NBA Rookies Under Most Pressure to Perform Next Season

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2013

NBA Rookies Under Most Pressure to Perform Next Season

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    There's excitement and intrigue surrounding most of the 2013 NBA draftees, but only a small handful will experience pressure to succeed as rookies.

    Newcomers who have extensive skills are often called upon to carry hefty responsibilities as soon as they enter the Association. Other rookies are simply thrown into a situation in which the team's weaknesses require them to log abundant minutes and make plays.

    The 2013 rookie class isn't burdened with the megastar expectations of years past, yet there are several players who need to bring their top stuff in year one.

    Who are the NBA rookies under the most pressure to perform in 2013-14?

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers PG

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    College: Syracuse

    Drafted: 11th overall

    After shuffling the deck and reshaping the roster for the future, the Philadelphia 76ers will place considerable duties on the shoulders of Michael Carter-Williams.

    No one expects Carter-Williams and the Sixers to compete in the Eastern Conference, but the club still wants to see him make progress and produce as much as possible as a rookie. Early in the season, he'll face pressure to be a leader and a point guard.

    Can he play a clean brand of basketball and serve as a steady decision-maker? Will he iron out his jumper soon enough to give Philly an offensive boost?

    With nine turnovers in his summer league opener and 28 percent shooting over two games, he still has a lot to prove. However, it's wise to reserve harsh judgment until he's played with the Sixers' main rotation.

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats PF

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    College: Indiana

    Drafted: Fourth overall

    The Charlotte Bobcats don't want to stay in the basement forever, nor do they want to continually be a rebuilding project.

    As such, they'll want to see the skilled, NBA-ready youngsters produce.

    Projects like Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were given some slack because their games weren't polished entering the league. But Cody Zeller is expected to impact the game in a much more comprehensive way from day one.

    Not only will the 'Cats want Zeller to crash the boards and get putbacks, but they also hope he can operate at a high level offensively as a shooter, passer and deep-post player.

    Obviously, there isn't top-pick or playoff-level pressure, but folks want to see the Indiana standout live up to his high draft spot.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings SG

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    College: Kansas

    Drafted: Seventh overall

    Although he fell to pick No. 7, Ben McLemore will still draw high expectations as a Sacramento Kings newcomer.

    He has some work to do before he actually taps into his potential, but he still has enough talent to make a big impact as a rookie.

    Head coach Mike Malone doesn't have much size to work with in his backcourt, so he'll frequently turn to McLemore as a shooter and transition weapon.

    The 6'5" Kansas product was too good as a freshman to escape the bright lights and high pressure that comes with being an elite prospect. Fans and media want to see him raining jumpers from day one.

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics PF

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    College: Gonzaga

    Drafted: 13th overall

    In almost any other draft or any other offseason, a player like Kelly Olynyk wouldn't be a top-tier draftee encountering preseason pressure.

    The 2013 draft featured a relatively underwhelming crop of talent, and the Boston Celtics are currently in a rebuilding phase. As a result, the Gonzaga standout is looked upon as a bright spot for the club's frontcourt.

    The C's don't just think he could be their power forward of the future, they also believe he can be an effective stretch 4 immediately. Olynyk is 14-of-21 so far in summer league, so he's already got shamrock fans pumped to see more of him.

    His offensive repertoire is ready, and so is his demeanor and approach. Can he put it all together and live up to Beantown's hopes?

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers G

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    College: Lehigh

    Drafted: 10th overall

    He's arguably the most NBA-ready player in the entire 2013 class, so no one can wait to see what C.J. McCollum will bring right out of the gate. The Lehigh combo guard figures to be an important cog in the Portland Trail Blazers' playoff pursuit.

    The club picked him because of his advanced ball skills, shooting range and understanding of the game. He'll work on the wing alongside point guard Damian Lillard, but he'll also be asked to run the offense for stretches.

    In back-to-back summers, Portland selected a four-year college star in the top 10, so there's pressure just by associating with Lillard.

    The Blazers didn't pick McCollum to groom him for the future. He'll be 22 when the season tips off, so the future is now.

Trey Burke, Utah Jazz PG

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    College: Michigan

    Drafted: Ninth overall

    Due to his elite college hoops pedigree and skill set, Trey Burke will be asked to perform at a high level on a squad lacking a dynamic floor general.

    The Utah Jazz would love to build their franchise around his quarterbacking skills, so he's under a sizable amount of pressure to showcase his aptitude as a shot-maker and facilitator.

    We know he's a competitor, and he'll do everything in his power to find opportunities for himself and his teammates. But will his scoring abilities translate to the NBA, or will he have difficulty finding high-percentage attempts?

    Not only is Burke one of the most successful collegiate players in this draft class, but he also landed in a place where he'll see a ton of floor time early in his career.


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