NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Breaking Down the Top 10 After Opening Week

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 4, 2013

NBA Rookie Stock Watch: Breaking Down the Top 10 After Opening Week

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    During the first week of their NBA lives, the league's top rookies turned in performances that were all over the map.

    That's to be expected; summer league and preseason contests are a far cry from honest-to-goodness regular-season action. And while it's important to keep in mind that we've only seen the first faltering steps of these NBA infants' careers, there was still plenty to learn.

    A few highly touted names failed to deliver when the lights got brighter, while others provided a predictable mixture of ups and down. In some cases, though, we might have seen the first hints of stardom in waiting.

    Anthony Bennett's putrid shooting (he still hasn't made an NBA field goal) resulted in the No. 1 overall pick slipping out of the rankings after just three games. And Tim Hardaway Jr.'s lone decent contest against the Chicago Bulls wasn't enough to erase the two ugly ones that came before and after it.

    The New York Knicks rookie will work his way back into the top 10 eventually, but Bennett hasn't shown anything to suggest he'll do the same.

    Let's see who else jumped around the rankings in this week's rookie stock watch.

     

    *All statistics via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.

    **All statistics accurate through games played Nov. 3, 2013.

10. Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Statistics: 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 10

    Stock: Steady

     

    Atlanta Hawks rookie Dennis Schroder ranks 10th among rookies in points per game, fifth in assists and 13th in rebounds. But if there was a category for the moments when you turn to say to yourself, "Oh, man, this guy is going to be something special," Schroder would probably be pretty close to the top spot here.

    The point guard has a long way to go, but because he shows the occasional flash of remarkable quickness or keen passing instincts, it's impossible to leave him off this list.

    It's going to be difficult to come by playing time as the season wears on, though. Jeff Teague is continuing his ascent up the point guard ranks, and Louis Williams will be back later in the year.

    That means Schroder is going to have to do more than show glimpses of promise over the next few weeks if he wants to expand his spot in the rotation.

9. Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    2013-14 Statistics: 8.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 4

    Stock: Down

     

    Ben McLemore's numbers haven't been all that pretty so far, but the rest of his game has retained its undeniable aesthetic appeal. His jumper remains effortless and smooth, and his occasional forays to the rim have been marked by eye-popping bursts of athleticism.

    In other words, McLemore looks like he'll eventually become an excellent offensive player.

    But he didn't do much to erase concerns about his ball-handling in his first week, and a couple of defensive lapses have resulted in a shortening leash from head coach Mike Malone. It's early, though.

    His jumper is far too pretty to yield accuracy rates of 38.5 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from long range, which is what he shot during his first week in the league.

    The Kansas product's stock took a hit this week, but I've got a hunch he'll climb back up the ranks soon enough.

8. Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Zellers everywhere!
    Zellers everywhere!Kent Smith/Getty Images

    2013-14 Statistics: 5.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Stock: Down

     

    Cody Zeller's modest first week wasn't without its high points. Thanks to a 90-84 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 1, the Charlotte Bobcats rookie at least has bragging rights over his older brother, Tyler.

    Better yet, Cody got himself a big-name endorser when he signed with Jordan Brand on Oct. 31.

    Overall, though, Zeller's performance has been rather unimpressive. But his underwhelming numbers result in part from a lack of opportunity. The rookie big man hasn't played more than 19 minutes in a game this season, so it's been difficult for him to get into much of a rhythm.

    Of course, if he picks up fouls at the rate he did against the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 2 (four violations in just 10 minutes), it'll be awfully tough for him to do that. After a brilliant summer league and a solid preseason, Zeller is running into his first rough patch right now.

    He'll have to get things going if he wants to stick around in these rankings.

7. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Statistics: 4.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 2

    Stock: Down

     

    Steven Adams is still a remarkably active, surprisingly agile big man. But he hasn't been getting enough playing time to show it. After logging 18 and 23 minutes in his first two games, the Pitt product played just nine in his third contest.

    Foul trouble and the Oklahoma City Thunder's inexplicable devotion to Kendrick Perkins have conspired to prevent Adams from making a bigger impact this year, but he's no less promising a prospect than he was a week ago.

    There's just no way that head coach Scott Brooks will be able to keep the rookie glued to the bench forever.

    When Adams eventually gets a fair shot, he's going to rocket up these rankings. He's too big, too strong and too energetic to avoid piling up the kinds of stats that should make him an outside contender for Rookie of the Year.

    It sounds crazy to say that after such an unimpressive first week, but I still have faith in OKC's big man. All he needs is an opportunity.

6. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    2013-14 Statistics: 11.0 points, 0.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 8

    Stock: Up

     

    You might be wondering how it's possible that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has actually moved up two spots despite registering a DNP-CD in the Detroit Pistons' Nov. 3 contest against the Boston Celtics.

    Allow me to explain.

