NBA Draft 2013: Rookie Projections for Likely Lottery Picks
In just over six weeks, the 2013 NBA draft will transpire at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. On that night, 60 prospects will become rookies and 14 players will earn the honorable distinction of entering the NBA as lottery picks.
The question is, how will those fortunate 14 players perform during their respective rookie seasons?
It's easy to get caught up in reputations and draft locations, as being selected as a lottery pick often bestows a star label upon the first-year players. The truth of the matter is, rookies often see limited playing time during their debut season.
The question is, which of the 14 players most likely to be lottery picks will stand out as rookies?
Anthony Bennett, UNLV Rebels
Position: Power Forward
Height and Weight: 6'8", 240 pounds, 7'1" wingspan
25.2 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 34.7% 3PT
Anthony Bennett possesses elite physical gifts and a budding skill set as an offensive player. For that reason, it's easy to believe that Bennett will make a rapid transition to the next level.
As most rookie big men do, however, Bennett could struggle to see consistent playing time as a first-year player.
According to Chad Ford of ESPN Insider, Bennett recently underwent surgery on the rotator cuff in his left shoulder. In turn, Bennett has been ruled out for the next four months.
This will rule Bennett out of any pre-draft workouts and could impact his drat stock, as well as his quality of play early in the season.
Bennet stands at 6'8" and 240 pounds with a 7'1" wingspan and explosive leaping ability, which suggests teams will still take a chance on him. Bennett can also take it outside, stroking it from beyond the arc and thus creating the belief that he can play a role as a stretch 4.
The truth of the matter is, Bennett is at his best while playing down low and would be wise to use his jump shooting as a complementary tool.
The issue, as is the case with most young players, is that Bennett often focuses too much on his jump shooting. That will be an issue early on, but Bennett should find his groove later in the season.
Bennett should tally his fair share of double-doubles, but inconsistent playing time will hinder his overall averages.
Trey Burke, Michigan Wolverines
Position: Point Guard
Height and Weight: 6'1", 175 pounds
33.8 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 6.1 APG, 2.3 RPG, 0.9 SPG
Trey Burke was tremendous during his sophomore season, winning the Naismith and Wooden awards. As a rookie, fans will likely expect Burke to translate that success to the next level.
Seeing as Burke is likely to become the starting point guard wherever he goes, that success will come.
Burke is a game-changing playmaker, as he can take an opponent off of the dribble or step back for a jump shot with limitless range. Furthermore, Burke is an accurate facilitator that thrives in making lead passes both in the half court and transition.
Stepping up as a clutch performer certainly doesn't hurt his case for Rookie of the Year.
Burke will score at a solid clip for a rookie point guard, all the while facilitating at 6.1 assists per game. His defense will improve throughout the duration of the season, as well, thus making him one of the more productive first-year players.
Burke's rise to stardom continues during a quality first season.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia Bulldogs
Position: Shooting Guard
Height and Weight: 6'5", 190 pounds
21.2 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 36.3% 3PT
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope won the SEC Player of the Year award and has since become every pundit's fastest rising prospect. The truth of the matter is, Caldwell-Pope's reputation as a sharpshooter isn't what has him as such an intriguing player here.
Caldwell-Pope rivals Ben McLemore in terms of overall versatility.
Caldwell-Pope has a quick release and deep range on his jump shot, which brings validity to his previously alluded to reputation. With that being said, he's also a dominant rebounder for his position and a superb defender.
The question will be whether or not he can create his own shot at the next level.
Caldwell-Pope will top 13 points per game, all the while grabbing rebounds and facilitating at a reasonable pace. He'll also play tenacious on-ball defense when focused and utilize his length to play the passing lanes.
His shooting will draw the most attention, but Caldwell-Pope is a legitimate NBA shooting guard as an all-around prospect.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse Orange
Position: Point Guard
Height and Weight: 6'5", 175 pounds
32.4 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG
Michael Carter-Williams is a 6'5" point guard with a matching wingspan. Truth be told, we don't need to say much more about him to captivate those unfamiliar.
Unlike other point guards with great size, however, Carter-Williams knows how to put those abilities to good use.
He may not have a jump shot, but MCW is an elite facilitator and a tenacious ball hawk. That's why he ranked third in Division I men's basketball in assists and sixth in steals during the 2012-13 season.
Expect those numbers to translate to the next level.
Depending on the team he goes to, Carter-Williams has the potential to flirt with 8.0 assists per game. With his destination undetermined, however, MCW's safe bet would be just over 7.0 assists, as his size presents something we haven't seen in quite some time.
