Usually we can narrow down the Rookie of the Year field to a handful of players, the true standouts in an NBA draft class. No such luxury exists this year.
There are no Damian Lillard- or Anthony Davis-caliber prospects who are almost certain to take the league by storm. And before you say calling Lillard a sure thing is revisionist history, I'd encourage you to go back through my portfolio:
Lillard will never remind anyone of Rajon Rondo or Steve Nash, but he's more than capable of becoming the next scoring sensation at the position while still finding time to involve his teammates.
In a league filled with great point guards, Lillard won't garner much momentum at all in this year's All-Star discussions. That said, he will win Rookie of the Year and show exactly why he'll make the squad in the future.
Making a similar prediction is tough this year. For the record, I'm rolling with the Orlando Magic's Victor Oladipo, but the race is wide open due to the lack of standout players.
Any of these 11 could win the award and follow in Lillard's footsteps. Of course, they'll have to put up great numbers in order to do so.
The surprise No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett is now put in an interesting spot with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland is attempting to make the postseason this year and has a legitimate shot at doing so. Will that pursuit cause the team to give Bennett less of a run as he develops into an NBA-caliber forward?
The Cavs intend to keep him at power forward, which puts the former UNLV standout behind Tristan Thompson in the depth chart. It's also likely the Cavs will spend some significant time with both Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum on the court together.
Cleveland has a right to be excited about the future with Bennett in the fold, but it's important to temper expectations during his rookie season. He isn't going to play all that much, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him log fewer minutes than fellow first-year player Sergey Karasev.
When he's on the court, Bennett will focus more on rebounding than he did in college, and his scoring rates will inevitably drop while playing alongside Kyrie Irving/Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters.
Projection: 8.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.6 blocks
Expect Trey Burke to be running the show from day one of his NBA career. There's no way the Utah Jazz can rationalize starting John Lucas over the Michigan product, and it's not like too many other options exist in free agency.
Burke is a supremely talented point guard who gave every indication that he was ready for all the NBA had to offer. He's going to struggle defensively, and his lack of height will hinder him at first (6'0''), but he'll still have a strong first season.
Don't use summer league as an indication here. Burke was missing shots, sure, but the sample size is small, and the action both at Orlando and Las Vegas is quite conducive to low percentages and lots of turnovers from guards.
The floor general was a score-first player while at Ann Arbor, and that needs to change a little bit. He's no longer the clear-cut No. 1 scoring option, and he's playing alongside two potentially dominant big men in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
His point-to-assist ratio should change in favor of the dimes.
Projection: 12.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks
The Detroit Pistons backcourt situation is rather crowded.
Brandon Jennings, Will Bynum, Chauncey Billups and Rodney Stuckey will all be competing with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to earn minutes, and that's going to severely hinder any chance that the first-year shooting guard has at winning Rookie of the Year.
KCP has great long-term potential, but he'll only show it in small spurts during the 2013-14 campaign. He still projects out as an elite "3 and D" guy, though.
Caldwell-Pope will play the part of floor-spacer during his first season, spotting up behind the arc and drilling three-pointer after three-pointer. Don't be surprised when he makes at least one triple per game on 35 percent shooting from downtown.
However, the rest of his impact is going to be rather limited. No longer will KCP have the luxury of roaming the court with the ball in his hands, knowing that no shot he took could be considered a bad one. That was the case at Georgia due to the terrifying lack of options, but it's not the same in the Motor City.
The Pistons now feel as though they have a legitimate shot at the postseason, and that's yet another factor working against the 2-guard earning much playing time.
Projection: 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks
I wouldn't be too shocked if Michael Carter-Williams managed to put up an elusive quintuple-double during his first season running the show for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Unfortunately, I'm not talking about the good kind that involves points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Instead, he'll do so by recording at least 10 points, rebounds, assists, turnovers and missed shots.
You can also call it the ridiculously inefficient triple-double.
Carter-Williams will inevitably put up good surface numbers, but his efficiency is not going to be particularly impressive. In fact, it'll stand out in a bad way. He only shot 39.3 percent during his final season at Syracuse, and that's a pretty good benchmark for his rookie season unless he suddenly develops a workable jumper.
He's also going to contend for the league lead in turnovers, both a product of his carelessness with the ball and the major minutes he's sure to "earn" due to a lack of other options and a desire to earn a top lottery pick.
MCW will have good seasons in the future, but for now his projection is about to look a lot more favorable than it actually will be, simply because I'm only listing rudimentary per-game stats.
