One of my favorite parts of the NBA offseason is the draft. At long last, fans get to speculate where the top college players might end up in the pros and just how successful they will be on that level. A lot of pressure falls on players taken in the first round, especially in the early stages.
This year's draft class was weak compared to others, but it still had some talented players. With the first overall pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers took dynamic point guard Kyrie Irving out of Duke University. Many saw this as an odd choice because while talented, Irving had appeared in just 11 college games.
That being said, while Irving may indeed have a successful NBA career, chances are he won't be a sensation from the get-go. Here are 10 first rounders, including Irving, who will not impress us immediately.
When draft time rolls around, the one group of players of whom I'm always skeptical are the international prospects. While these guys are talented, they almost always play the game much differently than it is played in the NBA.
One of the international prospects that jumped out at me this year was Congolese forward Bismack Biyombo, who the Sacramento Kings took with the seventh pick and then traded to the Charlotte Bobcats. The 19-year-old spent the last couple of years playing in Spain and has a reputation for being an extremely tough defender, able to rebound well and block shots with ease.
Yet, as was noted on draft night, Biyombo's offensive game is borderline non-existent. That and the crowded situation at power forward in Charlotte are a near-guarantee that his minutes will be limited this year and if we do see him play at all, we won't see much.
One of the best leaders on the college level, Nolan Smith was drafted with the No. 21 pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. While he was talented in college and averaged 20.6 points per game as a senior, I don't think he'll impress much his first year for a couple of reasons.
First, the Blazers already have a talented point guard in Raymond Felton, so it's almost certain that Smith won't start unless Felton is injured. Even then, his skills as a passer aren't up to par considering how he averaged just 2.7 assists in four years at Duke.
On top of that, we don't have much of an idea of the Blazers' plan for Smith. Are they grooming him to be their point guard of the future or do they seem him more, at least for now, as a scoring threat off the bench?
Given how the team is loaded with guards at this point, don't be surprised if Smith's minutes are minuscule to start.
The story of Kenneth Faried is an interesting one. He is just 6'8" and 225 pounds, yet he is the all-time leading rebounder in NCAA history. In four years at Morehead State, he averaged 14.6 points and 12.1 rebounds before being taken by the Denver Nuggets with the 22nd pick.
While I personally want to see Faried do well in the NBA, I know for sure that he won't be impressive in his rookie year. He was electrifying in college, but the pros are a completely different level and he will certainly be in a different role in Denver.
His athleticism is there, but his size will make him a small forward at this stage of his career. Thus, chances are that his rebounding and scoring won't equal what he did in college. He could be successful eventually, but there will be at least a year's adjustment period to a new position.
At BYU, Jimmer Fredette was easily the best shooter in the nation. As a senior, he led the country in scoring with an astounding 28.5 points per game. He was so good that the Milwaukee Bucks took him with the No. 10 pick and traded him to the Sacramento Kings.
While Fredette has the leadership skills necessary to succeed at his position, the rest of his game will take some time to develop. At BYU, he very much relied on the three-pointer and his offense and not so much on finding a teammate to take the open shot. In four years, Fredette averaged just 3.7 assists.
In the NBA, especially on a team like the Kings, Fredette will need to put his shooting skills aside and focus on becoming an effective point guard that passes the ball as well as he shoots it. Fortunately for him, he has a good coach in Paul Westphal to teach him those skills.
Yet, as I said before, it will take Fredette some time to live up to the hype surrounding him.
Last season, Kemba Walker led the UConn Huskies on an absolutely miraculous run that ended with a national championship. Sure enough, the junior chose to enter the draft while his stock was high and was taken by the Charlotte Bobcats with the ninth pick.
While Walker certainly has the makings of a talented point guard, there are aspects of his game that need some work. His passing could be better and while he definitely has talent, he's a bit small at 6'1" and a skinny 172 pounds.
On top of that, the Bobcats already have a starting point guard in D.J. Augustin, so accumulating minutes could be a tough task. Thus, while I'm sure that Walker will impress us eventually, next season won't be when he does just that.
