7 NBA Rookies Who Will Face Immediate Pressure to Succeed Next Season

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJuly 20, 2015

7 NBA Rookies Who Will Face Immediate Pressure to Succeed Next Season

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    NBA rookies typically aren't expected to make significant impacts, but every year a chosen few enter the league with pressure to produce. 

    Blame the hype. Predraft buzz raised the bar for Kristaps Porzingis, a 19-year-old Latvian project New York Knick fans will now demand greatness from. D'Angelo Russell faces the inherent pressure of playing in Los Angeles and being the second pick in the draft.

    Each prospect's projected role on his team as well as the spot on the board where he was picked factor into their expectations and presence here on this list.  

    While the majority of this year's rookies can afford quiet seasons, the following seven players have much less margin for error.

Frank Kaminsky, Charlotte Hornets, PF/C

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    Projected Role: Sixth man

    Pressure Meter: Moderate

    According to ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg, the Charlotte Hornets turned down an offer of six draft picks from the Boston Celtics for the No. 9 selection. The Hornets thought too highly of Frank Kaminsky, who could make a difference immediately. 

    Kaminsky will fight the perception that, at 22 years old and without much strength or athleticism, he doesn't offer great upside. The Hornets also passed on Justise Winslow and Myles Turner—two prospects who appear to possess higher long-term ceilings. 

    Kaminsky could steal minutes from Cody Zeller, especially if Kaminsky can knock down threes and stretch the floor.

    Coming off National Player of the Year honors and a second straight trip to the Final Four, Kaminsky won't want to become the next NCAA stud who peaked in college. He'll have pressure as a top-10 pick, a former Wisconsin standout and a player the middling Hornets need production from right away. 

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks, PF

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    Projected Role: Starting power forward

    Pressure Meter: High

    Though expectations should be tempered regarding Kristaps Porzingis, chances are they won't be in New York. The Knicks haven't had a top-five pick in 29 years, and if Porzingis starts his career flat, fans could be quick to turn on both him and team management. 

    To grab Porzingis, president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills passed on more proven options such as Willie Cauley-Stein, Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow. 

    And after failing to land a big name in free agency—not to mention the Knicks don't have a first-round pick in 2016—the franchise desperately needs Porzingis to emerge as a star building block. 

    Without any stretch bigs or standout options at power forward, Porzingis is going to play as a rookie. To avoid ridicule, he'll need to capitalize on his minutes.

Jerian Grant, New York Knicks, PG

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    Projected Role: Starting point guard (by season's end)

    Pressure Meter: Moderate

    Jerian Grant cost the Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr., a proven NBA shot-maker. And given the declining impact of Jose Calderon and no real backcourt depth in New York, Grant could be looking at a significant rookie role. 

    The Knicks desperately need another playmaker in the lineup, which is likely what triggered the impetus to make a trade for Grant on draft night. 

    With the addition of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams and Kyle O'Quinn, New York should be looking to get back into the playoffs next season. And as crazy as it sounds, Grant could be one of the keys to this team's success.

    Coming off a breakout senior year at Notre Dame, the soon-to-be 23-year-old will enter the Knicks lineup with immediate expectations.

D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers, PG/SG

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    Projected Role: Starting Guard

    Pressure Meter: Extreme 

    The Los Angeles Lakers surprised a lot of people by taking D'Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor, the projected No. 1 pick for most of the season.

    Russell has the pressure of justifying his presence at No. 2 on the 2015 draft board. But he's also in a spotlight on a team that's looking to bounce back into the playoffs. 

    Having added Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass, and with Julius Randle and Kobe Bryant returning from injuries, fans will be expecting wins. But for the Lakers to be taken seriously in the West, they're going to need Russell to produce. 

    It's also worth noting L.A. has another impressive guard prospect in Jordan Clarkson. It sure wouldn't be a great look for Russell if he gets outplayed by a 2014 second-round pick—which already happened in summer league. 

    "I thought the first two or three games [Russell] was pressing, trying to prove to everybody why he should have been the No. 2 pick instead of just going out and playing," said coach Byron Scott, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers, C

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    Projected Role: Starting center

    Pressure Meter: Moderate

    Myles Turner doesn't necessarily deserve the pressure at 19 years old, but the Indiana Pacers traded Roy Hibbert and lost David West, and that puts Turner right in the spotlight. 

    Indiana will need him to quickly emerge as an impact rim protector and mask the defensive holes the team created this summer. 

    The addition of Monta Ellis and return of Paul George should only pump the pressure even higher. The Pacers will be expected to contend for the playoffs in the East with Turner as the full-time anchor. 

    He also raised the bar for himself during summer league, where he was terrific at both ends of the floor. 

    But in this case, it's Turner's role on the team that drives the pressure for him to produce. He just might be the Pacers' X-factor in his first year in the NBA. 

Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets, PG

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    Projected Role: Starting point guard

    Pressure Meter: High

    Emmanuel Mudiay has the keys to Denver's future after the Nuggets decided to move Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets. 

    "He'll get to shoot, catalyze a fast-paced offense and really contend for Rookie of the Year," wrote Michael Pina of Sports on Earth. "No other lottery pick (including D'Angelo Russell) is in that position. ... It places him beneath an especially harsh microscope."

    Mudiay's athleticism, upside and freedom to run a team will put him in the spotlight, whether he's ready or not. But as Denver's primary ball-handler, he could also be vulnerable to inefficiency due to questionable shot selection and decision-making. 

    With Kenneth Faried's value having taken a hit, this franchise really needs Mudiay to become a big-time NBA player. As Denver's new lead guard, the critics will be ready to pounce from opening night—especially if he can't fix his jumper or reduce his turnover rate.

Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics, PG/SG

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    Projected Role: Reserve guard 

    Pressure Meter: High 

    At No. 16 overall, Terry Rozier looked like the first big reach of the 2015 NBA draft. But the pressure on Rozier ultimately stems from Boston's deep backcourt. With Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas ahead of him on the point guard depth chart, he could have trouble earning an opportunity to play and showcase his game. 

    If Rozier struggles early, he may find himself riding the bench for most of the year. And unfortunately for Rozier, unless general manager Danny Ainge makes a trade, it doesn't appear like Smart or Thomas will be going anywhere any time soon. 

    A poor start to his career would not only reduce his chances of playing, but it would also limit his ability to build his value for contract No. 2.