2014-15 NBA Rookies Who Would Be Better Off on Another Team
There were five prospects who stood out from the 2014 NBA draft as guys who'd be better off had they been taken by a different team.
For some, it has to do with available minutes. It's hard for many young players to develop while buried on the bench.
For others, it's related to fit in the lineup. A few of these guys ended up in settings that will either force them to play to their weaknesses or prevent them from playing to their strengths.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon would have been better off going to a team with established talent around him. He's the type of guy who'll be more effective when surrounded by better players.
Gordon's offensive strengths are highlighted by his ability to finish plays—not create them. And in Orlando, he might be forced to create more for himself, given the lack of playmakers the Magic are working with.
Gordon's situation in Orlando reminds me of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's in Charlotte when he was drafted with the second pick in 2012. Without many teammates capable of drawing attention to themselves or creating offense off the dribble, Kidd-Gilchrist has had to create many of his own scoring opportunities—a major weakness—and it's resulted in frustrating inconsistency.
Gordon will have a tough time scoring against set defenses as it is; with a rookie point guard, a lack of passers, no double-team magnets or one-on-one threats, it's going to be even tougher for him to consistently find good looks at the basket.
Had Gordon gone to a veteran team, he'd be able to play a bit more to his strengths as a catch-and-scorer. Look for his field-goal and shooting percentages to dip as he's forced to play into his weaknesses in Orlando.
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz
After selling himself as a point guard during the predraft process, Dante Exum was drafted by a team with his preferred position already occupied.
Now he's set to play off the ball—to his weaknesses as a shooter and away from his strengths as a playmaker.
“I think I’m still comfortable at the point,” Exum told Jody Genessy of the Deseret News following one of his summer league games. “I still want to get the ball in my hands as much as possible. I didn’t get it a lot in my hands these last couple of games.”
Exum would have been better off going to a team that gave him the rock and allowed him to develop as a point guard on the job—that's the position where his potential is highest. At 6'6", Exum's size, athleticism and ability to create off the dribble is what ultimately separates him from everyone else.
In Utah, he'll be losing valuable early reps on the ball to Trey Burke, whose ceiling is a good three stories lower.
Tyler Ennis, Phoenix Suns
When is he going to play? There aren't any available minutes in sight for point guard Tyler Ennis, who finds himself behind two other established point guards in Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas.
It's hard to even see the light long term. Dragic appears to be Phoenix's new franchise point guard, while Thomas is locked up until 2018.
Eric Bledsoe also does his fair share of ball-handling for Phoenix.
Ennis will eventually need some reps for his development. He'll have to improve as a scorer in the lane and shooter, and it might take some time before he adjusts to man-to-man NBA defense after playing in the zone as a one-and-done Syracuse freshman.
And it's tough to see him getting those reps in Phoenix. If I'm another team looking for point guard depth, I'm calling the Suns, who really have no need for Ennis.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Though Joel Embiid will just be happy to get back on the floor after suffering a stress fracture in his back and broken bone in his foot, I question if Philadelphia is the best place for his development upon his return.
The Sixers took Embiid with a worry-about-it-later approach in terms of his fit alongside Nerlens Noel, another center who they acquired on draft night in 2013. But "later" is going to eventually arrive, and Embiid is going to come back to another high-profile prospect in his starting center spot.
And I'm skeptical of the Embiid-Noel pairing. Neither of them play outside the paint. What kind of spacing—or lack thereof—would that create?
The whole "Twin Towers" defensive tandem is fun to think about, but offensively, the clutter it might create is somewhat bothersome.
Embiid would be better off in a more traditional lineup, where he'd get more touches and space to work one-on-one in the post.
C.J. Wilcox, Los Angeles Clippers
C.J. Wilcox will actually enter the league with a fairly NBA-ready skill set. He's a knock-down shooter anywhere from 15 to 27 feet, whether he's spotting up or pulling up off the dribble.
There isn't much upside attached to him, but Wilcox is the type of guy who could step in and contribute immediately.
Only the opportunity won't quite be there early on in Los Angeles, where the Clippers already dress J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley and Reggie Bullock on the wing.
It was pretty surprising to see the Clippers go with a shooting specialist like Wilcox, who would really hold more value in someone else's lineup. Unfortunately, that rookie contract might expire before he gets a chance to showcase his game to the rest of the league.