You can pick him up off of the bounce, but in a pick-and-roll driven league, Carter-Williams could be the NBA's next great distributor.
Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals
Height and Weight: 6'11", 235 pounds, 7'4" wingspan
16.3 MPG, 4.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.4 BPG
Gorgui Dieng is commonly viewed as an elite defensive presence that will thrive blocking shots and controlling the glass. What's lost in that interpretation, however, is the fact that he's an accurate passer that has improved his offensive game significantly since first coming to Louisville.
For a team such as the Dallas Mavericks, this type of value will be tough to pass over.
Dieng was the anchor for the 2013 national champion Louisville Cardinals, patrolling the lane and rebounding well. Both of those traits will be keys to his game as a rookie, as his playing time is limited but his impact is felt.
Length and anticipation are two powerful tools for a successful NBA career and Dieng possesses both.
Alex Len, Maryland Terrapins
Height and Weight: 7'1", 225 pounds
19.4 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.2 BPG
Alex Len may have extraordinary size and a well-rounded skill set, but that doesn't change his passive nature. With this in mind, whichever head coach receives Len's services will likely take note of two key factors.
Len is very thin and he doesn't impose his will in the manner expected of a franchise player.
Per Andy Katz of ESPN.com, Len will miss all of the pre-draft workouts after receiving surgery on a partial stress fracture in his left ankle. This may hurt his draft stock, but Len's interior style of play should permit a rapid recovery.
His production shouldn't suffer too much, but a coach may be hesitant to play Len early.
Len's upside is unchanged, but in terms of his first year in the NBA, minutes could be tough to come by. His defensive presence should be valuable, while his ability to pass out of the post could help him become a starter by season's end.
Until he adds bulk to his frame, however, there's a strong possibility Len plays just about 20 minutes per contest as his role is progressively defined.
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Position: Shooting Guard
Height and Weight: 6'3", 190 pounds
19.1 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 38.3% 3PT
C.J. McCollum is the definition of instant offense and the embodiment of the word efficiency. Not only can he shoot with endless range, but he can take it off of the bounce and attack the basket.
Most importantly, he does all of this with a veteran's decision-making.
McCollum suffered a broken left foot during the regular season, but has actually benefited from the time away from the game. Barring unforeseen setbacks, he should be ready for all draft workouts and has seen his stock remain steady as others fluctuate due to inconsistencies.
Regardless of where he ends up, McCollum should see quality minutes and post strong scoring numbers in the process.
McCollum can step in as a floor-spacing jump shooter, which instantly raises his value. The fact that he is capable of handling the ball and distributing in pinch situations simply makes him an even more intriguing option.
McCollum could see starter's minutes, but we'll play it safe here.
Ben McLemore, Kansas Jayhawks
Position: Shooting Guard
Height and Weight: 6'5", 195 pounds
34.1 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 37.1% 3PT
Ben McLemore is seeing his buzz grow louder as the draft approaches, as scouts appear to have forgotten about his NCAA tournament duds. That's good news for McLemore, as his talent certainly deserves close monitoring.
Expect him to live up to the billing as a rookie.
No one has been questioning McLemore's abilities, but instead his passive nature as a player. Rather than facilitate, he often opts to defer to his teammates.
At the next level, he'll be expected to move past those tendencies and step in as an elite scorer early in his career—that's the burden of being a top-five draft choice.
As a rookie, McLemore will score at a quality clip and shoot well from beyond the arc. The key, however, will be landing on a team that has a distributing point guard.
With a high-caliber facilitator, McLemore can work off of the ball and create open looks from beyond the arc. Without one, McLemore's field-goal percentages will likely dip.
Either way, you're looking at a player that should compete for a handful of All-Star Game appearances before it's all said and done.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA Bruins
Position: Small Forward
Height and Weight: 6'6", 225 pounds, 6'11" wingspan
33.4 MPG, 16.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.8 SPG
You can question his status as a future star, if you'd like, but Shabazz Muhammad can score the basketball. In fact, Muhammad is the caliber scorer that can step in and score at a high clip during his rookie season.
Expect him to do just that.
Muhammad has the power and length to thrive as a slasher and finish well in traffic. He's also an aggressive rebounder that can create looks for himself by attacking the offensive glass.
One way or another, Muhammad will score.
The key for Muhammad will be to end up on a team in which there is a player to create shots for him. Muhammad is more than capable of scoring off of the bounce, but his ability to score as a catch-and-shoot marksman could elevate his numbers to a new level.
