NBA Preview: Gauging Anticipation for Debut of Each 2011 First-Round Pick
Every year, one of my favorite things about the start of the new NBA season is a whole new crop of rookies coming in to take a look at, pick apart, and really just marvel at. This year there are some obvious players, like Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter that excite me, but there are so many players beyond that.
The top picks are always fun to ooh and aah at, mostly because I enjoy seeing how each one reacts to the pressure of being the guy a team is bringing in to either save their team or become a big part of a potential future contender.
Which guys crumble and which guys shine may not always tell how they will fare through their entire career, but it's not a bad thing to use to gauge each guy.
Right now, it seems as if this rookie class is going to pale in comparison to last season's and next seasons, but I think five years from now we'll look at this crop of guys as "sneaky good." Very few superstars, or even all-stars for that matter, will come from this class, but there are quite a few guys out there that could be around for a decade.
So, to gauge how excited I am (and therefore you should be) for each of these rookies, I've placed them into various levels of intrigue, ranging all the way from "meh" to "marking days off my calendar until the season starts."
Call Me When They Get to the United States
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Jonas Valanciunas: I would be excited for this big man to come in and show off his talents in Toronto, after all, he's been called the next Zydrunas Ilgauskas, but he'll be staying in Europe for at least another season. However, word is that there is a small chance that Valanciunas could be bought out by Toronto after all.
Donatas Motiejunas: Much like his Lithuanian cohort, Donatas will be spending at least the 2012 NBA season in Europe, playing the remainder of his season in Poland.
Nikola Mirotic: Mirotic never seemed like a great player to me in the first place, so it's no skin off my nose that he'll be in Europe for at least the remainder of this season.
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Basically, these are the guys that will either get very little playing time or make very little impact on the season at hand, or just guys that don't seem enthralling.
Nikola Vucevic: While Vucevic seems like he could be a good big man for the 76ers, he just doesn't have that intriguing factor. A nonathletic big man who is going to need a few years to learn to defend and just has a jumper to offer this season just doesn't do it for me.
Reggie Jackson: The only thing that interests me about Jackson is the fact that he's 6'3" and has a 7'0" wingspan. It just seems like he'll be buried on Oklahoma City's depth chart for the season.
Jimmy Butler: All the adjectives describing Jimmy Butler that were written since the draft describe him as "well-rounded", "solid", and "developed." While this all sounds good for a future basketball player, it just seems like he's one of those guys who will be good in four years, but not much to speak of this season.
Cory Joseph: It's never good to be the "other" Canadian guy on a college team, it's even worse to be the "other" Canadian guy in the NBA draft.
Jordan Hamilton: He's got a decent defensive game and can shoot, but whenever I hear his name I always think of him as the guy that played with those two Canadian for Texas.
College Success Intrigues Me, but I Don't Expect Much
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These are the guys that played great in college, but just don't seem built right to be great in the NBA. However, their college game still makes me want to see them.
JaJuan Johnson: He led the Big Ten in rebounds and blocks in his senior season, but his skinny frame (221 pounds, 6'10") makes it seem unlikely that he can play at this level until he adds weight. Still, as a big man on the Celtics he should get some playing time, which will be interesting.
Nolan Smith: You know, this is just the guy that took over for the number one pick after said number one pick got injured and in turn was selected to the All-ACC First Team. He probably won't get many minutes for Portland, but I still want to see him play.
Tobias Harris: Besides the fact that I want to make Arrested Development jokes (Tobias, you blowhard!), I want to see the sensational freshman from Tennessee play a little for the Bucks.
Let's See Who Got the Better Twin
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One guess at the two guys in this category.
I'm always intrigued when brothers come into the league. It seems like the two would want to compete with each other to rub it in if they got more playing time than the other. Sure, 2010 saw Blake and Taylor Griffin get drafted, but we already knew the winner of that brotherly feud. The last time there was a real brother battle was when Brook showed Robin Lopez how to rock the white-man 'fro.
I'm forced to pick Marcus Morris as the one that will prove to be the better pick over Markieff solely on Phoenix's history of picking the worse brother (they took both Taylor and Robin).
Guys That Could Legitimately Help Their Team
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Here we have the guys that probably aren't going to be competing for the Rookie of the Year Award, but will probably have a positive impact on their team.
Norris Cole: Miami took a shot grabbing Norris Cole in a trade on draft day, and they should see him play a good amount this season. If he's hot, Cole can shoot his way into more minutes, but he'll have to be able to play tough through lulls.
Marshon Brooks: The Nets grabbed Marshon Brooks away from Boston in a draft-day trade, and it seems like he should see playing time early and often. Brooks is a good enough athlete and has such a good offensive game that he should help the Nets this season.
