NBA Rookies Who Are Already Making Teams Regret Passing on Them
General managers and scouting departments hate to admit their own mistakes. So we'll do it for them.
Now a week into the season, we're already seeing rookies who are making teams regret passing on them.
And it's not necessarily about the stats, though some have put up some surprisingly monstrous numbers. But a few rookies just look the part and have held their own early on.
These are the guys who are going to cause sleepless nights for NBA decision-makers who missed the boat.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
Ten teams passed on Michael Carter-Williams in the 2013 draft. And he's starting to make a few look awfully dumb for doing so.
He went for 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven boards in his debut, resulting in a thrilling opening win over the Miami Heat. He dropped 26 and 10 a few days later in a comeback victory over the Bulls.
With a bright green light and all sorts of freedom, Carter-Williams has looked confident and comfortable running the show. His 6'6'' size and smooth athleticism have been overwhelming at times, particularly for M.C.W. as a suffocating defender and playmaker in the lane.
Though it's unlikely he sustains this ridiculous rate of production, we've at least gotten a glimpse of what Carter-Williams could look like at his best. And if the point-guard needy teams caught it prior to the draft, chances are Carter-Williams would be wearing a different uniform today.
Count on M.C.W. to remain a strong Rookie of the Year contender throughout the 2013-14 season.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
You can't help but wonder if the Cleveland Cavaliers would take a redo on last June's draft.
Victor Oladipo was and remains the lock of the 2013 class. And the Cavs passed for a question mark.
He's averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 boards and four assists off Orlando's bench. Through four games, the No. 1 pick in Anthony Bennett has yet to make a shot.
Hopefully the Cavs didn't pass on Oladipo because of the presence of Dion Waiters, who also plays shooting guard. If you ask me, Waiters is more effective in a sixth-man role anyway, while Oladipo's defense, versatility and overall discipline are sorely needed in Cleveland's backcourt.
Either way, Oladipo is evolving and expanding with every game he plays. Regardless of his position, he looks like a far better bet to reach his ceiling than Bennett, who presents legitimate risk as an undersized power forward.
Even though it's early, I'd imagine the Cavs brass is at least questioning whether or not they made a major draft blunder. Not me. I've already come to the conclusion that they did.
Nate Wolters, Milwaukee Bucks
With Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour fighting early-season injuries, Nate Wolters has filled in rather nicely for the Bucks.
Taken No. 38 in the 2013 draft, Wolters looks like a sure thing in terms of his ability to run an offense. He's averaging 10 points, 6.7 assists and only 1.3 turnovers per game, playing the role as a pass-first facilitator as opposed to the shoot-first scorer he was at South Dakota State.
Wolters' offensive instincts and high basketball IQ are both noticeable, as he's able to make plays despite lacking typical point-guard athleticism or quickness.
In some ways, he actually resembles Ridnour, someone I've compared him to in the past while as a prospect in college. A crafty ball-handler who can manipulate the defense and create plays off the dribble, Wolters is a natural playmaker in the backcourt.
He might fall back to the end of the bench once the veterans return, but seeing him operate with comfort early on is a promising sign for the future. Teams who passed because of Wolters' physical limitations might have overthought this one.
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks
Tim Hardaway Jr. has been up and down through a few regular-season games, but he certainly looks like a legitimate NBA contributor.
He exploded during preseason to knock down 18 three-pointers. An off-night against Minnesota destroyed his early regular-season shooting percentage, but his shot-making capability and high-flying athleticism have been easy to pick up on.
With a confident stroke and deep range, defenses have to pay attention to Hardaway Jr. whether he's got the ball or not. And though his half-court scoring repertoire is still a work in progress, he's a dangerous open-floor threat and reliable finisher in transition.
While fellow shooting guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ben McLemore were both taken in the Top 10, Hardaway Jr. slipped down to No. 24.
Based on what we've seen early on, the gap doesn't appear like it should have been that big.
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Considered a long-term project out of college, not many expected much short-term production from Steven Adams.
But the Thunder have given him almost 17 minutes per game so far, and though his statistics might not reflect it, Adams has held his own.
He's averaging five boards in limited action, using his monstrous body and effortless athleticism to control the glass and interior. And despite his lack of offensive polish, he has scored in the low post and as a finishing target around the rim.
Unlike Alex Len, who picked up four fouls in 13 minutes in his most extensive showing of the season, Adams appears far more NBA-ready. And while Len is already missing games due to ankle soreness (two ankle surgeries in the offseason), Adams looks fluid and fresh.
I'm not saying Adams was the better pick over Len at No. 5, but after summer league, preseason and a few regular-season games, it's at least a reasonable discussion to have.
Dennis Schroeder, Atlanta Hawks
Forget the stats and box scores. Dennis Schroeder has passed the eye test early on, looking like a surefire NBA point guard who just needs a year or two of on-the-job training.
He's playing fewer than 20 minutes a game as Jeff Teague's backup, showing a strong command of the ball and a knack for facilitating. Schroeder is as pure as they come in terms of pass-first orchestrators. His breakdown quickness, tight handle and roaming vision make all four of his teammates potential targets on the floor.
Schroeder is averaging 3.3 assists in limited action, despite minimal talent around him in Atlanta's second unit.
Trey Burke, the first point guard off the board, struggled mightily in summer league and preseason before breaking his finger. Instead of trading up for Burke, the Jazz might have been better off taking Schroeder at their original draft slot in the mid-first round.
Though it's too early to write off Burke, I currently have more questions about his transition than Schroeder's.