Very Early Predictions for the 2014-15 NBA All-Rookie Teams

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterSeptember 10, 2014

Very Early Predictions for the 2014-15 NBA All-Rookie Teams

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    There's a lot of competition for a spot on one of the two NBA All-Rookie Teams this year. 

    Coaches ultimately vote for the winners. And positions are irrelevant. We could technically see five guards make up one of the teams. 

    Of course, statistics play a big role in determining which rookies will be honored. And to put up the numbers one needs to get recognized, he'll need minutes right away, something even top-five picks don't always get. 

    Based on projected roles and impact, we predicted the five rookies we expect to make the All-Rookie First Team and the next five who'll make the second. 

First Team: Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Jabari Parker was pegged as an NBA All-Rookie First Team forward since he put up 27 points on Andrew Wiggins and Kansas back in November. 

    He's got the size and athleticism to match the refined offensive skills, from step-backs in the mid-range to fadeaways in the post. 

    And the touches will be there for him in Milwaukee, where Brandon Knight and the Bucks will be looking for go-to options in the half court.

    You can also bet on Parker approaching around eight boards a game. He's active and physical on the glass, having led the ACC in rebounding and averaged 8.2 a game during summer league. 

    Between his pro-ready body, brain and skills, along with a great opportunity for minutes, consider Parker a lock for that All-Rookie First Team in 2015. 

First Team: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    Whether the trade to Minnesota will benefit his development is up for debate. But I don't think there's a question it improved Andrew Wiggins' Rookie of the Year odds next season. 

    Wiggins will be looking at the chance to start in Minnesota, where he'll likely have a green light and minimal pressure—a dangerous combination for a player whose game is fueled by confidence. 

    Though his superhero athletic ability should translate to routine easy buckets, whether they're on the break, off a second jump or a backdoor lob, Wiggins' one-on-one game has noticeably improved since his first days at Kansas. 

    From pull-ups and step-backs to spin moves into floaters, Wiggins should also be able to generate a few buckets on his own next season. 

    His efficiency is likely to suffer, given his inconsistent jumper and expected heavy rookie workload, but in terms of production, only Jabari Parker should be expected to put more points on the board as a rookie.

First Team: Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

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    The No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft, Nerlens Noel will join the 2014 rookie class after he was forced to sit out last season while recovering from a torn ACL. 

    And chances are he'll end up taking a first-team spot away from someone selected this past June. 

    Noel looked completely rejuvenated during Orlando and Las Vegas Summer League, where he was explosive, mobile and active from baseline to baseline. His world-class athleticism translated to finishes high above the rim, while his length and instincts resulted in blocks, steals and putbacks. 

    Even without any polish, Noel should still be capable of making a two-way impact in the paint. But during summer league, the only time we've had the chance to evaluate him since his injury at Kentucky, he showed off jump hooks and runners we haven't seen him attempt in the past. 

    While it's his rim protection and finishing ability that's likely to stand out the most, Noel's performance this summer suggests there might be a little more up his sleeve. 

    As long as his surgically repaired knee holds up, I'd Sharpie him in as a first-team lock in 2014-15. 

    For what it's worth, he told ESPN's Michael Wallace how good it felt following his first action in a year-and-a-half:

    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.

First Team: Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    After leading the country in scoring at Creighton, Doug McDermott entered the 2014 draft with an NBA-ready reputation. The fact that he averaged 26.7 points a game last year without much quickness, hops or strength tells you all you need to know about how polished his offensive skills are.

    And he sure looked comfortable in Las Vegas Summer League, where he averaged 18 points through four games. 

    In Chicago, with a dynamite playmaker in Derrick Rose and terrific passers like Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, McDermott finds himself in perfect position to play to his strengths, which include moving without the ball and quickly knocking down shots once it finds him. 

    Considering the Bulls finished No. 28 in the NBA in offensive efficiency, No. 24 in three-point percentage and last in points per game, there should be a role waiting for McDermott, whose elite shooting stroke and high basketball IQ will likely translate right away. 

    McDermott might actually be the only rookie with a regular role on a team expected to play meaningful games into June. That should hold some value during voting as well. 

First Team: Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Of all the rookies next season, only Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker could be looking at bigger workloads than Elfrid Payton, who appears poised to hold down starting point guard duties right off the bat in Orlando. 

    For what it's worth, he held his own in Orlando Summer League, which he led in assists while shooting 59.3 percent. He showed a strong command of the offense and a comfort level as a passer. As a scorer, he let the game come to him by attacking opportunistically whenever a lane opened up or a fast-break chance was there.

    The physical transition shouldn't knock Payton too far back, either, given his smooth athletic ability and 6'4" size at the position. 

    He's also a disruptive defender on the ball, a quality that could keep him on the floor—even when he's struggling to find his offense. And that's going to occasionally happen to Payton, whose lack of shooting range and jumper will limit his scoring production. 

    But he's excellent in the open floor and a dangerous weapon in the lane, where he's capable of improvising and finishing around traffic at the rim. And Payton rebounds—he pulled in six a game during college and 5.2 in 25.8 minutes a game this summer. It's only going to improve his sales pitch to voters influenced by statistics. 

