NBA Rookies Who Should Be Immediate Starters Next Year

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2013

NBA Rookies Who Should Be Immediate Starters Next Year

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    The 2013 NBA draft class was considered one of the weaker groups to enter the league in recent memory, but the truth is, a handful of rookies should be starters as soon as the season begins.

    Regardless of how good a player projects to be, the fact remains that some teams simply need help. Cody Zeller was a questionable selection at No. 4, but the Charlotte Bobcats needed a big body. Michael Carter-Williams was taken 11th, but he’s now on a rebuilding roster with a self-inflicted hole at point guard.

    Meanwhile, Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 pick in the draft, but unless the Cleveland Cavaliers want to play him at small forward, he’ll have to compete with proven players at bigger positions.

    In 2012-13, we saw a rookie, Damian Lillard, play more minutes than anyone else in the Association. Don’t expect to see that theme hold true this time around, but don’t be surprised when a few of the league’s newest prospects are thrust into starting roles immediately upon making their NBA debuts.

Otto Porter Jr.

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    Consider Otto Porter Jr. something of an honorable mention when it comes to guaranteed starters.

    Drafted third by the Washington Wizards, Porter brings to the table a long frame that will complement John Wall and Bradley Beal nicely. He has an improved shot from deep, and his mid-range jumper is reliable, so long as Wall helps create opportunities.

    All that said, he’s been a bit submissive in the past, and the return of Martell Webster doesn’t help his cause.

    The trio of Webster, Wall and Beal played well together during the 2012-13 campaign. Combine that with the troubles Porter has had in Las Vegas, and you get someone who hasn’t displayed the necessary production to ensure a spot in the starting five.

    Porter won’t be expected to take on a primary scoring role out of the gate, which is going to help his cause. It’s possible that Webster enters training camp as the starter, but if Porter can show he knows his role, his upside could win out once the season tips off.

Cody Zeller

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    The jury may still be out on Cody Zeller, but he’s about to be thrown into the deep end as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Zeller was ranked 11th on ESPN’s player evaluations (sign-in required) leading up to the draft, but he was taken with the fourth pick. It seemed like a reach for many fans and analysts at the time, and while the big man’s future has yet to be told, it’s clear that he should be a starter right away.

    The Bobcats paid Al Jefferson a whole lot of money to join them for the 2013-14 season, which takes up one of the team’s frontcourt spots. The other one likely comes down to Zeller, Josh McRoberts or Bismack Biyombo.

    Zeller’s game may need work, but he’s a decent choice over the other two names on that list.

    The good news for the Bobcats is that Zeller has performed admirably during the Las Vegas Summer League. He’s putting up 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, and while his .7 blocks is a number that must improve, he’s looked comfortable on the offensive side of the floor, which is an important part of the growing process at the NBA level.

Ben McLemore

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    Ben McLemore was considered a possible No. 1 selection at one point, but he saw his stock drop on draft night before being taken seventh by the Sacramento Kings.

    Aside from McLemore’s talent, Tyreke Evans’ move to the New Orleans Pelicans will ensure the prospect a starting spot. The only problem is that his early showing in Las Vegas underwhelmed those who were expecting greatness.

    In his first two games, he shot 22.9 percent from the field, 11.1 percent from deep and 63.6 percent from the foul line. He scored just 12.5 points a game, which was a problem considering how many shots he was willing to take.

    Luckily for McLemore, he turned it around in his third showing. He scored 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting, also going 3-of-6 from long range and 7-of-7 from the foul line.

    The good news for fans is that even when his shot wasn’t falling, he played with the fluidity of an NBA-ready guard. His game will translate to the next level if he takes smart shots, and Sacramento will be pleased to have him as a starter in his rookie season.

Victor Oladipo

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    Victor Oladipo was never a high-usage guard at Indiana, and he never put up huge numbers on the offensive end. What he did do was play with efficiency on both sides of the floor, which should earn him a spot as a starter right away with the Orlando Magic.

    Despite scoring just 13.6 points per game in his junior year, Oladipo shot 59.9 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from the three-point line. He also pulled down 6.3 rebounds and stole the ball 2.2 times.

    Stats aside, Oladipo has NBA athleticism. He is a leaper, to say the least, and his physicality will do wonders when it comes to improving on offense and dominating on defense.

    With the offseason still in full swing, Arron Afflalo is currently listed as the team’s starting shooting guard. However, expect the Magic to make room for Oladipo and his versatility, even if it means shifting him or Afflalo over to the 3, where the team cycled through numerous starters last season.

    Oladipo's motor alone will earn him minutes with a Magic team that was the worst in the league in 2012-13.

Trey Burke

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    When Trey Burke was selected ninth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it looked as if he was headed to a roster where point guards are already in stock. As it turned out, the former National Player of the Year was on his way to the Utah Jazz—a team looking for a franchise floor general to start in 2013.

    According to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, Mo Williams may choose to sign with a contender by the end of the offseason. The starting job in Utah is essentially Burke’s, regardless of what happens, but Williams signing elsewhere all but assures it.

    Burke is an offensive weapon who can both shoot and drive to the basket. He’s also a good passer who sees the floor well, which combined with his ability to attack makes him a solid prospect even if his shot doesn’t translate.

    The 6’1” guard needs to work on his defensive intensity, but he’s strong for his size. He was the National Player of the Year at Michigan for a reason, and Utah won’t hesitate to put him in its starting five.

Michael Carter-Williams

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    Michael Carter-Williams is on a team that’s ready to tank, but the good news for him is that he’ll get the starting point guard spot without much question.

    Following the trade that sent Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans, a gaping hole was left at the 1 for the Philadelphia 76ers. Carter-Williams is the only player on the roster who can fill that hole, and the truth is, this is exactly how Philly prefers it.

    None of this is to say that Carter-Williams is a bad player and doesn’t deserve the minutes. His 6’6” frame is going to be an advantage at the professional level, and he’s a great ball-handler who will undoubtedly facilitate highlight-worthy lobs to Nerlens Noel.

    This is just to say that if the circumstances were different, the youngster might not be given this much responsibility.

    The Sixers are looking to rebuild, and whatever positivity the former Syracuse product brings to the table will be welcomed with optimism for the future.