NBA Rookies Who Have the Most to Prove in the 2013-14 Season

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterAugust 2, 2013

NBA Rookies Who Have the Most to Prove in the 2013-14 Season

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    You won't find too many rookies expected to prove something right away—particularly in this class, where few will even have the opportunity to log substantial minutes.

    But there are six incoming rookies whose play will immediately be placed under the microscope. These are the guys who were either doubted, viewed as a non-risk or given ample responsibility as a rookie.

    The pressure will be on for these six rookies to prove something to their teams and fans from day one of their NBA careers.

Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Before June 27, we wouldn't have pegged Anthony Bennett as a prospect with something to prove as a rookie.

    But then the Cavaliers decided to take him No. 1 overall and alter his expectations.

    All eyes will be on Bennett to see if Cleveland knew something the rest of us didn't.

    As an undersized power forward, some have been skeptical over whether he has a natural position in the pros. Many have pointed to guys like Derrick Williams, Thomas Robinson and Michael Beasley, three top-five picks and combo forwards who've struggled to make the transition early in their careers.

    Bennett will have to show he can either play the 4 behind Tristan Thompson or the 3 alongside him.

    There's no doubt that with first-overall honors come first-overall expectations. Bennett will look to prove that his talent and upside justify his slot in the 2013 draft.

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    As the consensus No. 2 prospect coming out of high school, many projected Shabazz Muhammad as a potential first-overall pick entering his first year at UCLA.

    But despite heavy individual production as a freshman, Muhammad's stock steadily declined.

    Given Muhammad's competitive drive and relentless motor, you'd think he'll play his rookie year with a monster chip on his shoulder. No high-profile prospect has endured more criticism of his game than Muhammad, who's been referred to as a me-first player on numerous occasions.

    It didn't help that he averaged less than one assist per game at UCLA, or that his body language suffered when he wasn't getting the rock.

    He also averaged just 8.5 points on 36.5 percent shooting during summer league play after 13 teams passed on him in the draft.

    A poor rookie season could have people talking about Muhammad in the past as opposed to the present and future. He'll need to seize his opportunities when the Wolves call his number in 2013-14.

Trey Burke, Utah Jazz

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    Trey Burke got torched during the predraft process for a perceived lack of athleticism, which became a point of emphasis when he struggled with testing at the NBA combine.

    A couple of teams in need of point guard upgrades then passed on him in the draft before Utah traded up to grab him.

    After a disastrous summer league showing, where he shot just 24 percent from the floor and 1-of-19 from downtown, many will be looking to pounce on Burke if he struggles with the transition to the NBA.

    The Jazz selected Burke with hopes of him being their long-term backcourt answer. It wouldn't be a good look if he got eaten alive as a rookie following so much scrutiny over his physical limitations.

    Though his career won't be made or broken in his first year in the league, Burke certainly has something to prove to Utah and his doubters.

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

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    The Charlotte Bobcats surprised a lot of people when they passed on Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel and Alex Len.

    Whether he likes it or not, Cody Zeller is going to have critics gunning for him. Seven-footers who don't block shots or dominate the boards are always easy targets. After his selection at No. 4 overall, target practice might start a little earlier than usual.

    Zeller will have to prove he's willing to bang inside, embrace contact and dish out a little of his own. The biggest question surrounding him is whether or not he can handle the NBA's physical interior.

    He's a terrific scorer and polished offensive player, but his value will take a hit if he finds himself getting pushed around under the boards.

    It would be a good look for Zeller to establish his inside presence right away.

Otto Porter, Washington Wizards

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    No player spent more time in the top-five conversation than Otto Porter did last season. He was a projected high pick from day one, and after a consistently productive year where he averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 boards while shooting 42.2 percent from three, Porter sustained his perceived value as a can't-miss prospect and went No. 3 in the draft.

    But now it's go time for Porter, who the Wizards will be counting on as a rookie to help push them into the NBA playoff picture.

    Porter got off to a rough start in summer league, where he shot just 7-of-26 through his first two games before straining his hamstring in the third.

    Given his reputation as a safe, NBA-ready option in the draft, the pressure will be on for Porter to contribute right away.

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    When the Philadelphia 76ers traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, they put a good portion of their chips in Michael Carter-Williams' basket.

    The Sixers will be banking on Carter-Williams to carry the load, not just as a rookie but for the foreseeable future. He's being thrown directly into the fire without much protection or many weapons around him, so expecting immediate wins and stats is borderline irresponsible.

    The goal for Carter-Williams should be to keep from imploding. Poise and playmaking must be atop his priority list as a rookie. Jump-shooting will come later.

    Carter-Williams should look to prove he's capable of handling full-time floor-general duties and running an offense with an NBA-caliber defender hounding him throughout.