    It's partly because guys like Anthony Bennett and Cody Zeller, two rookies who ranked ahead of KCP last week, have been bad enough to drop behind him. In addition, Caldwell-Pope's dwindling playing time has more to do with the return of Brandon Jennings than it does with the rookie's performance.

    Overall, KCP is still playing the kind of solid defense that originally endeared him to coach Maurice Cheeks. Eventually, the Pistons' guard rotation will sort itself out. I'm guessing KCP will be a part of it when the dust settles.

5. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Statistics: 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.0 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Stock: Down

     

    I have to be honest: If not for a 15-point, eight-rebound effort against the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 3, Kelly Olynyk might have fallen out of these rankings entirely. Fortunately for the Boston Celtics rookie, his third game as a pro was his best, and he only suffers a two-spot slip this week.

    Olynyk hasn't flashed the three-point range that made him so intriguing as a summer league player, but he has been rebounding fairly well in his limited minutes and has shot a respectable 47.6 percent from the floor.

    As he continues to earn more playing time, expect him to stretch defenses more effectively, which will only help his stock here.

4. Nate Wolters, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Statistics: 10.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Previous Ranking: Unranked

    Stock: Up

     

    A hamstring injury to Brandon Knight created a major opportunity for Nate Wolters, and the rookie from South Dakota State has taken full advantage.

    Wolters was instrumental in the Milwaukee Bucks' comeback win over the Boston Celtics on Nov. 1, and then he earned the distinction of starting the team's home opener the next night against the Toronto Raptors.

    According to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bucks head coach Larry Drew is a big fan of the way Wolters runs his team's offense:

    The thing I like about what he did last night was he got us organized. We've had problems with that these first two games of the season. He came in and did a good job up in New York and did a good job last night. I've got to have organization at the very beginning. I can't have guys out just looking for their shots.

    It might be tough for Wolters to hang onto his starting gig when Knight and Luke Ridnour return to full health, but if he continues to impress his coach, he'll almost certainly retain a spot in the rotation. For now, he's come out of nowhere to earn a spot in these rankings.

3. Vitor Faverani, Boston Celtics

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    2013-14 Statistics: 11.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 3.3 blocks

    Previous Ranking: Unranked

    Stock: Up

     

    If I'd told you that a Boston Celtics rookie was going to see his stock soar in the season's first week, you probably would have assumed I was talking about Kelly Olynyk. That assumption would have been understandable, especially considering the perimeter skill the Gonzaga product flashed during summer league.

    But it's Vitor Faverani, a 25-year-old rookie from Spain, who has started every game for the C's and put up one of the best weeks of any first-year player this season.

    The 6'11" center has knocked in 57.1 percent of his field-goal attempts while leading all rookies in blocks per game. His signature game was a 37-minute effort against the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 1 in which he piled up 12 points, 18 rebounds and six rejections.

    It's difficult to imagine Faverani keeping up his current levels of production, but head coach Brad Stevens clearly saw something he liked during the preseason and has entrusted the rookie with a starting gig. So far, it's been working out brilliantly.

2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    2013-14 Statistics: 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 1

    Stock: Down

     

    If not for one of the most stunning, out-of-nowhere rookie debuts in NBA history, Victor Oladipo would have held onto his No. 1 ranking this week. As it is, his stock slips just a bit, dropping him to a still-respectable No. 2 position.

    Oladipo has been a major part of the Orlando Magic's surprising 2-2 start, and his excellent all-around game was instrumental in notching a signature 107-86 win against the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 3. In fact, it was the rookie's midcourt rip of Deron Williams and subsequent 360-degree slam that punctuated the victory.

    There are still real issues with his shooting, as Oladipo has made just 30 percent of his threes and a surprisingly poor 66.7 percent of his free throws in his first week. But as a hard-working defender and multifaceted contributor, Oladipo has been impressive.

    If he keeps up his current level of play, he's got a great chance to reclaim his top ranking in the future.

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    2013-14 Statistics: 20.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 4.3 steals, 0.0 blocks

    Previous Ranking: 9

    Stock: Up

     

    New rule: If you flirt with a quadruple-double in your first NBA game, notch three consecutive victories to start the season and threaten to single-handedly sabotage your team's efforts to tank, the No. 1 spot is yours to lose.

    Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams did all of those things in his first week as a professional, and his performance made picking the top rookie as easy as it's ever going to be.

    Doubts about MCW's game lingered well into the preseason: He couldn't shoot, lacked strength and wasn't ready for the pressure of handling major minutes as his team's primary ball-handler. Well, the rookie hit 47.1 percent of his triples, showed a stunning ability to finish at the rim and engineered victories over the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. I'd say he put those doubts to rest.

    One week of remarkable play won't define MCW's season. The rest of the league will adjust, and he's not going to have the luxury of sneaking up on anyone in the coming months. Plus, if he keeps leading the Sixers to such impressive wins, general manager Sam Hinkie might lock him in a broom closet in an effort to preserve his team's shot at a top lottery selection.

    But, man, was he spectacular this past week.