    Payton has been on the rise over the past two seasons, and there's no reason to sell now. The Magic may stink next year, but don't be surprised if Payton starts quietly filling up box scores. 

Second Team: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Even with Rajon Rondo starting in Boston, we're still betting on Marcus Smart to emerge as an impact player off the bench. 

    Coach Brad Stevens is likely to find time for Smart based on his defense alone, which was responsible for 188 steals (finished top three in the country back-to-back seasons) during his two-year college career. 

    Offensively, Smart's versatility, from his scoring arsenal and attack game to his passing instincts, should allow him to adapt to and contribute in whatever role he's given, whether it's behind Rondo as a backup or alongside him at the 2. 

    However, you'd have to think a trade involving Rondo will eventually go down. It's hard to imagine him wanting to re-sign long term next summer, given the team's current rebuilding stage, making him a likely candidate to get dealt sometime prior to the deadline. And if he does get traded, it opens the door for Smart to take over the Boston offense at the point, where he'd likely put up bigger numbers during the second half of next season. 

    He just spent time practicing with Team USA in Las Vegas, having generated plenty of buzz and positive reviews

    Fox Sports' Sam Amico praised Smart during Day 2 of training camp:

    One player making an impression: Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart, and he's not even really trying out for Team USA. Instead, the No. 6 overall pick in the June draft is a member of the Select Team -- which has been put together for the purpose of pushing national team candidates in practice. But Smart has more than held his own while playing with and against the likes of Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers) and Derrick Rose (Bulls).

    Between his two years as Oklahoma State's primary decision-maker and his 227-pound grown-man frame, Smart should be mentally and physically prepared for what's to come in his first NBA season.  

Second Team: Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

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    DAVID BECKER/Associated Press

    Rodney Hood should be looking at minutes right off the bat, given his shot-making versatility and Utah's desperate need for offense.

    With that sweet lefty stroke, he nailed two threes a game at Duke on 42 percent. And at 6'8", he shouldn't have much trouble getting it off.

    While it's Hood's ability to stretch the floor that should lead to early minutes, he's proved to be more than just a straight-up-and-down shooter. No small forward drafted was used more as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, while his 1.11 points per pull-up jumper ranked second at his position, per Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress. 

    Hood should give the Jazz a knock-down shooter on the perimeter, but in between, he's capable of generating offense in the mid-range, whether he's stopping-and-popping or taking off for a runner on the move.

    Hood traded hot games for cold ones during his first Las Vegas Summer League, but when he got hot, there wasn't much the defense could do. Given how shallow this roster is, I wouldn't be surprised if the Jazz played him at the 2, 3 and 4 positions—just to get him in the game. 

Second Team: Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Julius Randle's chances of making All-Rookie First Team took a hit when the Los Angeles Lakers signed Carlos Boozer, but according to new coach Byron Scott, that shouldn't limit his opportunity. 

    “I think right now the expectations right now are that he’ll be a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers,” Scott said via TWC SportsNet.

    Randle, who racked up 24 double-doubles at Kentucky last season, should be able to inject the Lakers frontcourt with some extra life and activity. 

    His post moves still need work, as does his jumper, which is pretty much nonexistent, but Randle has the offensive instincts and athleticism to generate offense in the paint, whether he's facing up, backing his man down or scoring off an offensive rebound. 

    Though he's bound to experience some trouble against quicker and longer athletes—especially without a perimeter game—he'll still put up enough points and boards to finish as a top-10 rookie. 

Second Team: Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    With only Ben McLemore in his way, and Darren Collison and Ray McCallum both suspect passers, it shouldn't be long before Nik Stauskas is playing regular minutes in Sacramento's backcourt. 

    I wouldn't even rule out Stauskas as an eventual starter, given the reliability that's tied to his elite shooting stroke and super basketball IQ. 

    He's going to be able to come in and knock down shots right away, having connected on 44 percent of his threes in each of his two years at Michigan. At 6'6", his release is lightning quick, while his range is infinite. 

    But over the past year, Stauskas has improved his ball-handling and playmaking skills dramatically, to the point where he was his team's top pick-and-roll facilitator and leader in assists last season. 

    He's more than just a one-dimensional shooter. Between his ability to spread the floor, score in the mid-range and get his teammates involved, look for Stauskas, whose strengths hold value in an unbalanced Kings lineup, to crack the rotation and make an impact next season.

Second Team: Cleanthony Early, New York Knicks

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Despite slipping to the second round, Cleanthony Early could be looking at serious minutes in New York, where the Knicks don't really have reliable depth on the wing.

    And at 23 years old, Early should be physically ready to make the leap.

    He looked good in Las Vegas Summer League, having averaged 11.5 points on 45.7 percent shooting and 5-of-10 shooting from deep.

    Early isn't going to do much playmaking, as he rarely puts the ball on the deck. But like Tim Hardaway Jr. did for the Knicks as a rookie, he should be able to provide some outside shot-making and a target in the open floor. 

    Having played the 4 at Wichita State, Early's versatility could also allow him to see some minutes up front, especially when you consider the fragility of Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani. 

    There's always one surprise rookie to crack the first or second team. This year, we're predicting Early, who appears to be set up for success in his home state of New York.

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