NBA Rookies 2013: Top Draft Picks Who Will Be Under Immense Pressure

Kaitlin MurphyContributor IIIOctober 3, 2013

GREENBURGH, NY - AUGUST 06:  Nerlens Noel
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Dubbed a “weak” draft class, the top picks of the 2013-14 draft already have a chip on their shoulders.  This coming season is an opportunity to prove something—to establish themselves as NBA successes.  But it is also an opportunity for some of them to crack under the immense pressure.

Cody Zeller

After just two years at Indiana University, Cody Zeller has established himself as a star center and the best of the three Zeller brothers.

The 7-foot Zeller posted excellent numbers at this year’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago—a 37.5 inch vertical, 10.82 second agility time, 3.15 second sprint time and he benched 185 pounds 17 times.

Charlotte Bobcats’ strength and conditioning coach Matt Friia had this to say on Zeller’s results, as reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:

The vertical—almost a 40—that’s what we see in guards who are freak athletes. If (7-footers) get over 30 that’s very good. Quite rare to find someone near 40. Doing that agility drill under 11 seconds is impressive for anybody. Anything under 13 would be good for someone of his size. He’s very quick laterally. This is about changing directions really quick and he does that very well.

Jun 28, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats first round draft pick Cody Zeller (middle), general manager Rich Cho (left), and president of basketball operations Rod Higgins (right) hold up jersey  during the introduction press conference at Time W
Curtis Wilson-USA TODAY Sports

With Kemba Walker improving, Zeller may have a better chance at living up to these expectations, but it is very unlikely that he will be a breakout star.

GREENBURGH, NY - AUGUST 06:  Trey Burke #3 of the Utah Jazz poses for a portrait during the 2013 NBA rookie photo shoot at the MSG Training Center on August 6, 2013 in Greenburgh, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
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Trey Burke

The flashy point guard out of Michigan will undoubtedly have pressure to succeed with the Utah Jazz, who are looking to build their franchise around Burke.

The pressure to keep up with a league full of great point guards (Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker) is surely pressure enough, but the 6’0” point guard has put even more pressure on himself by placing his own name in the Rookie of the Year debates.

As reported by Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld:

“I definitely think I can potentially get that award.  Coming off the season I had last year, I’m a confident player.  My confidence is my strength.  I definitely think there is a good chance that I could win it.”

Burke’s confidence stands a chance against Victor Oladipo in the ROY race now that the Orlando Magic are “experimenting” with Oladipo’s position.

C.J. McCollum

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 18:  C.J. McCollum #3 of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks moves the ball against the Xavier Musketeers in the second half during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 18, 2012 in Green
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The 6’3” shooting guard has big shoes to fill.  Drafted 10th overall by the Portland Trailblazers, home of the unanimous 2012-13 Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, McCollum will inevitably be compared to his new teammate.

The Lehigh sharp shooter has also been compared to another sharp-shooter out of a mid-major college, Stephen Curry.

McCollum will have a hard time living up to either one this season.  He will most likely start behind Wesley Matthews, and with the addition of Mo Williams, McCollum will be fighting for substantial minutes.

Nerlens Noel

NEW YORK - JUNE 26: NBA Draft Prospect, Nerlens Noel speaks to the media during media availability as part of the 2013 NBA Draft on June 26, 2013 at the Westin Times Square in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
Steven Freeman/Getty Images

The projected first overall pick went sixth to the New Orleans Pelicans and was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster.

The Kentucky center was on pace to break former Kentucky standout Anthony Davis’ block record, averaging just about four-and-a-half blocks per game before tearing his ACL in mid-February. 

At just 19 years old, Noel has been dubbed the top high school prospect in 2012 recruiting class by MaxPreps, the “next great big man” by Alex Kennedy and has been compared to Bill Russell by Allen Moll of The Hoop Doctors.

The young center will have to prove himself when he returns from his injury around Christmas time.  If Anthony Davis’ play is any indication of how Noel will play, he will have a solid year and show lots of potential.

All of these young players have something to live up to, and with no real playoff or championship pressure, their pressure is strictly on individual performance.  This season is about who in this “weak” draft can be a surprise and become a star, rather than just a solid NBA player.