Tristan Thompson: While he may have been drafted a bit early, the big Canadian will probably end up starting for the Cavaliers at power forward at some point this season.
Klay Thompson: The skinniest 6'7" guy you will ever see should see serious playing time off the bench for the Warriors this season. He's got great length and a such a good jumper that he'll shoot his way up the rankings on the Warriors bench.
Alec Burks: While it seems on the surface that Alec Burks is another one of those "good all-around, but not great at anything" guys, I think he's better than that. I would call him very good all around and, with a little work, a big time role player for the Jazz this season.
The Scary Defenders
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These are my favorite guys to see early on. Once you see them play in one big game you'll pretty much be able to judge how long they will be in the league. If they rise to the situation to guard a guy like LeBron or Kobe, they could be the future Shane Battier. If not, their offensive game may lack too much for their team to keep them long enough for them to develop.
Iman Shumpert: For some reason, it seems like when a defensive player has an interesting name he ends up staying in the league for a good, long time. Just look at Sidney Moncrief. I want to see Shumpert early and often to see what the Knicks got.
Chris Singleton: After seeing Florida State play Ohio State last season, I was sold on Chris Singleton. The 6'8" forward guarded the taller and wider Jared Sullinger, holding him to just 11 points on three of nine shooting. Florida State lost the game, but they held Ohio State to their lowest point total all season long (just 58), largely due to Singleton's leadership and defense.
High Ceiling, Low Floor Players
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I love these guys. They are the ones that can make or break a season for some teams. Sometimes you will get that mid-round rookie to step up out of nowhere and end up sending a team into a frenzy.
Jan Vesely: The 6'11" small forward has me as one of his many doubters, but I can't wait to see him flying around the court as his girlfriend gets on camera three times a night.
Kahwi Leonard: Talks before the draft stated that after Derrick Williams, Kawhi Leonard may just be the most NBA ready prospect in the draft. The only problem is that his ceiling wasn't as high as the other guys. I have all the faith in the world in Leonard because the Spurs did, and the Spurs haven't been wrong very often in the past decade.
Brandon Knight: Another guy that fell a bit down the draft board, the biggest problem with Knight is that he's coming into a team that's in shambles. He may put up good stats, but he's playing for a team destined for a top-five pick in next year's draft.
Kemba Walker: For the record, I love Walker, but as everyone else and their mothers have said, he's rather short. I think he can overcome it, but that problem is there.
The Gimmicks That Might Not Be Gimmicks
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Here we have two guys that did one or two things well in college and are expected to continue to do those things well in the NBA.
Kenneth Faried: I've always thought that the one thing that translates well to the NBA is rebounding, and that's one thing that Kenneth Faried is good at. Add that to his stout defense and the Nuggets have themselves a solid player.
Jimmer Fredette: I apologize for not giving Jimmer his own slide. There are so man articles and random rants and ramblings dedicated to Jimmer around the internet that it seems like he was the first pick overall. For the record, I will be watching the Kings opener so I can see Jimmer play. I want to know what he can do.
Potential Franchise Guys
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These are the game-changers, the guys that teams have mortgaged their futures on to see what they can do. There's no reason any red-blooded basketball fan in America wouldn't want to see at least a game from these guys this season.
Kyrie Irving: No explanation needed here, he's the number one pick and starting up the turnaround for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I'm ready to see what he can do.
Derrick Williams: He's got to have a chip on his shoulder for not being the number one pick. Plus, people say that he's the most NBA ready prospect in this draft. Let's see him turn the Timberwolves around.
Enes Kanter: The Jazz may have a very important player in Enes Kanter, as there aren't that many great centers in the league. He could end up turning the Jazz into a contender within the next few years or he could just be another Darko Milicic. Either way, I'll be watching from day one.
The Forbidden Fruit
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For some reason, from the minute I saw this highlight, I was hooked on some Bismack Biyombo.
I was so convinced about this guy who was a completely raw talent, yet was able to record a triple-double on the young American team, that I was begging for the Cavaliers to reach for him with their number four pick. I was chanting his name at the television.
Let me make this as clear as I can by saying this. When the Bobcats ended up drafting Bismack, I was jealous.
I was jealous of the Charlotte Bobcats. Let that sink in for a second.
I don't care if he ends up being a good player or not, it's all about watching the ride. The frustrations leading to glee when a player puts his game together make basketball as fun as it is for me.
It's only a matter of time before we hear Charles Barkley butcher his name and say something along the lines of, "There ain't no way in hell that this Bay-umm-boh fella scores 20 points in a game." And then we'll get to hear Marv Albert stretch out his name from here to the DRC, "And what a block from Bizz-mack Beee-yummm-bohhh."
Every time the Bobcats are on television, I will watch them play simply to see what this man is capable of. He's a huge roll of the dice, but hearing those dice clank around on the table is half the fun.
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