The One Big Thing Every 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year Contender Must Improve
Every rookie in the 2013 NBA draft class has a weakness that needs significant improvement.
These weaknesses are like weights potentially holding a prospect down and keeping him from maximizing his full potential. Lifting those weights could be the difference between a few million dollars a year once these rookie contracts expire.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers
Area/Need for Improvement: Creating Own Shot in the Half Court
Creating half-court offense is the toughest challenge for combo forwards entering the NBA. Recently, we've seen guys like Derrick Williams and Thomas Robinson struggle making the transition in their first year or two in the league.
At 6'8'', Anthony Bennett lacks the size of your typical NBA 4 and the skill set of a wing.
Depending on whom he's matched up against, Bennett will have to take advantage of his strength on the interior and agility on the perimeter. He's not always going to have the opportunity to face up in isolation against slower-footed forwards.
Whether it's in the post, in the mid-range or behind the arc, generating offense with the game slowed down will be the area he needs to improve in most.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Area/Need for Improvement: Creating off the Dribble
If the Orlando Magic continue experimenting with Victor Oladipo at the point, he'll need to fine-tune his handle and dribble creativity.
Oladipo's ball-handling has improved over the years. He keeps it a little high, but overall, he can take it strong with either hand.
But changing direction on a dime isn't currently a strength, nor is beating his man one-on-one off the dribble. These are pretty much requirements for a point guard, and even for a 2 trying to establish a scoring identity.
The better Oladipo's handle gets, the more shots he'll be able to create, whether they're for him or a teammate. And that increases his upside as an on-ball playmaker.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards
Area/Need for Improvement: Establishing a Go-to Offensive Strength
There isn't one aspect of Otto Porter's game that stands out either as a strength or a weakness. He can score, rebound, pass and defend, though he isn't superior in any particular area.
Sometimes, Porter would go stretches at Georgetown without getting any significant touches. In the Hoyas' well-documented loss in the NCAA tournament to Florida Gulf Coast, Porter finished 5-of-17 without making an impact on the game.
Establishing a go-to strength will give Porter something to fall back on if he's struggling to get involved in the offensive flow.
Whether it's a step-back jumper, an over-the-shoulder hook or a move off the dribble, Porter needs some type of specialty to lean on.
Otherwise, his production could fluctuate, which would diminish his long-term value.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
Area/Need of Improvement: Adjusting to Physicality of Interior
Cody Zeller is as talented as they come when you combine his size, athleticism and offensive skill set. But throughout his two-year career at Indiana, we saw him get pushed around inside on numerous occasions.
It limits him as a rebounder and shot-blocker, and sometimes as a finisher. Zeller tends to avoid contact, allowing rim protectors to alter his shot and knock him off-balance.
He looked pretty solid down low during summer league, which is certainly a good sign at this stage.
Establishing his presence down low will come from adding strength, but also gaining familiarity with contact and how the game is called.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Area/Need for Improvement: Maintaining Composure
Ben McLemore has tremendous natural talent, both physically and fundamentally. But sometimes, he can't always channel it.
McLemore has to learn how to shake off misses. We've seen them snowball or cause him to get passive. When things go awry, he tends to press or over-think.
During his summer league debut, McLemore missed 19 shots on 4-of-23 shooting. Against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament, he shot 0-of-9 from the floor before getting benched.
When McLemore's confidence is intact, he could go off for 30 on any given night. But when it's shattered, he's capable of throwing up a dud or disappearing. It will take time, but he has to figure out how to stay effective when his jumper stops falling. He'll never remain consistent with "keep shooting" and "stop shooting" as his only two solutions.
And in the NBA, consistency determines your value.
Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
Area/Need of Improvement: Identifying Comfortable Shot Selection
Trey Burke will learn that a lot of the shots he got off in college won't be available in the NBA.
The guards he'll be going up against on a routine basis will be bigger, faster, longer and stronger. Separating on the perimeter and finishing inside won't come quite as easily. Burke will have to figure out when, where and how to get off open looks.
Taking advantage of space will be huge. Most of the open space he'll get will come off pick-and-rolls, where he can step over the high-ball screen and either pull up or attack.
Scoring in the lane is going to be tough for a 6'1'' guard who lacks explosiveness. Burke will need to continue polishing up those floaters and runners, as well as his step-back and stop-and-pop jumpers.
Finding those cracks in the defense where shots are available will be his challenge as a rookie.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Area/Need for Improvement: Picking and Choosing Spots as a Scorer and Facilitator
C.J. McCollum is a scoring machine. He's got takeover ability, which he demonstrated time and time again over his four-year career at Lehigh. In his last full season (broken foot as a senior), he averaged 21.9 points on 16.4 field-goal attempts to 3.5 assists per game.
In the pros, he's not going to be that No. 1 scoring option that he's been since 2009. And at 6'3'', he'll have a size disadvantage against the majority of NBA shooting guards.
When Damian Lillard is out of the game, McCollum will likely get some reps at point guard, where his mentality must shift from shoot first to pass first.
Balancing scoring with facilitating will allow him to maximize his potential as a combo guard.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
Area/Need for Improvement: Jump Shooting
Michael Carter-Williams' inability to connect from the perimeter limits the threat he poses as a playmaker.
He shot just 29 percent from downtown and 39 percent from the floor as a sophomore. Carter-Williams will have to show he can step over ball screens and pull up in space, or defenses will eliminate his strengths by taking away his driving lanes.
Without a jumper, Carter-Williams tends to attack in reckless fashion, taking off-balance runners in traffic as opposed to stopping and popping with balance.
He'll never be able to maximize his offensive potential without a consistently threatening jumper off the dribble.
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
Area/Need for Improvement: Rebounding
For the most part, Kelly Olynyk appears as NBA-ready as any Rookie of the Year candidate. However, his presence on the glass could use a boost.
Despite standing 7'0'', 238 pounds, Olynyk averaged just 4.8 defensive rebounds and 7.3 total per game as a junior. His poor rebounding rate can be attributed to his 29.5'' max vertical. He lacks athleticism and explosiveness, causing him to play mostly under the rim.
We've seen big men like Andrea Bargnani and B.J. Mullens put up offensive numbers, but their inability to rebound limits their value to a lineup.
Rebounding is more of a long-term fix, though it's something he should commit to improving early in his career. Nobody wants to be labeled as a seven-footer who doesn't rebound.