Predicting Which 2013-14 NBA Rookies Will Be Studs and Which Willl Be Duds
We're not just talking about studs and duds for the 2013-14 season. Let's do this big-picture style and make predictions for some players' careers.
We're labeling these players based on where they were picked in the draft. The bar that's set for Anthony Bennett is higher than the one set for Solomon Hill.
Also, there is some middle ground here. Not every rookie will turn out to be a stud or a dud. If a rookie was left off, like Otto Porter, it's because I don't feel he belongs on either side of the spectrum.
Stud: Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Victor Oladipo might be the easiest call of them all. With no red flags surrounding his physical tools, game or character, the only question to ask is, how many positions can he play?
The Magic immediately put the ball in his hands this summer, and Oladipo quickly responded. He was changing roles and making moves he never made at Indiana. We saw his pull-up, the step-back and his vintage take to the rack.
Despite not having the skill set of a traditional NBA point guard, Oladipo held his own running the show in Orlando. He averaged five assists per game, making the simple yet effective passes, though he still needs work changing direction off the dribble.
Still, the progress Oladipo has made since his freshman year has been wild. He's gradually expanding and adding to his game, and there doesn't appear to be signs of him slowing down any time soon.
Oladipo should be a stud for Orlando at whatever position he ends up playing.
Dud: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
My beef with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stems from his low-percentage offensive arsenal.
Last season, Caldwell-Pope took 225 three-pointers, 205 two-pointers and 169 free throws. His inability to get to the rack forces him to lean heavily on his jumper, which is always the trigger to inconsistency.
He also struggled with accuracy as a shooter. He finished his two-year career at Georgia as a 33.9 percent three-point shooter on a whopping 6.9 attempts per game.
He's got a nice perimeter game, including smooth step-back and pull-up jumpers. And I'll credit him as a solid defender.
But regardless, I'm going with inconsistency as the flaw that limits his value. Put Caldwell-Pope at the better end of the dud scale given his defense and athleticism.
Stud: Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
It won't be this year, or even next year. But one day, we'll all be reminded why Nerlens Noel had been so highly touted out of high school.
Of course, this means betting on his knees to hold up. Noel is in the process of rehabbing from a torn ACL, which is likely to sideline him for a good chunk of his rookie year.
But let's think optimistically here and assume that Noel will follow in the paths of guys like David West, Jamal Crawford and Kyle Lowry. All of them have suffered torn ACLs and bounced back stronger in time.
Noel has strengths as a big man that are extremely valued in the pros. Between his shot-blocking tools and instincts, along with his above-the-rim finishing ability, he projects as an athletic and productive interior presence.
It might require patience and some good fortune, but Noel should be a stud by the time he's finished as an NBA product.
Dud: Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
One of Trey Burke's biggest knocks coming out of college was his lack of elite athleticism. And for those who put any stock at all into summer league, those fears might have just become real.
Burke really struggled with the size, length and physicality of the bigger competition during summer ball. He made just 13-of-54 shots from the floor, including only 1-of-19 from downtown.
The concern here is getting separation and finishing in traffic. He isn't very explosive, which forces him into low-percentage shots he has to loft over big men.
Though he is the most skilled point guard in the class, Burke's questionable physical tools could make the transition incredibly challenging. I hate to say it, but I'm ringing the dud alarm on him.
Stud: Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
Fans and scouts have been torn over Cody Zeller's pro potential. You've got half the crowd screaming "dud" and the other half claiming "stud."
I'm with the more positive group.
Zeller averaged 16 points and eight boards as a sophomore while playing for an elite Indiana program in the Big Ten, which is one of the toughest conferences in basketball. During summer league, he averaged 16 points and nine boards on 52 percent shooting, showing off a full array of moves as a go-to scorer.
Fundamentally, there's nothing not to like about Zeller's offensive game. He's a tremendous athlete at 7'0'' who can run the floor, score in the post or face the rim and knock down shots.
I'm not ready to proclaim him an All-Star yet, but he has a lot of potential to be one in the long-term.
Stud: Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
I'd argue that Ben McLemore has a better shot at reaching All-Star status than any player in the class.
Only the mental part of the game will keep him from reaching his ceiling, which sits awfully high up thanks to a few key NBA strengths.
He's one of the best athletes you'll see with a jumper that couldn't be prettier. He projects as an elite perimeter scorer and a dangerous weapon in transition. During summer ball, he was actually taking over games as a go-to scorer, something he wasn't given the freedom to do at Kansas.
McLemore has to find a way to shake off misses and keep from allowing them to affect his next attempt. He's got the talent to be the top player in this draft class if he can maintain his scoring confidence throughout in-game adversity.