Either way, Muhammad will remind the world why he was originally viewed as a contender for the first overall draft choice by competing for the Rookie of the Year award.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky Wildcats
Height and Weight: 6'11", 215 pounds, 7'4" wingspan
28.3 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.1 SPG
If you're looking for the best player in this draft class, there's no need to go any further than center Nerlens Noel. Not only is Noel an explosive athlete, but his motor is unquestioned and his influence defensively is unparalleled.
He may not receive the hype of Anthony Davis, but Noel isn't to be slept on.
Due to the fact that Noel tore his left ACL in March, Noel will likely be eased into the season, as coaches takes precautions to make sure his knee is prepared for the pace of the NBA. He could also miss the first two months of the season, as Christmas is his "Target date."
Once he returns, it'll be more of the same as he blocks shots, steps out to defend the pick-and-roll and comes up with steals and high rebound numbers—just don't expect his playing time to instantly hit that of a starter.
Offensively, Noel will show that he's far more developed than the average fan gives him credit for. Not only can he handle the ball well, but he'd been improving his back-to-the-basket game prior to his injury.
Noel is a special player.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Hoosiers
Position: Shooting Guard
Height and Weight: 6'5", 215 pounds
31.1 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG
The most common misconception about Victor Oladipo is that his offensive game is limited. Not only can Oladipo score in a variety of ways, but he utilizes the ultimate tool to create scoring opportunities.
Oladipo is an effortlessly explosive athlete, displaying the ability to raise up for a dunk or explode on a passing lane before a defense can react. More importantly, Oladipo is mentally developed in the sense that he always appears to be a step ahead of the competition.
In the NBA, those gifts should all come together as Oladipo thrives in a two-way role.
Oladipo's ability to crash the glass on both ends is what will separate him from the average shooting guard early in his career. As the season progresses and Oladipo becomes more comfortable with his teammates, however, Oladipo will surprise the world with his scoring.
Oladipo is an All-Star in the making and his rookie season is the first step towards reaching that status.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Height and Weight: 7'0", 238 pounds
17.1 MPG, 6.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 BPG
According to Chad Ford of ESPN Insider, NBA scouts have Kelly Olynyk listed anywhere from a top-five draft choice to a player that goes in the late 20s. Due to the deep class of centers in this year's draft, there is a strong possibility that Olynyk drops.
We'll go in the middle and say Olynyk becomes a lottery pick—keep in mind, we haven't hit the scouting combine yet.
Even if he is to fall out of the lottery, Olynyk should be a quality producer as a rookie. Not only is he one of the most skilled big men in this year's class, but he's a respected competitors whose motor and ability to run in transition will be viewed as valuable.
With Olynyk's ability to finish around the basket or spot up for a jump shot, his versatility will be valuable to an NBA franchise during his first year in the league.
Otto Porter, Georgetown Hoyas
Position: Small Forward
Height and Weight: 6'8", 200 pounds
32.2 MPG, 14.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Otto Porter isn't going to fall out of the top five, and his game is NBA ready. Not only does he possess marvelous physical gifts, but Porter is sound in virtually every area of the game.
Whichever team lands him will see their head coach fall in love with Porter's work ethic and dynamic skill set.
Porter stands at 6'8" with a 7'1" wingspan, displaying the length that makes his abilities so intriguing. Porter has good form on his jump shot and utilizes his long arms to play the passing lanes, pick a ball-handler's pocket and even block driving layup attempts.
With quality ball-handling skills and the ability to facilitate, Porter will find early playing time and sustain those minutes throughout the duration of the season.
In that time, Porter will put his arsenal on full display, scoring, rebounding and assisting at quality clips. With his defensive presence also established, Porter will become a candidate for Rookie of the Year.
An NBA comparison for Porter is Indiana Pacers swingman Danny Granger.
Cody Zeller, Indiana Hoosiers
Height and Weight: 6'11", 210 pounds
14.3 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.6 BPG, 0.7 SPG
Cody Zeller is the ultimate wild card here, as his production will be determined by where he ends up playing. On a team such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, he could flirt with 10 points per game while coming off of the bench as their interior scoring presence.
On a team such as the Philadelphia 76ers, however, Zeller could see his minutes limited by the re-signing of Andrew Bynum.
We could keep going with the potential scenarios, but the point has been made. Zeller has the skill necessary to be a double-digit scorer, but the situations he could end up in are far too unpredictable to gauge.
Regardless of what his numbers look like, know that Zeller is a legitimate NBA prospect.
Zeller can face up and hit a mid-range jumper or attack with his back to the basket. Despite lacking elite rebounding abilities, he can also hit the glass and make an impact there.
It all depends on where he ends up, but once he adds muscle to his frame, Zeller could be a starting center.
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