Way-Too-Early Predictions for Every Top NBA Rookie During 2013-14 Season

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJuly 25, 2013

Way-Too-Early Predictions for Every Top NBA Rookie During 2013-14 Season

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    Not too many rookies are projected to play major NBA roles right away. A lot of these guys will have to work their way into rotations and fight off veterans at their position.

    We took the top rookies and those expected to get early minutes and predicted their stats, impact and potential honors received—including the 2013 Rookie of the Year. 

     

     

     

Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 11.8

    Rebounds per game: 6.8

    Field-goal percentage: 44.5

    Three-point percentage: 32.7

    All-Rookie Second Team

     

    Anthony Bennett is going to pick up some easy baskets with every game he plays. He's just too explosive in the open floor and above the rim. 

    The problem is that coach Mike Brown plans on playing him at power forward as a rookie. And with Tristan Thompson already in place, Bennett is set for second-unit minutes. 

    It might take him a little while to find his sweet spots on the floor. We've seen young combo forwards like Derrick Williams and Thomas Robinson recently struggle to find offensive rhythm playing backup minutes off the bench. 

    Creating his own shot in the half court will be his biggest challenge in 2013-14. But like I said before, he's going to pick up dunks and finishes on the regular given his overwhelming athleticism. It just might take a few years before the rest of his skill set catches up.

Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 13.8

    Rebounds per game: 4.6

    Assists per game: 3.3

    Field-Goal percentage: 44.6

    Three-point percentage: 34.6

    All-Rookie First Team

     

    As long as Victor Oladipo is getting minutes, there's a good chance he's going to make an impact. He averaged 19 points a game in summer league, dominating the ball as a point guard and playmaker. 

    But when it counts in November, I'd expect Oladipo to return to his natural off-ball position. It would be hard to imagine him taking over for a veteran point guard.

    And with NBA 2-guards much bigger and stronger than the ones in the Big Ten, Oladipo's offensive efficiency is likely to take a hit. 

    He's still going to pick up open-floor buckets and find his way to the rack. And based on what we saw in the Orlando Summer League, he's added some pull-up and step-back jumpers to his arsenal. 

    Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic will receive the majority of touches, but Oladipo should see his fair share of minutes and opportunities as a rookie.

Otto Porter, Washington Wizards

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 12.4

    Rebounds per game: 5.9

    Assists per game: 2.0

    Field-goal percentage: 44.9

    Three-point percentage: 35.0

    All-Rookie Second Team

     

    Otto Porter should get legitimate playing time as a rookie on a team without many established wings. He'll be fighting for minutes with Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza, so there's an opportunity for him to run away with the starting position at any time. 

    He didn't get off to a great start in summer league, putting up two duds before straining his hamstring in game No. 3.

    But Porter has an assortment of NBA-ready tools at his disposal. 

    I suspect he'll end up playing a big role for the Wizards as an all-around contributor on both sides of the ball.

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 10.2

    Rebounds per game: 6.9

    Blocks per game: .8

    Field-goal percentage: 51.5

    All-Rookie Second Team

     

    Cody Zeller was phenomenal in the Vegas Summer League, finishing with averages of 16 points and nine boards a game. 

    However, Zeller might have a tough time fitting in right away with Al Jefferson, who occupies the same space on the floor and is the clear No. 1 option. 

    Zeller should see a number of open looks on the perimeter, where he's comfortable stepping up and sticking a mid-range jumper. He's also likely to get a basket or two using his speed and athleticism in the open floor. 

    But depending on how he's used, whether it's alongside Jefferson or behind him off the bench, Zeller's touches as a featured post scorer could be limited in 2013-14.

Alex Len, Phoenix Suns

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 8.2

    Rebounds per game: 6.0

    Blocks per game: 1.4

    Field-goal percentage: 55.8

     

    Alex Len will be entering his rookie year coming off surgery on each ankle since playing his last game at Maryland. 

    And with Marcin Gortat still on the roster, the Suns might take it slow with their prized long-term center. 

    Even with limited minutes, Len's size and athleticism are bound to contribute to a couple of easy buckets off dump passes and lobs. 

    Building strength and comfort in the post is what will eventually make Len his money, but that's unlikely to happen this year.

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Games Played: 0-to-30

     

    I really wouldn't be surprised if Nerlens Noel sat out the year. 

    Jason Wolf of The News Journal says Noel might be out until Christmas at the earliest.

    With Philadelphia playing for the 2014 draft, this could end up being a historically ugly year for the Sixers. There just won't be a point in risking Noel's long-term health in a throwaway year. 

    I'm going to guess general manager Sam Hinkie plays it safe in an attempt to bring back a fully recovered Noel in 2014-15, along with Andrew Wiggins or another highly coveted future rookie.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Rookie of the Year *

    Points per game: 14.0

    Rebounds per game: 3.8

    Field-goal percentage: 40.4

    Three-point percentage: 35.9

    All-Rookie First Team

     

    Something tells me the Sacramento Kings are going to give Ben McLemore a greener light than most rookies are used to.

    McLemore has a few things going for him in Sacramento. The first is that he appears locked in for minutes with Marcus Thornton projected as the sixth man and Jimmer Fredette unlikely to steal many touches. 

    He's also playing with a point guard capable of creating for teammates, something he never experienced at Kansas. Greivis Vasquez registered nine assists a game last season, and though his decision making can be erratic, he's got the vision to find his shooters and scorers in position. 

    McLemore should also benefit playing alongside a big man who commands double-teams. On the other hand, DeMarcus Cousins should benefit from having a guard who can stretch the floor and increase the space he has to work with. 

