NBA Rookies Who Will Make Immediate Impact
This 2014 rookie class consists of plenty of NBA-ready prospects, but only a few are actually ready to make an immediate impact.
The following rookies could help move the needle for their respective teams right away—rookies who will be counted on from day one to contribute as regular members of the rotation.
Whether it's their physical tools, sharp skills or a combination of both, these are the rookies whose games should translate sooner rather than later.
Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers
Andrew Wiggins' superhero athleticism and physical tools should fuel most of his production early on.
It's going to start at the defensive end, where he's capable of guarding multiple positions when you take into account his size, length and lateral quickness.
Offensively, you might want to write Wiggins down for two to three easy buckets a game, whether they're off backdoor alley-oops, fast breaks, tip-ins or line drives to the rack.
But his skills have come a long way over the past year, particularly on the perimeter. Wiggins nailed 43 three-pointers as a freshman, and over time, we've seen his mid-range scoring arsenal expand.
He went for 18 points in his summer league debut, nailing a number of jumpers he created with step-backs and pull-ups outside the paint but inside the arc.
However, playing alongside Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, Wiggins won't have to worry as much about creating his own offense. He'll make an immediate impact by simply giving his playmakers a slashing, shooting and open-floor target.
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
Jabari Parker has earned the reputation as being the most NBA-ready prospect in the class. Just about every book in Vegas has him listed as the favorite for 2015 Rookie of the Year.
Parker shouldn't have too much trouble with the physical transition, given his 6'8" size, 235-pound frame and above-average athleticism. Offensively, he has the strength to score down low and the agility to play face-up ball from the perimeter.
And it's his high skill level and polish that's separated him up to this point in his basketball career. Parker is a tough one-on-one cover, whether he's attacking the rim, separating for a jumper or shaking and baking in the post.
He has the ability to generate offense from just about every spot on the floor, and he possesses the physical tools that should allow him to deliver.
Given how few options the Bucks have to go to in the half court, Parker should be looking at a featured role from day one in the pros.
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
It's been 18 months since Nerlens Noel last played competitively, having sat out the entire 2013-14 season recovering from a torn ACL. You wouldn't know it from the Orlando Summer League, where he averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 boards and three blocks over a three-game stretch.
After his summer league debut, Noel told ESPN.com's Michael Wallace:
I haven't been thinking about the knee for many months now. So I'm definitely going to continue to get it strong, as strong as possible and continue working. It's very validating. It's been 18 months since I played an organized game, and I felt great today. I'm real happy, but I can't get too happy because it's a long road ahead of me.
As long as Noel stays healthy, his elite athleticism, physical tools and shot-blocking instincts should translate immediately to the NBA's interior. He's a monster finishing target for dump passes and lobs, whether it's off drive-and-dishes or pick-and-rolls, while his length, mobility and anticipation will help shrink the size of the rim he's protecting.
In between, he'll give Philadelphia a solid presence on the glass, a rangy, active defender and a strong candidate to tip in a miss or two per game.
Noel can make things happen without needing the ball. And that's what should allow him to excel as a rookie while his skills take time to develop.
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart should make an immediate impact for the Boston Celtics, only it's not going to stem from his scoring or passing. At least not yet.
Smart's impact will come on defense, where he's an on-ball terror and off-ball playmaker. Smart finished in the top three in the country in steals per game during both years at Oklahoma State, thanks to his diesel 227-pound frame, 6'9" wingspan and lateral quickness.
Throw in a live motor, a high defensive IQ and terrific anticipation, and Smart should pose as a defensive problem for backcourts across the league.
He'll be a nice offensive weapon in 2014-15, but expect some inconsistency with his shooting and decision-making.
However, expect consistent impact defense.
Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls
After shooting at least 40 percent from downtown in four straight years at Creighton, and averaging at least 22 points a game in each of his last three seasons, Doug McDermott will enter the league with arguably the most polished skill set in the class.
A lack of quickness and athleticism might limit the upside to those skills, but in a role that allows him to play to his strengths as a shooter and complementary scorer, McDermott could thrive right away.
He gives the Chicago Bulls an immediate knock-down shooter, whether he's spotting up from downtown or curling off a screen in the mid-range. But it's not just catching-and-shooting—McDermott has the shot-making ability to convert from various angles on the floor. Runners, pull-ups, one-legged fadeaways—he's more than just a one-dimensional specialist.
He's also a high-IQ guy who plays smart, efficient basketball. McDermott went for 31 points on just 12 shots in his second summer league game in Vegas.
I'm not expecting to see the same volume scorer we saw at Creighton, but I do expect him to give the Bulls a reliable shot-making presence from day one as a rookie.
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
Julius Randle's comfort level with contact should bode well for him as a rookie. While the physical transition usually trips up most teenagers, it shouldn't keep Randle, 19, from doing his thing as a double-double machine.
At 6'9", 250 pounds, Randle has the strength to play through and finish after contact. And he has the offensive instincts and crafty left hand that allows him to score at awkward angles below the rim.
His motor and athleticism on the interior should also translate to rebounds, putbacks and hard-fought points. Brett Pollakoff of Pro Basketball Talk noted Randle's high activity level during his summer league debut.
With Pau Gasol moving to Chicago, Randle will get plenty of minutes as a rookie. And as long as he has minutes and good health, the points in the paint and rebounds should follow.
Look for Randle to give the Lakers a physical presence up front from day one.
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