1 Bold Prediction for Every 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year Contender
You can't lose with a bold prediction. That's the point of them—to make a call that's unlikely to happen.
I've got nine guys who have a chance at winning this year's NBA Rookie of the Year award. And for each of them, I've made a bold prediction with regard to their futures.
Some predictions are short term, some are longer.
Just don't come after me in a year if I'm wrong.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Bold Prediction: Victor Oladipo will one day make an All-Defensive Team
In 2013, the All-Defensive 2-guards were Tony Allen (first team) and Avery Bradley (second team). Sometime over the next 15 years, one of those spots will be filled by Victor Oladipo.
He's got the lateral quickness, active hands and live motor to drive ball-handlers crazy. At this point, he's more of a defensive playmaker than lockdown defender. Oladipo forces turnovers with timing and pressure before turning them into points the other way.
As he gets stronger over the years, so will his on-ball defense.
And one day, he'll be honored for it.
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
Bold Prediction: Kelly Olynyk will be starting for Boston til 2020
Kelly Olynyk is Brad Stevens' type of player—a mid-major star who makes up for highlight-athleticism with a sly, clever skill set.
He tore up the West Coast Conference and did the same to his summer league competition. For a 7-footer, Olynyk's skill level is really off the charts. With the game slowed down, he's capable of scoring in a variety of different ways. When it speeds up, he's proven he can run the floor and pick up easy buckets.
I'm expecting him to make impact right away and quickly establish his presence in the lineup. My fortune cookie tells me that after Olynyk's rookie contract expires, Boston will re-sign him to a longer-term deal.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Bold Prediction: Ben McLemore wins Rookie of the Year
My head says Victor Oladipo, my gut says Ben McLemore. And I'm going with the belly.
McLemore should have more freedom and minutes in Sacramento, and he appears to be locked into the starting role with Marcus Thornton suited for sixth man duties.
With an assist-machine like Greivis Vasquez playing alongside him, McLemore should get plenty of open looks in his rookie season. Vasquez actually seems to complement McLemore's strengths and weaknesses, given his struggles as a shot-creator and accolades as a shot-maker.
McLemore is also a top-flight athlete who's bound to get himself dozens of easy baskets.
In summer league, he showed an improved ability to separate on the perimeter and knock down off-balance shots.
With a green light in Sacramento, I think McLemore's confidence soars through the roof and it reflects on his play. I'll take the 8-to-1 odds that Vegas gave him to win the 2013 Rookie of the Year.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
Bold Prediction: Cody Zeller will one day be an NBA All-Star
I've got faith in the Big Handsome.
Zeller is going to make the transition from center to power forward, and it's going to work out perfectly. The move should play right into his strengths as a finesse scorer, instead of the interior bully he'd have to be as a man in the middle.
At power forward, Zeller should have a size advantage over just about everyone he'll match up against. He's also more dangerous facing and attacking his man off the bounce, as opposed to playing back-to-the-rim and needing strength to separate.
Zeller's soft touch from outside should be a nice complement to Al Jefferson's soft touch down low.
At 7'0'' with top-notch athleticism, a polished offensive game and a high-basketball IQ, all the pieces are in place.
I've got Zeller pegged as a LaMarcus Aldridge-type mismatch who thrives in the mid-range area. An All-Star Game awaits.
Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
Bold Prediction: Trey Burke's next contract will be smaller than Dennis Schroeder's
Coming into the draft, scouts were down on Burke because he lacked that special athleticism. He's sturdy and balanced, but you wouldn't refer to him as a lightning rod or explosion of thunder.
Burke was downright brutal in summer league, shooting only 24 percent while struggling in areas that many said he would. He couldn't finish in the lane or create enough separation on the perimeter.
Dennis Schroeder, on the other hand, handled the summer comfortably. There's no denying his Rondo-esque quickness and length. Given Schroeder's physical tools, his ceiling sits a few stories above Burke's.
My money is on Schroeder pulling an Eric Bledsoe—flashing his upside in smaller doses and ultimately building up a market for himself.
Teams are usually willing to overpay for upside. Schroeder has it; Burke, not so much.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards
Bold Prediction: The Wizards will trade Otto Porter before his rookie contract expires
Being the third pick overall comes with third-overall expectations. And I'm not sure Otto Porter will live up to them.
Washington was actually one of the better defensive teams in the league last year. It was the offense that really struggled to get going. Maybe that's because the team's best scorer is its point guard, which nine times out of 10 is a recipe for the lottery.
Unfortunately, Porter isn't going to be able to pack the offensive punch Washington needs. He's a glue guy, and as much as everyone needs a glue guy, the Wizards need a scorer a whole lot more.
I predict that before Porter loses value, the Wizards will ship him away in hopes of landing a more potent offensive weapon for the future.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers
Bold Statement: Anthony Bennett will be Cleveland's starting small forward by the 2014-15 season
The Cavs are going to start with Bennett at power forward as a backup to Tristan Thompson. But I'm not sure that's his NBA position.
At only around 6'7'', Bennett will be at a size disadvantage inside on a routine basis. With a slim waist and nifty agility, along with a potent blend of speed and explosiveness, Bennett will be more effective in open-floor situations.
He also has a promising jumper that could help set up the dribble drive. It will take some time for Bennett to adapt and hone his skill set, but he can definitely be more dangerous in a role where he's constantly facing the rim.
The Cavs also have a need at small forward. With Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson locked in as the 4s and 5s, they could maximize the talent on the roster by playing Bennett alongside them.
Larry Johnson, Bennett's NBA comparison, made this exact same transition. If the Cavs could find a way to play Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Bennett, Thompson and Bynum all together, they'll have the firepower needed to threaten teams across the league.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
Bold Prediction: Michael Carter-Williams will lead the NBA in turnovers in 2013-14. He'll also lead all rookies in assists.
The Sixers put Carter-Williams in a tough spot by throwing him into the fire without weapons for support. There really isn't any other way to phrase it—this team could really stink.
Carter-Williams tied Florida Gulf Coast's Brett Comer last season for the most turnovers in the country. And that was when Carter-Williams had established talent around him.
His go-to players in Philly this year will be Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, neither which are very threatening first and second options.
Carter-Williams is about to walk head on into a tornado, which is why he's my favorite to lead the NBA in turnovers.
At the same time, he's also a dynamic playmaker. He finished third in the nation in assists as a sophomore, and given how much he'll have the ball as a rookie, those dimes should continue piling up.
Expect Carter-Williams to have a wild assist-to-turnover ratio this upcoming season. Just don't let his rookie numbers cloud your judgement on his long-term outlook. He'll be fighting a beast without a sword or experience.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Bold Prediction: C.J. McCollum will one day win Sixth Man of the Year
If I was building a team from scratch, I'd want my sixth man to have the exact same qualities shared by C.J. McCollum.
He's a volume scorer and secondary ball-handler. You can play him at the 2 off the ball or in a part-time role running the point.
McCollum wouldn't be a player I'd want to start. At 6'3'', he doesn't have the size to deal with starting NBA shooting guards on a nightly basis.
As a combo guard off the bench, you can pick and choose your spots with McCollum.
He's also a high-IQ player unlikely to shoot his team out of games. I like to compare him to a Jason Terry type of sixth man, as opposed to a J.R. Smith or Jamal Crawford. If McCollum is off, he can still be effective as a passer or playmaker.
But when he's on, McCollum has that takeover ability that can jolt a staggering lineup.
At some point in his career, he'll be named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year.