    I see McLemore taking a ton of shots as a rookie, resulting in an inconsistent yet productive first season. With a subpar rookie class, I've got McLemore doing enough damage to justify 2013 Rookie of the Year honors.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 6.6

    Rebounds per game: 4.4

    Field-goal percentage: 38.8

    Three-point percentage: 34.9

     

    With Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Chauncey Billups and Brandon Knight guaranteed to be in the rotation, available minutes for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could be limited. 

    And with the addition of Billups and Josh Smith, the Pistons will be looking to make a playoff push this year. 

    That's likely to mean Caldwell-Pope, who still has plenty to learn at the 2-guard position, won't have a significant role as a rookie. 

    Expect the Pistons to sprinkle him in every so often to see if he can pick up some rhythm as a volume scorer and microwave long-range shooter.

Trey Burke, Utah Jazz

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 13.5

    Assists per game: 6.5

    Turnovers per game: 2.8

    Field-goal percentage: 40.3

    Three-point percentage: 33.3

    All-Rookie First Team

     

    The minutes and opportunity will be there for Trey Burke, who appears cemented as Utah's starting floor general. 

    Burke struggled big-time in summer league and will clearly have an adjustment to make moving from one level to the next. 

    But during this rebuilding year, the Jazz will allow Burke to make his mistakes. His leash will be extra long, as the results he puts up aren't as important as the reps he gets.

    He'll have the ball in his hands, so he'll definitely put up some numbers. But efficiency, particularly generating offense inside the arc and finishing in the paint, will be what taints his rookie season.

    Burke will need at least a year to adjust to the athleticism of NBA point guards and the size of the rim-protectors.

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 12.5

    Rebounds per game: 3.0

    Assists per game: 3.6

    Field-goal percentage: 44.2

    Three-point percentage: 37.2

    All-Rookie First Team

     

    C.J. McCollum projects as Portland's sixth man now and in the future. His game is simply built for the role. 

    He's a scorer, but at 6'3'', McCollum doesn't have the size to start or exclusively play the 2. 

    Portland will use him to provide its second unit with an offensive spark. After scoring at least 19 points a game in each of his four years at Lehigh, McCollum had no problem adjusting to summer-league competition, averaging 21 a game in Vegas. 

    I expect McCollum to make some noise as a rookie, playing the same role he's projected to play the rest of his career. He's an offensive specialist with a knack for putting the ball in the hole.

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 9.7

    Assists per game: 7.6

    Rebounds per game: 4.8

    Turnovers per game: 3.5

    Field-goal percentage: 37.9

    Three-point percentage: 29.8

    All-Rookie Second Team

     

    This is going to be a rough year for Michael Carter-Williams, though Philadelphia's management hasn't exactly set the table for him.

    Carter-Williams is going to be thrown straight into the fire without any weapons or protection. His jumper and decision-making skills are both a major work in progress, and given the lack of talent around him, defenses might swallow him up whole. 

    He's going to get his assists dominating the ball; Carter-Williams' strengths center around his play-making ability. 

    But much like Greivis Vasquez last year, a lot of assists don't always reflect efficient offense. 

    I'd bet on Carter-Williams struggling with field-goal shooting and turnovers, though this year should just be used to familiarize himself with a brand-new game. 

    Don't let his rookie stats dictate your opinion of his long-term future.

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 13.8

    Rebounds per game: 6.8

    Blocks per game: .5

    Field-goal percentage: 55.8

    Three-point percentage: 32.0

    All-Rookie First Team

     

    Kelly Olynyk was just as dominant in summer league as he was in the West Coast Conference. Now a Celtic, he projects as an instant contributor in Brad Stevens' offense, especially considering the lack of depth Boston has at the center position. 

    Olynyk has the size, instincts and offensive polish to make a quick transition. 

    With Stevens known for playing at a slow, methodical pace, Olynyk should see a number of touches in the half court where he can beat defenses in the post or on the perimeter. 

    Olynyk might have some issues on the glass and defensive end, but he's a guy who could step in and immediately put points on the board.

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 8.3

    Rebounds per game: 2.3

    Assists per game: .9

    Field-goal percentage: 45.1

    Three-point percentage: 35.2

     

    I'm operating under the impression that Shabazz Muhammad is going to have a tough time making the transition. 

    He's got the motor, physical tools and instincts to pick up easy buckets, but I'm not sure he has the game to create them on his own. 

    Muhammad will have to rely on Ricky Rubio finding him in position to catch and score. 

    He struggled to consistently convert offense in summer league, and I wouldn't bet on that changing anytime soon.

    He's got a confident stroke and a soft touch in the mid-range, but his scoring opportunities might be limited in Minnesota.

Sergey Karasev, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Key Stats and Honors

    Points per game: 9.8

    Rebounds per game: 3.9

    Assists per game: 3.1

    Field-goal percentage: 46.8

    Three-point percentage: 37.8

     

    Sergey Karasev is fresh off winning a gold medal for Russia at the World University Games, where his reputation as a shooter and disciplined offensive player stood strong. 

    He'll join the Cavaliers immediately instead of being stashed overseas, and given Cleveland's need for a wing, Karasev has the chance to earn rookie minutes. 

    This is a smart kid who led Russia's top league in scoring. He's a shot-maker with the unselfishness to move the ball and the skill set to attack a driving lane. 

    The Cavaliers need a floor-stretcher in the lineup, as well as an offensive weapon on the wing to complement the ball-dominant guard play and interior post scorers. Karasev can provide all of this.