I'll bet on the talent prevailing long-term.
Dud: Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves
It's been raining red flags over Shabazz Muhammad.
First, he had been cited for being a year older than expected, meaning the damage he did in high school was mostly against younger competition. At UCLA, he earned a me-first reputation, which wasn't helped by the fact he averaged less than one assist per game.
Getting into technicalities, his low assist rate is also related to his inability to create off the dribble. Muhammad scored the majority of his points as a spot-up shooter, catch-and-slasher and finisher in transition.
But beating his man in isolation to set up a scoring opportunity isn't really a strength, which is troubling for a player who's considered a scorer. It wouldn't be so bad if he was known for rebounding, defending or passing, but he isn't. And the fact that he's undersized for a 3 only adds to the concern.
After getting booted from the Rookie Transition Program for violating simple rules, he's already off to a rough start. And that's not even including an underwhelming summer league debut.
Muhammad runs hard, moves well and can shoot it off the catch, but I can't bet on a guy who has a lot of concerns surrounding him. I like him as a person, just not as a prospect.
Stud: C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
It won't be long before C.J. McCollum is the first guy off the bench as the Blazers sixth man. His game is built for the position and the responsibilities that go with it. And that's where I think he'll make his money as an NBA player.
He's undersized to start as a 2 and lacks the floor game of a point guard. But as a scoring spark off the bench? Bingo. McCollum can get himself buckets by creating his own shot or scoring off the ball.
McCollum's ability to generate his own offense will be a valuable addition to Portland's previously lackluster second unit.
I'm projecting a Jason Terry-like career for him by the time it's all said and done.
Stud: Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
Kelly Olynyk just toyed with the competition on the West Coast at Gonzaga. But that was the problem. Most of his production came in a non-power conference, making him a tougher prospect to evaluate.
Olynyk proved the competition made no difference by destroying it during summer league, where he averaged 18 points and 7.8 rebounds on 58 percent shooting
Offensively, he's got every trick in the book. He showed off moves he can go to and ones he can counter with. Olynyk was comfortable stepping outside and knocking down mid or long-range jumpers in the half court. He was also running the floor and picking up easy buckets in transition.
There might be some concerns on the defensive side of the ball, but Olynyk could be a stud scorer for the Celtics long term.
Dud: Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers
Let's just say I wouldn't bet on Anthony Bennett meeting the expectations that come with being the No. 1 pick. We're only calling him a dud relative to his slot in the NBA draft, not his status in the league.
The big question focuses on his position. To some, like the Cavaliers, his position doesn't matter. I'm not as willing to just let it go.
At 6'8'', he's undersized for the 4 and lacks the skill set of a 3. I'm worried that Bennett might struggle the way Derrick Williams has so far in Minnesota.
Bennett could have trouble defensively as well, particularly against bigger power forwards and quicker, smaller ones.
Still, he's simply too explosive and gifted to be completely kept in check. But I'm not sure I'd bet on Bennett giving the Cavs the game-changer you normally get with a first overall pick.
There's a good chance Bennett ends up as an NBA starter. But Cavs fans expecting to see their next franchise building block might come away disappointed.
Stud: Dennis Schroeder, Atlanta Hawks
Just from a physical standpoint, Dennis Schroeder has the NBA speed, quickness and athleticism, along with excellent length and broad shoulders.
Fundamentally, he's shown an understanding for running the point in a half-court offense, where he executes pick-and-rolls and demonstrates breakdown ability.
Based on what we saw this summer, as well as at the Nike Hoops Summit (where he torched the United States), Schroeder's development appears on track without any serious questions to answer.
He'll start his career as Jeff Teague's backup, but I doubt that will be his role for long. Depending on how quickly Schroeder picks up the pro game, Atlanta could have an interesting situation on its hands with two solid point guards.
My money is on Schroeder emerging as the top point guard in his rookie class.
Stud: Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers
Solomon Hill is that guy whose talent and potential are in hiding. He rarely stepped out of his comfort zone in a supporting role for Arizona.
But Hill is fundamentally sound in almost every facet of the game. He looked like a pro during summer ball, where he showed off everything from ball-handling and three-point shooting to post play and passing.
Offensively, he can make shots from every spot on the floor, whether he's spotting up or shooting on the move. Physically, this dude is tough. He's no pushover on the boards or the defensive end.
I ultimately like Hill as a long-term role player specializing in shot-making, defense and toughness. As a late first-round pick, you don't need an All-Star invite to get recognized as a stud.