Projection: 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.4 blocks
C.J. McCollum is in a great position to succeed, as he'll be counted on rather heavily by a Portland Trail Blazers squad that couldn't score without its starters in 2012-13.
Rip City did a great job upgrading the bench, and McCollum should function as the primary scorer for the second unit early on during his rookie season. He has an NBA-ready offensive game, one that will feature plenty of perimeter jumpers that he creates off the bounce.
Damian Lillard led the NBA in minutes played last year, but the Blazers can't afford to work him so hard once again. His minutes will certainly decline, and many of them will go to McCollum. Expect to see both young guards on the court together as well, particularly in end-game situations.
The Lehigh product was one of the best scorers in college basketball, and he'll be a strong contender for the points-per-game lead among all rookies in 2013-14.
Unfortunately, he won't make much of an impact elsewhere.
Projection: 15.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.1 blocks
Ben McLemore had an intriguing summer league experience, one that was just incredibly full of ups and downs.
One game, he'd look like he couldn't throw the ball into the ocean if he were standing so close the waves were lapping on his feet. The next, he'd dazzle the crowd with three-pointers and thunderous slams.
Basically, the biggest takeaway from his time in Las Vegas should simply be that we don't need to take away anything.
McLemore remains exactly what he entered the draft as: a prospect with an incredibly high ceiling who reminds people of Ray Allen with better defensive tools. His athleticism and shooting stroke will assuredly transfer from Kansas to Sacramento, and Greivis Vasquez is going to make him look good on a regular basis.
The only thing holding McLemore back will be playing time.
He'll get a good bit, and it's even possible that he starts over Marcus Thornton, but the Sacramento Kings have created such a logjam at every position that the rookie's minutes will be limited to around 25 per game.
Projection: 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks
If you're looking for your Rookie of the Year, here he is.
Victor Oladipo is an NBA-ready 2-guard who can immediately make a sizable impact on both ends of the court. His per-game stats may not be as impressive as some other top contributors' numbers, but they'll be paired with efficiency and tremendous defensive play.
The last part is what guarantees Oladipo a lot of minutes, even though Arron Afflalo is still on the roster. He's ready to be a shutdown perimeter defender from the very first time he steps onto an NBA court.
I've been cautioning you against relying heavily on summer league performances throughout this article, but that doesn't apply when a player is showing off new skills. Such was the case for Oladipo, who thrived on shooting jumpers off the dribble and appeared to have a massively expanded offensive arsenal.
The Orlando Magic will do everything possible to get him significant run, even if that means sacrificing ball control by throwing him out as the point guard.
Expect nothing but good things from the No. 2 pick.
Projection: 13.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks
Kelly Olynyk was the darling of summer league, and he's created a set of expectations in Beantown so large that he can't possibly live up to them.
The Gonzaga product is an incredible offensive talent, but he's not a physical specimen, and his defense is porous. Actually, "porous" may be giving his point-stopping abilities a bit too much credit.
When Olynyk is playing against actual NBA bigs instead of a summer league slate that allows skilled or physically dominant post players to thrive, he's going to be in for a reality check. He'll remain a productive offensive player, but in more limited time.
Quite frankly, I seriously considered leaving Olynyk out of this article entirely.
Playing time is going to be interesting for the former Bulldog as well. He'll be competing with Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries and Fab Melo for minutes in the frontcourt, and he's likely be last or second to last in that pecking order.
Green could move exclusively to small forward, but he'll have to play at least a bit at the 4 so that Gerald Wallace can get on the court.
Projection: 11.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.4 blocks
I recently wrote about what the Washington Wizards needed to do in order to make the playoffs, and an entire section was devoted to playing Otto Porter instead of slowly bringing him along.
Porter is ready for the NBA, and his versatility is exactly what the Wizards need. He can serve as a great perimeter defender and also prevent points in the paint, and his mid-range game will make John Wall's life so much easier.
Playing time should not be a problem for the former Hoya, and neither will gaining comfort in his new home. Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza will surely earn some minutes, but the starting job is Porter's to lose.
The consensus All-American was also a fantastic rebounder for his position, and that should carry over here as well. Given the lack of dominant big men ready to compete for Rookie of the Year, either due to rawness or injury, Porter could very well lead all rookies in boards per game.
He'll also be discussed as a top-tier Rookie of the Year candidate from start to finish. Among these 11 players, Porter will stand out from the crowd, even if he places a much lower emphasis on scoring than he did at Georgetown.
Projection: 9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks
It's hard to watch Dennis Schroeder run the point and not be impressed. He carries himself with supreme confidence, has a lightning-quick first step and delivers passes that most other young players can only dream of.