The New York Knicks made an interesting choice when they took Iman Shumpert with the 17th pick. Instead of going for a much-needed big man, team management chose instead to draft a defensive guard in Shumpert.
While Shumpert's defensive stats his last year at Georgia Tech were indeed impressive (5.9 rebounds and 2.7 steals), he still has all the makings of a first round pick who won't do much as a rookie. Keep in mind, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni stresses quick offense and three-point shooting and not so much defense.
That being said, it is unclear as to what the Knicks want to do with Shumpert. Do they want to improve his offensive game and have him become more of a standard shooting guard or do they see him more as a defensive option off the bench to give Landry Fields a rest?
Either way, no matter how that situation pans out, Shumpert surely won't wow the fans in his first NBA season.
As the first overall pick, there is more pressure on Kyrie Irving than any other man taken in the first round. He was taken at this position despite having just 11 college games under his belt, and sure enough there will be some questioning as to whether or not that was the right decision.
While I do believe that Irving has the talent to become a star in the NBA, the point guard situation in Cleveland presents some roadblocks for Irving. The team already has veteran All-Star Baron Davis as well as Ramon Sessions at point guard, leaving Irving's role this coming season up in the air. It's hard to bench Davis considering he makes $13.9 million next year, but does team management want to risk hampering Irving's development?
There really isn't any way to tell how this will play out until the season begins and head coach Byron Scott sets the depth chart, but let's be honest. Irving will probably get off to a slow start in the NBA as the fact that he played in just 11 college games could potentially come back to bite him.
Joining Irving on the Cavaliers is forward Tristan Thompson, who the team drafted out of Texas with the fourth pick. This was one of the more interesting picks of the night, as many (myself included) didn't see Thompson being drafted until the middle of the first round. Instead, he is now in Cleveland with a bunch of pressure on his shoulders.
Thompson's long arms make him an attractive prospect, but chances are he'll need some time to adjust to the NBA. He played decent defense in college, but his 6'8", 225 pound frame make him relatively small for power forward. Whether or not the Cavs choose to play him there or move him to small forward remains up in the air.
Either way, Thompson's game needs some work and thus he won't burst out of the starting gate in his rookie season.
Though I'm usually skeptical of international prospects, Czech forward Jan Vesely is one who I think will ultimately become an NBA star. The man has good size at 6'11" and 239 pounds and his versatility has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. He has a decent jump shot and on draft night, ESPN experts anticipated that he would win a Slam Dunk contest at some point in his career.
Sure enough, the Washington Wizards selected Vesely with the sixth pick.
Yet, the European basketball style is far different than what we're used to in the NBA. Here, coaches tend to let their players go on the court and do their thing with a base play structure. In Europe, coaches tend to be married to certain plays and rarely stray outside of them.
That being said, while Vesely will surely be an All-Star one day, next year will not be the one where he wows us. He'll get some minutes off the bench, but I just don't see him taking Andray Blatche's spot at power forward nor do I see him starting at the No. 3 spot.
He'll give us a taste next year of what to expect from him, but it probably won't be on the level that will turn him into an All-Star.
I've said it once before, and I'll say it again. Alec Burks will be the biggest first round bust of the season. He has great size for a guard at 6'6" and does a good job at creating his own shot, but his outside shooting just isn't what it should be for the NBA level. Still the Utah Jazz took him with the 12th pick.
On top of that, Burks has admitted to playing with a chip on his shoulder after not being a highly sought-after recruit in high school. I've found that players with that attitude don't tend to pan out in the NBA and to add insult to injury, he won't have legendary coach Jerry Sloan to help him mature in Utah.
That all being said, Burks won't succeed as a rookie simply because he will try to do too much, be it in the starting lineup or coming off the bench. Hopefully, he can adjust his game and make the necessary improvements because despite his playing with a chip on his shoulder, he is just too talented to fizzle in the NBA because of that.