistent production.
For some teams, that's more than fine. For others, he'll be a struggling pick.
The biggest question mark will be as to what system Zeller finds himself in, if it's one that has the tools to allow him to develop and be a consistent squad player or if it's one that is relying on him to step up big. If he falls in the lottery and ends up on a team without all of the star pieces in place, he may struggle to produce the performances that certain teams will be looking for.
He's a great fit in most systems on the surface, but he needs to be on a team where he isn't looked to as an elite scorer or a go-to player; otherwise, he could face a horrendous few years in his NBA career.
Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor
Isaiah Austin has already gone from being considered a top pick coming into this year to being a mid- to low first-round pick. Which is completely understandable given the season he just had, struggling to find the same consistency and production as in years gone by.
His shooting isn't the best, and he isn't the presence inside that teams need from a power forward, which could mean he will struggle once he hits the NBA.
Despite standing 7'1", Austin is only 220 pounds, which is nowhere near the size he'll need to be to play at the 4. There are going to be plenty of small forwards who are bigger and better than he is, let alone power forwards, and he'll definitely need to bulk up or improve his shooting to determine what position he's best equipped for.
Austin has tremendous skills, however, and given his size, he makes for a fascinating project. He has genuine long-term upside, which few players can claim, and could make a great pick for a team that's willing to invest some years into his professional development.
But there's no way he's going to be a star in his rookie season.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
It might be a bit surprising to see Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on this list, but the reality is that there are few systems in the NBA that work well for the star guard.
And none of them are looking at taking him in the draft this year.
The shooting guard is a genuine threat on offense, earning the SEC Player of the Year Award as a result of his achievements. He has a great range and eye for the basket and is also capable of spacing the floor well for his teammates to find better looks.
But that isn't what teams are going to want from their first-round pick; they're going to want the same offensive production that Caldwell-Pope showed at Georgia, and therein lies the problem.
Caldwell-Pope thrived with the Bulldogs because of the system. It allowed him to take a lot of shots and chalk up solid numbers as a result, but it's hard to see him being a great fit in an NBA team that most likely isn't going to allow him those same shooting opportunities.
He took 43 percent of Georgia's three-point attempts last season—something that no NBA team is going to give their rookies, unless he's taken in the first handful of picks. Most teams will already have a go-to scorer on their team, and whilst Caldwell-Pope makes for a nice second option and a constant threat along the perimeter, he isn't as good as the numbers suggest.
Unless he finds himself in a system like Georgia's, which is unlikely as a rookie.
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