NBA Rookies Already Showing Red Flags

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterAugust 12, 2013

NBA Rookies Already Showing Red Flags

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    A red flag doesn't equate to hopelessness—it simply indicates a cause for concern. 

    There are six high-profile rookies who've given us a reason to express that concern, whether it's due to on-court struggles or off-the-court questions. 

    These are the rookies who come with a little extra baggage or just haven't looked up to the challenge so far. 

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Shabazz Muhammad was the only player to make headlines at the NBA Rookie Transition Program, where he got the boot for bringing a girl back to his room late at night despite the strict no-guests policy. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune tweeted that Flip Saunders mentioned Muhammad would be sent to the D-League if he didn't learn to obey the rules. 

    Though the infraction itself isn't all that bad, it's just another blemish to throw on Muhammad's already tainted resume.

    He was ruled ineligible to start his freshman year for receiving impermissible benefits. A few months later, we found out that he was actually a year older than everyone thought. Muhammad was also frequently criticized for lacking a team-first approach. 

    A poor summer league showing only adds to the concern, after he shot just 36 percent and put up 8.5 points a game. 

    Between the questions surrounding his game, along with some off-the-court character flaws, Shabazz Muhammad will be blanketed in red flags throughout the transition process. 

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

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    The red flags surrounding Nerlens Noel caused five teams to pass in the 2013 NBA draft. 

    Noel fractured a growth plate in his knee in high school before tearing his ACL in February. That's two major knee injuries before turning 20 years old. 

    He also weighed 206 pounds at the NBA combine, though he's currently up to 219. Even so, the lightest starting centers in the NBA are Larry Sanders and Chris Bosh at 235 pounds. Noel could have trouble banging inside against big men who've got 30-40 pounds of muscle on him. 

    This concern is only compounded by the fact that Noel can't play outside the paint. He's also extremely raw on the offensive end—Noel isn't a guy you give the ball to and let him go to work. 

    Given his injury history, slender frame and unrefined skill set, there are plenty of concerns in place regarding Noel's NBA outlook.

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Michael Carter-Williams was all over the place in summer league, where his two biggest flaws were badly exposed.

    His jumper and decision-making were both ridiculously erratic. He shot just 3-of-19 from downtown for 15 percent and finished with a 27 percent field-goal clip. 

    This was a concern at Syracuse, where his jump-shot mechanics and accuracy were both spotty all year long.

    Carter-Williams was also a turnover machine this summer, coughing it up nearly five times a game. He turned it over at least eight times in two different games, which points to his volatility when pressured.

    Without a threatening jumper, Carter-Williams tries to fit through cracks and get to spots that just aren't there.

    You won't find too many successful point guards who can't consistently knock down jumpers. And until Carter-Williams smooths his out, the rest of his game is likely to suffer. 

     

     

Alex Len, Phoenix Suns

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    History tells us that big men with foot problems can be trouble. 

    Alex Len missed the entire pre-draft process after undergoing surgery on his left ankle. The four- to six-month injury was followed by a precautionary surgery on his right ankle. 

    That's now a major surgery on one foot and a minor one on the other...and Len has yet to log an NBA minute. 

    It's obviously impossible to predict whether these were one-time, isolated injuries. But foot problems tend to linger with big men. 

     

     

Trey Burke, Utah Jazz

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    Though summer league isn't always indicative of how a player's career will turn out, I'm waving the red flag early with Trey Burke. 

    Every fear surrounding Burke as an NBA prospect came to life in Orlando

    He shot just 13-of-54 from the floor (24.1 percent) and 1-of-19 from behind the arc (5.3 percent). With skeptics pointing to his lack of athleticism, Burke struggled to separate on the perimeter and attacking the rim. He lacks that above-the-rim explosiveness, which can make finishing in the paint an adventure against bigger and longer interior defenders. 

    Burke only got to the line 10 times in five games, shying away from contact with off-balance shots when trying to score in the lane. 

    Fundamentally, Burke is rock solid. But the point guard position is evolving, and his physical limitations might prevent him from reaching his NBA ceiling. 

Otto Porter, Washington Wizards

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    Though it was only two-and-a-half summer league games, Otto Porter did not look like a safe top-three pick.

    If you were to find a weakness in his game at Georgetown, it was that he didn't specialize in any particular area. And that weakness was exposed against competition much worse than what he's going to see once November rolls around. 

    Though he averaged 16 points a game as a sophomore, Porter was the beneficiary of a system that fit his style. Georgetown's ball-movement motion offense created most of his scoring opportunities.

    He shot just 9-of-30 from the floor in the summer league before tweaking his hamstring in game No. 3. 

    Porter struggled to create easy looks for himself with the game slowed down. He's more of a play-finisher than a playmaker; if the ball isn't finding him in scoring position, chances are he won't be scoring. 

    The fear with Porter is that none of his strengths stand out despite how many he has.