NBA

Top Incoming NBA Rookies' Best Career Play

Fred KatzFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

Top Incoming NBA Rookies' Best Career Play

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The 2014 draft class is one of the most hyped group of rookies in recent NBA history. Especially before the 2013-14 NBA season started, all we heard about was how dominant this slate of incoming rookies would become.

    Now we realize that may have been a slight exaggeration. It's probably not a bold statement to predict that this won't be the best draft class of all time, but that doesn't mean it's a bad one, and it surely doesn't negate the across-the-board athleticism.

    Andrew Wiggins isn't the next LeBron James, but he does enter the NBA as one of its most physically gifted players. That means making plays other people can't.

    We've seen the analysis from draft night. Now it's time to see the highlights. Here's a look at the best career plays from some of the top incoming rookies.

Honorable Mention: Deonte Burton, G, Nevada

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    Boise State basketball may never recover from this. Nevada's Deonte Burton didn't get drafted and may never play much in the NBA, but he has to make it on this list just so we can show off the dunk of the year from this past college basketball season.

    Watch out for more slams like this at the Las Vegas Summer League, where Burton will be playing for the Washington Wizards. Athleticism is Burton's game, and with a 39.5" max vertical, we could be in for a few treats over the summer.

Honorable Mention: Markel Brown, G, Oklahoma State

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    Cue one of the most ridiculous ejections of the last few years in college basketball.

    If we looked back on this obliteration of the rim, would Brown, whom the Brooklyn Nets drafted 44th overall on June 26, do it again and still take the ejection? Probably...hopefully.

    This may have been from the 2011-12 season, but it was one of those plays that gets you to jump off the couch in your living room when you're sitting home alone at 8:30 on a Monday night and are debating between continuing to watch the game and switching over to a syndicated episode of Seinfeld on TBS.

    Columbia, Missouri is still rehabbing from this. Matt Pressey, the most innocent victim of them all, will never be the same again. It's over. You ended everything, Markel.

Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

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    Now for the true top prospects. 

    Skip to the 1:07 marker of the video, and you'll realize the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid because of plays like this. Seven-foot freshman centers aren't supposed to have that sort of body control.

    First, there's the catch. Freshman bigs don't run the floor like that and definitely don't have the coordination to make that reception, come down and keep two feet in bounds to regather.

    Then there's the foot speed to make a move, the skill to Dream Shake and the beautiful finish. If Embiid can stay healthy, this is why some people are so excited to see him play.

Jabari Parker, F, Duke

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    If Lance Stephenson already owns the nickname "Born Ready," Parker is stealing the phrase "NBA ready."

    That's all we hear about the former Dukie's offensive game, and in a close contest against East Carolina, he showed it off in so many ways. Parker grabs a rebound, takes three dribbles, rips off a crossover (that is "crafty" enough to avoid a carry call), uses one more bounce and takes off to wreck the rim.

    Look at Parker when he gets to half court. At one point, he sees himself surrounded by all five East Carolina players, and he beats each one of them to the rim. Incredible.

Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

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    Smart, whom the Boston Celtics selected with the No. 6 overall pick, has his own highlight reel of dunks and athletic plays. He's a 6'3", 227-pound point guard with remarkable speed and athleticism. 

    He can run, jump and overpower his counterpart, but because of all that, we sometimes forget how much skill he actually has.

    A pass like this takes court awareness, soft hands and ultimate basketball smarts. So when we watch Smart, let's use plays like this to remember he's not all raw athleticism, and he actually has the ability to run a real offense moving forward.

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas

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    We've already seen all the great plays from the No. 1 pick's time at Kansas. So let's reach back into the archives and find some high school footage of Andrew Wiggins.

    Sure, Wiggins had his fair share of dominant dunks as a collegiate freshman, but how many high schoolers move like the Canadian does in this video? It's plays like this that helped elicit the "next LeBron" reactions to Wiggins' career. Even great players can't pull off that dunk in high school.

Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona

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    Gordon will be a member of the Orlando Magic next season after becoming the fourth player taken off the board in the draft. And part of the reason he went so high was because of plays like this: a dunk which came against San Diego State in the Sweet 16.

    We could see some tremendous rookie dunks this season. Just check out the 2013 McDonald's All-American Dunk Contest, when we saw a senior class that included Wiggins, Parker, Gordon and eventual winner Chris Walker compete against each other.

    Some of the dunks in that competition would be tremendous NBA slams, especially a few from Gordon, who only cemented the comparisons we see to Blake Griffin even though Gordon is smaller and plays a different on-court style than the Clippers power forward.

    Get ready for some rim destruction next season. We're going to see it a lot.

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