Ever wonder what NBA rookies think of each other? So does the league.
Now, we have some answers from the draft class of 2013. The latest NBA.com Rookie Survey hit the web this week. The league polled 36 incoming players during the annual Rookie Photo Shoot at the New York Knicks' practice facility.
And the responses were, shall we say, revealing. Victor Oladipo got plenty of dap from his peers, as did C.J. McCollum and Kelly Olynyk.
The real question is: Did the rookies make the right picks? How well do they know each other at this embryonic point in their pro careers?
It'll be some time before we've sorted out the best shooters, the "Most Likely to Succeed's," the class clowns, and so on. For now, though, let's take a moment to go "meta" (not to be confused with Metta) on this whole survey and see how the rookies' responses to 10 relatively simple questions graded out.
Results: T1. C.J. McCollum and Victor Oladipo (24.2 percent), 3. Kelly Olynyk (18.2 percent), 4. Trey Burke (12.1 percent), 5. Ben McLemore (6.1 percent)
As far as talent and NBA readiness are concerned, picking McCollum and 'Dipo to split the 2013-14 ROY makes perfect sense. McCollum is a gifted, mature combo guard who can score and distribute with near equal proficiency, while Oladipo has the makings of the NBA's next "three-and-D" stud.
Trouble is, neither is likely to start for his squad, which could make it difficult for both to produce enough to earn the honor.
McCollum is stuck behind Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews with the Portland Trail Blazers. Likewise, Oladipo will have to wait until at least one of the two between Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo is traded or succumbs to injury.
Trey Burke, on the other hand, figures to snag the lion's share of starting minutes at point guard for the Utah Jazz. Whether he parlays those into award-worthy play—unlike his red-flag-raising duds in the Summer League—remains to be seen.
The real wild card here is Olynyk. He'll have some huge questions to address regarding (among other things) his quickness (or lack thereof), his athleticism (or lack thereof), and the health of his foot, which has been stricken with plantar fasciitis this summer, per Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston.
On the plus side, the 7-footer out of Gonzaga dominated the Orlando Summer League to the tune of 18 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. And he should have a shot at starting for a depleted Boston Celtics squad in the fall. If he grabs that spot and excels in it, Olynyk could emerge as a Rookie of the Year dark horse.
Just as his peers anticipated.
Results: T1. Victor Oladipo and Kelly Olynyk (18.2 percent), 3. C.J. McCollum (15.2 percent), 4. Cody Zeller (9.1 percent), T5. Anthony Bennett, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Otto Porter (6.1 percent)
Once again, the respect for Oladipo, Olynyk and McCollum from among their peers shines through.
Oladipo should be a starting guard in Orlando at some point in the not-so-distant future. He already has a highlight opposite Kevin Durant (see video above). McCollum, while a bit of a "tweener," seems destined to be the next Jason Terry-type super sixth man.
I still have my reservations about Olynyk, though. How will he fare against bigger, stronger, more athletic players at his position? Will he be another big man who can (or at least tries to) shoot? What might all of this mean for his ability to defend the paint and protect the rim?
The Summer League stats look nice, but Olynyk wasn't exactly up against a rotating cast of world-beaters in the smaller, less talented Orlando edition.
Results: T1. Ricky Ledo, Erik Murphy, Nerlens Noel and Kelly Olynyk (8.6 percent); T5. Isaiah Canaan, Allen Crabbe, Jamaal Franklin, Solomon Hill, Peyton Siva and Tony Snell (5.7 percent)
It figures that Olynyk would wind up atop this part of the poll, considering how much his peers respect his work in the Summer League and how much some folks in the media (like yours truly) remain skeptical about his ability to compete at the highest level.
The rest of the picks were practically spot-on. Ledo was a star on the AAU circuit before running into eligibility issues. At 6'7" and 195 pounds, he fits the profile of an NBA shooting guard perfectly. He should be able to learn and grow with the Dallas Mavericks.
