Under-the-Radar 2013-14 NBA Rookies Guaranteed to Surprise Fans
Every year, there are a few guys who make general managers feel silly for passing on them. Some just completely slip under the radar, which can be attributed to a poor fit or role in their college system.
It's tough to expect results right away from any rookie. Most teams typically fill out their rotations during free agency and put their rookies in developmental situations.
But some rookies find a way to sneak through the cracks. These are the guys who might not have starred in college, but should make an NBA impact by playing to their strengths.
Carrick Felix, Cleveland Cavaliers
Carrick Felix stood out during summer league without scoring the ball in volume. His NBA strengths center around his ability to make plays without the ball in his hands on both ends of the floor.
He's a top-notch defender and had a stellar senior year at Arizona State. At 6'6'', Felix has smooth athleticism and excellent size for matching up with opposing perimeter scorers.
A strong rebounder, promising shooter and high-flier, Felix is one of those guys you insert into a game to inject your team with positive energy. It appears that's what his specialty will be at the pro level, at least during the early stages of his career.
Felix might not get regular rotation minutes to start, but I'd expect him to make an impact in whatever time he's given.
Ray McCallum, Sacramento Kings
Ray McCallum looked pretty comfortable operating in summer league, illustrating his pure pass-first instincts as a true point guard.
Through the eye test, McCallum looks the part of an NBA ball-handler. He's crafty off the dribble, with the ability to navigate through the defense and set up teammates for easy buckets. It's clear that his No. 1 goal on the floor is to facilitate the offense and get the ball where it needs to be.
This is an area where Isaiah Thomas, who's more of a scorer than distributor to begin with, struggled. Sacramento added Greivis Vasquez, but McCallum has a chance at stealing the backup gig, which would move Thomas to his natural position as an offensive spark plug.
McCallum has to work on his shooting, particularly adding range, but his fundamentals and mindset appear to be in place.
Given his leadership skills at the point, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Kings use McCallum as a backup to Vasquez and slide Thomas into Jimmer Fredette's role as a combo off the bench.
James Ennis, Miami Heat
There's always a place in the NBA for sizable athletes who can shoot the rock and defend. James Ennis shot it awfully well in summer league, knocking down 43 percent of his three-point attempts.
Ennis was the Big West Player of the Year after a breakout season at Long Beach State. He's an electric athlete with long arms who gets out on the break and can slash in the half court.
In Miami, his role will be simple: shoot, defend and finish. Handling the ball and creating won't be a requirement, so Ennis will just be able to focus on his core strengths as a wing.
Ennis might need an injury to Shane Battier or Ray Allen in order to see any action, but given Miami's need to preserve its veterans and the smack-downs they lay down on opponents, opportunities could be there for him as a rookie.
Archie Goodwin, Phoenix Suns
Nobody ever questioned Archie Goodwin's upside. He was projected as a lottery pick to start his freshman year at Kentucky before his stock steadily began to decline.
But Goodwin looked sharp during summer league, finishing with at least 18 points on three different occasions. And after a disastrous year shooting the ball, he knocked down 8-of-14 (57 percent) of his three-point attempts.
Goodwin is an explosive attacker and violent finisher, and at 6'5'', he's got good size for an NBA 2-guard. He just needs to refine his offensive game, like knowing when to pull up, draw the foul, kick it out or move the ball.
Eventually, the execution will come. He was the youngest American drafted in 2013. He's got time and freedom in Phoenix to really get going early on in his career.
Goodwin was quoted by the AP as saying that coach Jeff Hornacek is telling him that he's "going to play right away." With the Suns expected to be playing for ping-pong balls, Goodwin should get early minutes.
Dennis Schroeder, Atlanta Hawks
Dennis Schroeder appears cemented in as Atlanta's immediate backup point guard after a strong summer league debut where he finished second in Vegas in assists.
There's really no question about this kid's NBA outlook. He's got a future in this league that will start during his rookie season.
Schroeder has good size, broad shoulders, long arms and lightning quickness. He's a breakdown point guard with the ability to beat his man, trigger the collapse and set up easy buckets for teammates. He has been showing his pick-and-roll skills ever since the Nike Hoops Summit in April, a strength that's added to his appeal as a prospect.
He'll have to improve his range and accuracy shooting off the dribble, but for a young kid coming from another country, Schroeder has already shown more than enough promise.
Schroeder stood out to me since the first time seeing him play. I could see this turning into a sticky situation once he settles into the league, as the Hawks might end up employing two potential starting point guards who can't play together.
Jamaal Franklin, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies lucked out in the 2013 draft, with a potential lottery talent slipping to them midway through Round 2.
Jamaal Franklin was one of the most versatile players in the country as the only Division I baller to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
He missed a good portion of workouts and all of summer league with an ankle injury, but the Grizzlies were still quick to hand him a contract.
Memphis lacks versatility on the wing, with Tony Allen and Mike Miller both specialist players. Minutes should be available for Franklin, whose diverse, two-way skill set could be used in this particular lineup.
At San Diego State, Franklin was an erratic three-point shooter, though he's proven to be a capable shot maker when in rhythm. His jumper will likely determine just how many minutes he gets as a rookie, but if we're talking long term, I'd say the Grizzlies got a steal at No. 41 overall.
Sergey Karasev, Cleveland Cavaliers
Most incoming rookies don't even have track records, but Sergey Karasev's speaks for itself. He led Russia's top league in scoring, lit up USA at the Nike Hoops Summit and is recently coming off a gold medal at the World University Games, where he was named best player and a member of the tournament's all-first team.
He may not be NBA-ready physically, but mentally and fundamentally, he checks out just fine.
Karasev is a lights-out shooter from every spot on the floor. He's got a high basketball IQ, which lets him identify the right time to attack, move the ball or put it on the floor and kick it to a teammate.
He's not going to make the same scoring impact in the pros that he's made overseas, but every team needs a disciplined player like Karasev to balance out the lineup.