Adjusted Best-Case/Worst-Case Comparisons for Every All-NBA Rookie
Damian Lillard led the way as the only unanimous selection by the NBA's coaches, and the First Team was rounded out by Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters and Harrison Barnes.
Most of these guys either met or exceeded the expectations set for them prior to their rookie campaigns. However, some of their careers are taking a different shape than we might have anticipated.
It's time to give the best and worst-case pro comparisons for each premiere NBA newcomer.
Stats: 14.7 PPG, 3.0 APG, 41% FG
As the starting shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Waiters proved to be an exciting playmaker and a capable sidekick to Kyrie Irving.
Injuries interrupted his campaign a couple times, but he still showed enough firepower to be considered one of the best rookies in the Eastern Conference.
Moving forward, he could be a top-tier wing with the ability to facilitate and create for his teammates.
Best Case: James Harden
Waiters should be flattered by this comparison, because Harden is an elite playmaker.
The Cavs' promising youth has the potential to be a good, but not great three-point shooter, much like the bearded Houston Rocket. If Waiters irons out his mechanics, he can increase his triple percentage from 31 percent to a more Harden-like 37.
The greatest similarities between these two are their knack for strong slashes to the paint while also being capable passers.
Dion Waiters may not put up great stats yet, but almost always gets teammates very good looks at basket. Strong set-up man already. #FSOCavs— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) November 4, 2012
Defensively, Waiters can replicate the kind of quick, physical and opportunistic stoppage Harden exhibits.
Worst Case: Rodney Stuckey
If Waiters fails to develop offensively, his shooting numbers could remain similar to Stuckey's: hovering right around 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from distance.
Both have combo-guard tools, and both are secondary scoring options on their respective teams.
Stuckey is a dangerous, creative player, but Waiters' impact will be similar only if he regresses substantially in his sophomore and third seasons.
Stats: 9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 44% FG
In a revamped Golden State Warriors' lineup, Harrison Barnes held his own as a critical swingman who could stretch the floor with his shot and defend almost any forward.
The North Carolina product went from a peripheral role player in the regular season to a game-changing x-factor in the playoffs.
Harrison Barnes is 1st player in NBA history to score 25 Pts in consecutive playoff games after never scoring 25 in any career game. (Elias)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2013
Best Case: Paul Pierce
After watching his two-year college career, it seemed like it would be a stretch to consider Pierce as a possible ceiling for Barnes.
At this point it's realistic, as Barnes' ball skills have flourished in the NBA, and his shot-making ability could make for an All-Star caliber career.
His 36 percent three-point shooting in the regular season will likely rise to meet Pierce's career 37 percent, and his play-making abilities could reach Pierce's neighborhood.
Barnes is a noticeably better athlete, and Pierce is a better ball-handler, but the two may have similar bodies of work once Harrison's career is over.
Worst Case: Poor-man's Caron Butler
Barnes' recent outburst of back-to-back 25 point games in the playoffs make it difficult to see him descending below Caron Butler's level in his career.
Butler averaged more than 15 points per game nine times in his career, and eclipsed 20 a couple of times, but he played in just one All-Star Game.
Barnes seems headed for more than that, especially defensively, although a Butler-like career isn't unimaginable.
Stats: 13.9 PPG, 2.4 APG, 41% FG
When John Wall returned to the Washington Wizards' lineup in January, he brought out the best in Bradley Beal as a rookie.
The 6'3" shooter displayed his lethal shooting touch, but also demonstrated a healthy dose of all-around skills, including defense, slashing and passing.
His sensational April included 17.5 points per game and 42 percent shooting from downtown.
Best Case: Ray Allen/Eric Gordon hybrid
If that doesn't sound dangerous, I don't know what does.
Beal has the wherewithal to liken himself to the game's best shooter (Allen), along with one of the great crafty young playmakers (Gordon).
A young Ray Allen trapped in Eric Gordon's healthy body | Read the rookie profile of Bradley Beal here: solarsportsdesk.ph/bk/bkfeatures/…— Solar Sports Desk (@SolarSportsDesk) January 8, 2013
In his prime, Allen could dish four to five assist per night, which is the kind of facilitating Beal could provide in addition to accurate long-range offense.
Worst Case: More athletic Randy Foye
If Beal's rookie campaign somehow ends up being one of his better seasons, he would become a rich-man's version of Randy Foye.
Foye has enjoyed a couple of solid outside shooting seasons above 40 percent from deep, and he's a decent passer. But he is a relatively unspectacular player, and not someone to lean on for massive production.
All signs point to Beal trending toward stardom, but he could get hampered into mediocrity if injuries persist.
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 52% FG
The league's No. 1 selection in 2012, Davis worked through knee troubles to develop into a versatile post player.
His mid-range shooting is more than respectable, he's got a great nose for the ball and his collegiate defensive prowess translated to the pro game.
Davis has a superb feel for the game, and it's only going to get better.
Best Case: Kevin Garnett
Davis has a long way to go to reach Big Ticket status, but the necessary tools are attainable.
He already has the lob wide receiver skills much like Garnett, along with the defensive emphasis, length and mobility.
If his pivot moves, post toughness and jump shot improve over the next couple seasons, a Garnett-like power forward will be patrolling the New Orleans Hornets paint.
Worst Case: Larry Sanders
From a defense and rebounding standpoint, Davis and Sanders are similar. Both have tremendous wingspans and a nose for the ball.
Davis projects to be a smoother, better offensive player than Sanders, but if he doesn't develop as expected, he could end up being a slightly worse shot-blocker and rebounder.
It's a testament to Davis' potential that eight or nine rebounds per game would be a worst-case career mark.
Stats: 19.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 43% FG
The 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year went from mid-major playmaker to professional standout in a matter of months.
With poise and confidence, Lillard helped LaMarcus Aldridge lead the Portland Trail Blazers back to relevance, even if they fizzled late.
His silky-smooth combination of scoring and passing gave him the ROY upper hand all year. The production immediately put him on the "elite point guard" radar for the near future.
Best Case: Chris Paul/Stephen Curry hybrid
Chris Paul averaged 7.8 assists in his rookie year, so it's going to be tough for Lillard to match that kind of pace moving forward.
Lillard also won't likely reach Curry's exceptional shooting (45 percent career from deep), but his ability to get off a smooth shot is similar. They also both went to mid-major schools:
And there's nothing wrong with not going to a High-major program. Look at guys like Curry and Lillard. They never stopped working.— Brian Flinn (@BFlinnFuture150) May 15, 2013
When you think of Lillard's combination of the two duties, he could be a slightly inferior version of this hybrid.
Worst Case: Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague is an above-average, but not All-Star caliber point guard.
Sixteen points, seven assists and 36 percent three-point shooting is solid, playoff floor general material. But it's on the low end of the spectrum of Lillard's potential.
If defenses force him into helter-skelter plays and he never makes the playoffs, it's not impossible that Lillard could be remembered more as a "starter" than a "superstar."
Follow me on Twitter for more hoops analysis: @DanielO_BR
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