Murphy and Snell could both figure into the Chicago Bulls' rotation at some point, depending on how effective both are as "three-and-D" guys.
Noel was once touted as the surefire No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, but he's fallen into relative obscurity on account of a knee injury that ultimately landed him with the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers.
Canaan, Crabbe and Franklin have the requisite talent to develop into valuable bench contributors for the Houston Rockets, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Memphis Grizzlies, respectively.
Siva's path to playing time is a bit murkier, given Detroit's glut of guards. Likewise, Hill, a jack-of-all-trades-type wing, might have trouble finding a place to fit on an Indiana Pacers squad with a stacked bench and high hopes for title contention.
Results: 1. Tony Mitchell (47.2 percent), 2. Victor Oladipo (16.7 percent), 3. Ben McLemore (13.9 percent), T4. Shane Larkin and Nerlens Noel (5.6 percent)
Others receiving votes: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jamaal Franklin, Archie Goodwin, Peyton Siva
Oladipo and McLemore are both tremendous athletes, as they demonstrated during their collegiate days and at the 2013 NBA Draft Combine. Each registered a maximum vertical leap of 42" along with excellent times in the speed and agility drills.
Larkin's place among the most prominent vote-getters makes sense as well. The sub-six-foot guard out of Miami registered the second-high vertical jump (44") ever recorded at the combine and was a speed demon in the sprint.
Noel didn't participate in the Chicago combine on account of his recovery from a torn ACL, but he showed off heaps of athleticism while ripping down 9.5 rebounds and blocking 4.4 shots during his 24-game stint at Kentucky.
It's easy to see, though, why Tony Mitchell got the nod here. The North Texas product stole the show at the league's rookie photo shoot with a pair of jaw-dropping dunks.
Which, one would guess, made quite an impression on his peers.
Results: 1. Ben McLemore (19.4 percent), 2. Reggie Bullock (16.7 percent), T3. C.J. McCollum and Tony Snell (13.9 percent), 5. Tim Hardaway Jr. (11.1 percent), T6. Allen Crabbe and Erik Murphy (5.6 percent)
Others receiving votes: Trey Burke, Grant Jerrett, Ryan Kelly, Jeff Withey, Nate Wolters
This one's tough to assess, if only because most of the popular choices for "Best Shooter" shot pretty poorly during Summer League action. Here's a look at how the top seven vote-getters for this query shot in the Summer League (SL) and how their shooting percentages compare to those they posted during their final seasons in college (D1):
(Note: C.J. McCollum played just 12 games as a senior before breaking his foot.)
Keep in mind, we're only talking about tiny five-game Summer League samples from which to draw any conclusions.
If anything, the rookies did a good job of (apparently) referencing whom the best shooters were based on their college proficiency. Of the seven who received more than five percent of the vote, only Erik Murphy shot better in the Summer League than he did in college.
With all of this being said, McLemore seems like a solid choice, given the rave reviews he's received for his shooting form and follow-through as well as the (rather premature) comparisons that've been made between him and Ray Allen.
The only real problem here, and it's a glaring one: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, supposedly the best shooter in this class, is nowhere to be found.
Results: 1. Victor Oladipo (62.9 percent), T2nd: Solomon Hill, Nerlens Noel and Peyton Siva (5.7 percent)
Others receiving votes: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Archie Goodwin, Grant Jerrett, Ricky Ledo, Ben McLemore, Andre Roberson, Jeff Withey
'Dipo was the biggest individual vote-getter in any category in the rookie poll, and for good reason. The No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft was a defensive stopper at Indiana, where he averaged a combined three steals and blocks per game as a junior. He carried that proficiency with him into the Orlando Summer League.
That ability in itself made him the safest pick in this year's draft.
The other three also excelled on the defensive end in college. Siva was a bulldog up top in Louisville's pressing defense, Hill was versatile enough to guard three or four different positions on any given night, and Noel led the nation in blocks per game (4.4) and ranked among the top 30 in rebounding (9.5) as a freshman at Kentucky.
