John Wall, Blake Griffin, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins. These names sound familiar?
They should. These are the names you've been hearing all summer. The lottery picks, the premier rookie of the year candidates, the future superstars. The group of players everyone assumes the rookie of the year will come from. And why?
Well, it's fairly obvious. It's because they are the best. The cream of the crop. The players with the most athleticism, most skill, most upside and potential. Only very rarely does the NBA Rookie of the Year get drafted anywhere outside the top 10.
However, it has happened before.
The NBA is very different from college hoops, and some rookies transition better than others. So here is an article to give some credit to 'the other guys', the players not drafted in the top five who have the skill and the potential to win the Rookie of the Year, just not the hype.
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Lance Stephenson left Lincoln High School in New York ranked as one of the top high school players in the country, but failed to live up to expectations during his one season as a Cincinnati Bearcat.
Stephenson averaged 12 points per game in his sole college season, and after declaring for the 2010 NBA Draft was picked with the 40th pick in the draft.
Stephenson was very impressive during the summer league, but after some legal issues this summer, stemming from pushing his girlfriend down the stairs, Stephenson’s future looks uncertain.
However, if he manages to sort out his off-court issues, Stephenson’s excellent scoring ability could make him a candidate for the 2011 Rookie of the Year award.
Apart from Danny Granger and Darren Collison, the Pacers don’t have any particularly dangerous scorers, so he should have plenty of opportunities if he proves himself worthy of playing time.
Larry Sanders, a 6'11" power forward out of Virginia Commonwealth, is one of the top defenders in the 2010 draft class. Sanders possesses tremendous upside and averaged 2.6 blocks per game last season.
Sanders was a very efficient scorer and rebounder last season, averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds in under 27 minutes per game.
Drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, Sanders is a freakish athlete whose thunderous slams brought plenty of excitement to the fans of Virginia Commonwealth, but he also has considerable range.
Sanders possesses an excellent mid range jumper and even showed off some three-point shooting ability, hitting two clutch threes during a summer league game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Speaking of the summer league, Sanders had quite an impressive showing as the leader of the Vegas Bucks, averaging 14 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game in five matches.
Sanders will compete with Drew Gooden, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Ersan Ilyasova for the Bucks starting power forward spot, and his defense could encourage coach Scott Skiles to grant him the spot.
With both Sanders and Andrew Bogut starting, the Bucks could potentially have the best interior defense in the league.
Critics have begun to write the San Antonio Spurs off as over the hill, too old to compete and heading nowhere fast.
However, the Spurs have always been extremely smart drafters, and may have found a diamond in the rough in Tiago Splitter.
Splitter, a 25-year-old Brazilian center, was selected by San Antonio with the 28th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, but was unable to come to the NBA until this coming season.
San Antonio's big men starters of last season, Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess, are both 34 years old, and Spurs coach Greg Popovich may wish to decrease their playing time during the regular season.
As a result, Splitter, along with second-year forward Dejuan Blair, should both get solid playing time at the power forward and center spots.
Splitter played well in the FIBA World Championships this summer, averaging 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, and has a chance to join Manu Ginobili as the Spurs' second gem out of South America.
If he can adapt to the Spurs system and prove his ability to hold his own in the NBA, Splitter could snag the starting center job for the Spurs this season.
Although he may not have the hype of rookies like John Wall, Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins, Splitter may be just as much of a Rookie of the Year candidate as the lottery picks.
Despite an outstanding college career and a solid summer league showing, critics are beginning to write off the ninth overall pick, Gordon Hayward as a bust. I disagree.
Hayward averaged 15.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during his time at Butler, and led them on a memorable run to the NCAA Championship Game, before being defeated by Duke.
During the Orlando Summer League, Hayward averaged 11 points and 3 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game, while shooting 62 percent from the field and 92 percent from the free-throw line.
Although the stats aren't flashy, the efficiency is blatant. At 6'8", Hayward has the skills of a guard and was considered a sharpshooter from long range throughout his college career.
Hayward's versatility, court vision and work ethic have served him well thus far in his career, and he is ready to take his game to the next level on the Jazz.
The Jazz have taken a lot of criticism for drafting Hayward over fellow rookie small forward Paul George, and although George has greater athleticism and potential, Hayward's unselfishness and versatility may benefit him on the Jazz.
Although Hayward will have Andrei Kirilenko and C.J. Miles to compete with for minutes this season, the Jazz want out of Kirilenko's contract and the Russian has been involved in trade rumors recently, so he may be heading out of Salt Lake City.
Hayward should get plenty of opportunities to play alongside Deron Williams, Al Jefferson and the central Jazz rotation, and if he can mesh well in Utah and potentially secure a starting role, I could see him averaging around 14 points and six rebounds per game.
Rolle had a strong summer league showing for the Pacers
Magnum Rolle is a relatively unknown player out of Louisiana Tech. A slim, 6'11" power forward, Rolle was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 51st pick in the draft and was recently signed to a two-year deal.
Rolle averaged 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game during his senior year as a Bulldog, and although his stats aren't particularly impressive, Rolle's strengths will serve him well in the NBA.
Rolle was named to the All-WAC Defensive Team, mainly for his shot-blocking ability. Rolle is also exceptionally agile for his size and has good range.
Rolle managed to raise some eyebrows during the Orlando Summer League, averaging an impressive 13.4 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game while showcasing an excellent mid-range jumper.
Although Rolle lacks the strength to bang inside with most NBA big men, he will undoubtedly be hitting the weights in preparation for his first season, so that shouldn't be a big problem for long.
With the recent departure of Troy Murphy, the Pacers are left without a quality starting power forward, and Rolle may be able to grind out some good minutes if he can impress during the preseason and training camp.
In all honesty, it's unheard of for a 51st overall pick to win the Rookie of the Year award, or to even be close, but if the pieces fall into place for Rolle he may find himself as a candidate.
On June 24, 2010, I watched in disbelief as Damion James was drafted with the 24th pick in the draft.
Twenty-fourth? Are you kidding me?
The 22-year-old James is coming off an outstanding senior year at Texas during which he averaged 18 points and 10.3 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game.
Playing alongside Avery Bradley and Dexter Pittbull, that is Pittman, James put up ridiculous stats and showcased his extreme scoring ability.
In recent years, draft have become less about talent and more about potential. As a result, many college seniors aren't getting drafted as high as they would have in the past. James is a prime example of this.
Despite being only 22, numerous teams passed on the Longhorn in favor of younger players with more upside. Consequently, James fell to the 24th pick, where he was snagged by the Atlanta Hawks.
Hawks fans must have been screaming "STEAL" in joy, but James was traded to the New Jersey Nets shortly after the draft, in exchange for Jordan Crawford and Tibor Pleiss.
Of all the players in the Orlando Summer League this summer, James was the player who impressed me most.
He averaged 18.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 30 minutes per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from the arc. Not too shabby, huh?
With the rumors of Carmelo Anthony being traded to the Nets dying down, James should have an opportunity to vie for the starting small forward spot on the Nets.
Although he'll have to beat out veteran scorer Travis Outlaw to snag the starting spot, based on James' outstanding college career and summer league performances, I like his chances.
James should prove to be a major steal this season and be a premier candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Every year numerous rookies drafted outside the lottery picks thrive, and these are just a few of the most likely non-lottery picks to shine.
I hope you enjoyed my article, please comment any thoughts or questions you have and tell me which rookies you think will surprise this season, along with your pick for Rookie of the Year.