The German floor general isn't one of the international rookies who needs time to develop. He's ready to compete right away as he starts attempting to live up to his lofty ceiling and establish himself as the steal of the 2013 draft.
Blocking his way is Jeff Teague, though.
After an offseason of speculation about whether he'd leave, or if the Hawks were even interested in retaining the Wake Forest product, general manager Danny Ferry matched the Milwaukee Bucks' offer sheet. Now the Hawks are on the verge of being a playoff lock once more, which will hinder Schroeder's ability to earn minutes.
Atlanta lost Josh Smith, but Paul Millsap is a capable replacement, and the rest of the roster got better.
Schroeder will play slightly less than 20 minutes per game, but he'll make pretty good use of that time on the court. He's a long-shot candidate for Rookie of the Year—the second-to-last included in this article, ahead of only Kelly Olynyk—but he took on such celebrity status during summer league that he had to be included.
Projection: 6.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.3 blocks
It looks like the starting power forward spot is up for the taking in Charlotte. And after a strong summer league performance, Cody Zeller appears to have no intention of letting it slip away from his grasp.
Bismack Biyomobo and Josh McRoberts will need playing time, but Zeller and Al Jefferson should be the clear-cut starters in the Bobcats frontcourt.
The former Hoosier's stock declined throughout his final season for Indiana, but the NBA is a different ballgame. It's much more suited to his style of play, given the up-tempo offenses and the expansion of the three-point line that will prevent defenses from crashing in around him whenever he receives the ball on the block.
Zeller is going to surprise a lot of people for a combination of reasons.
There's the aforementioned style change, the playing time he's sure to receive and the fact that he lines up for an improving Charlotte squad that needs someone to put up numbers.
Don't sleep on Zeller as a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate.
Projection: 13.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.8 blocks
Below, you can find the 11 top candidates ranked in terms of projected points per game.
- C.J. McCollum, 15.7
- Victor Oladipo, 13.7
- Cody Zeller, 13.2
- Trey Burke, 12.6
- Ben McLemore, 12.5
- Kelly Olynyk, 11.8
- Michael Carter-Williams, 10.0
- Otto Porter, 9.9
- Anthony Bennett, 8.1
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 6.8
- Dennis Schroeder, 6.2
Below, you can find the 11 top candidates ranked in terms of projected rebounds per game.
- Cody Zeller, 7.1
- Otto Porter, 5.3
- Kelly Olynyk, 5.1
- Anthony Bennett, 4.9
- Victor Oladipo, 4.8
- Michael Carter-Williams, 4.2
- Ben McLemore, 3.0
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 2.4
- C.J. McCollum, 2.3
- Dennis Schroeder, 2.1
- Trey Burke, 1.7
Below, you can find the 11 top candidates ranked in terms of projected assists per game.
- Michael Carter-Williams, 5.8
- Trey Burke, 4.5
- Dennis Schroeder, 3.5
- Victor Oladipo, 2.6
- Otto Porter, 2.4
- C.J. McCollum, 2.1
- Kelly Olynyk, 1.3
- Cody Zeller, 1.1
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ben McLemore, 0.9
- Anthony Bennett, 0.7
Below, you can find the 11 top candidates ranked in terms of projected steals per game.
- Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo, 1.8
- Otto Porter, 1.5
- C.J. McCollum, 1.3
- Trey Burke, 1.2
- Dennis Schroeder, 1.0
- Ben McLemore and Cody Zeller, 0.7
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 0.6
- Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, 0.2
Below, you can find the 11 top candidates ranked in terms of projected blocks per game.
- Cody Zeller, 0.8
- Otto Porter, 0.7
- Anthony Bennett and Victor Oladipo, 0.6
- Ben McLemore, 0.5
- Michael Carter-Williams and Kelly Olynyk, 0.4
- Dennis Schroeder, 0.3
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 0.2
- Trey Burke and C.J. McCollum, 0.1
The following is a very rough projection for Rookie of the Year, based simply upon the ranks in each of the five statistical categories we've dealt with here. Players' ranks in each stat were added up and sorted from lowest to highest.
It's worth noting that defense and efficiency are not factored into the equation here.
- Victor Oladipo (15)
- Cody Zeller and Otto Porter (19)
- Michael Carter-Williams (20)
- C.J. McCollum (27)
- Trey Burke and Kelly Olynyk (29)
- Ben McLemore (31)
- Anthony Bennett (34)
- Dennis Schroeder (35)
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (41)