Results: 1. Trey Burke (47.1 percent), 2. Michael Carter-Williams (17.6 percent), T3. Isaiah Canaan, Shane Larkin, C.J. McCollum and Peyton Siva (5.9 percent)
Others receiving votes: Ricky Ledo, Ray McCallum, Victor Oladipo, Glen Rice Jr.
Burke's popularity as the best playmaker in his draft class is hardly surprising. He was the first point guard off the board in June and was among the most prolific dime-droppers at both the collegiate level and the Orlando Summer League this past year.
Burke may not be as much of a pure passer as Carter-Williams, who registered more assists at each of those levels than Trey, but the Michigan product has done plenty in the way of creating shots for himself and his teammates to warrant this distinction.
The same goes for Canaan, Larkin, McCollum and Siva. Like Burke, they're all closer to combo guards than pure point guards, though a change of scenery and a different role for each at the pro level could yield surprising results.
Results: 1. Ricky Ledo (31.4 percent), 2. Steven Adams (20.0 percent), T3. Isaiah Canaan and Glen Rice Jr. (11.4 percent), T5. Jamaal Franklin, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Tony Mitchell (5.7 percent)
Others receiving votes: Ray McCallum, Nerlens Noel, Peyton Siva
I'll admit that this is, by far, the toughest category to judge. I don't know the rookies. I haven't hung out with them. I haven't talked to them. As such, I don't know who's funny, who's not, and how they stack up against one another in terms of comedic potential.
To be sure, such an assessment calls this entire exercise into question since nobody really knows how good these players are going to be on the court.
But for an observer like me, at least there's some evidence out there to suggest who the best shooter or the best athlete might be. Hence, I'll abstain from assigning any marks for this particular category.
Results: 1. Size and strength of opponents (30.6 percent), 2. Speed or pace of the game (20.8 percent), 3. Length of season (18.1 percent), 4. Travel (12.5 percent), 5. Reduced playing time (6.9 percent), 6. Learning a new system (5.6 percent), 7. Lifestyle (4.2 percent), 8. Longer three-point distance (1.4 percent)
These are all legitimate concerns every rookie faces upon entry into the NBA.
The players with whom they'll be competing are, by and large, older and more physically mature than the ones they've previously faced. The game moves faster in part because the players themselves are faster, but also because the shot clock is so much shorter than it is at the collegiate level.
Moreover, these youngsters have never had to handle the rigors of preparing for and playing in, at times, upwards of 100 games between the preseason, the regular season and the playoffs.
Not to mention the travel that accompanies so many of those games.
It's no wonder, then, that players usually improve so much between their rookie and sophomore seasons; they know what to expect and how best to handle it.
You'd think the rookies would've given LeBron James the nod. After all, he's claimed the NBA "treble" (championship, MVP, NBA Finals MVP) in each of the last two seasons. On top of that, the 2012 draft class picked James as the favorite with nearly a third of the total vote.
But, demographically speaking, the Black Mamba's return to the top (he was the most popular pick in 2010) makes more sense.
Remember, rookies typically range anywhere between the ages of 19 and 23, with occasional outliers (i.e. Bernard James getting drafted at 27 in 2012). That means that the vast majority of this year's incoming class fell into the six-to-10-year-old range when the Los Angeles Lakers of the Kobe-Shaquille O'Neal vintage began their three-peat in the spring of 2000.
Six-to-10 is a rather impressionable age for kids, especially when it comes to sports. According to the Mayo Clinic, kids in the 10-to-12-year-old range are best suited to start playing a complex sport like basketball, though chances are the ones who make it to the pros start much younger than that.
That being said, Bryant should be more popular among the incoming generation of prospects. Kobe's been more relevant as a champion and all-around great player for a longer period of time than LeBron. As such, he's likely been a hero to many more future studs than King James.
That figures to change in the years to come, assuming LeBron continues to win titles and dominate the NBA.
For now, though, Kobe—torn Achilles or no—remains the crowd favorite.