Las Vegas Summer League 2016: Ranking the Top 50 Players

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 7, 2016

Las Vegas Summer League 2016: Ranking the Top 50 Players

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    Did you have enough time to breathe? 

    It still feels as if the 2016 NBA Finals and the Cleveland Cavaliers' historic comeback are barely in the rearview mirror. But the NBA calendar never slows down, and the newest rookies are already taking the court alongside a collection of young talents and a smattering of veterans for Las Vegas Summer League. 

    Many of the players suiting up in Sin City are just hoping to earn training camp invites. They desperately want one more shot at reaching the sport's pinnacle, even if they're settling for bench-bound roles on lottery squads. Those aren't the ones we're interested in. 

    Here, we're figuring out who will thrive during the 2016-17 campaign by looking at the participants' current level, expected performance in Vegas and one-year upside. Long-term potential is irrelevant, or else the top of these rankings would be littered with unproven commodities—some of whom will eventually turn into busts. 

    As we said before last year's list, keep your eyes on everyone, because you never know who is going to break out and earn that last roster spot. But even so, these are the 50 who should make the most noise. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Jimmer Fredette, Denver Nuggets

    Is this finally the year? Nothing more needs to be said. 

    Patrick McCaw, Golden State Warriors

    This three-and-D contributor from UNLV was the 2016 NBA draft's No. 38 pick. McCaw could receive enough opportunities to emerge as a steal on most squads, but the 73-win Warriors are loaded after announcing they have added Kevin Durant, meaning McCaw will have to earn a roster spot at the expense of the many veterans dying to play in the Bay Area. 

    Lamar Patterson, Atlanta Hawks

    The young shooting guard latched onto the Hawks rotation during the early portion of the 2015-16 campaign, but now he'll need to pair a solid shooting stroke with his defensive acumen if he hopes to stick. 

    Gary Payton II, Houston Rockets

    Though this point guard went undrafted out of Oregon State, the Rockets have already handed him a three-year contract, according to Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com. It's not just because of his name; this newest Gary Payton thrived as a two-way star for the Beavers and has the physical tools necessary to make the NBA jump.

    Tyler Ulis, Phoenix Suns

    A diminutive scoring threat, Ulis thrived during his second season at Kentucky but now needs to score against much tougher competition. The Suns took a chance on him with the No. 34 pick and paid him like a first-rounder, according to AZCentral's Paul Coro, but the list of 5'9" success stories in the Association is a short one. 

    Thomas Walkup, Golden State Warriors

    Thanks to his incredible senior season and surprising March Madness success with Stephen F. Austin, Thomas Walkup emerged as one of the golden boys for the advanced-stats crowd. NBA Math's total points added had him as the No. 6 player in the NCAA, trailing only Denzel Valentine, Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield, Gary Payton II and Brice Johnson. Like McCaw, though, expecting a clear NBA path on a crowded Warriors roster is awfully tough.

50. DeAndre' Bembry, Atlanta Hawks

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    Last Team: Saint Joseph's

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.8 blocks

    DeAndre' Bembry is the type of rookie who should put up big stat lines during summer league. He's a tremendous athlete with a nose for scoring in transition, and he can take over half-court sets as either a dynamic slasher or secondary ball-handler.

    Better still, his perimeter-shooting woes won't be as noticeable on a stage that typically sees everyone post low percentages. Bembry should be working on his three-point stroke, but missing far more than he makes won't be viewed quite so detrimentally if he's contributing in other aspects. 

    Expect lots of counting stats throughout the No. 21 pick's time in Sin City. And if he is knocking down triples, expect him to rise up these rankings rather quickly. 

49. Walter Tavares, Atlanta Hawks

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    Last Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Age: 24

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: C

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 2.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Walter Tavares' size (7'3", 260 lbs) hasn't gone anywhere, and he now has a year of experience under his belt. Though he played just 11 games and 73 minutes for the Atlanta Hawks during 2015-16, he improved throughout his tenure in the NBA Developmental League, where he suited up for the Austin Spurs, Bakersfield Jam and Canton Charge. 

    Over the course of 29 combined outings, the big man averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals and 3.3 blocks while shooting 65.2 percent from the field. He produced a 24.6 player efficiency rating, and his 5.8 defensive box plus/minus is firmly rooted in elite territory. 

    Now, we get to see if Tavares is ready to produce against better competition. He's becoming a dominant interior defender and has consistently displayed a nose for rebounding, but that has to translate to games against NBA-caliber opponents if he's going to serve as a legitimate rotation big for Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer. 

48. Larry Nance Jr., Los Angeles Lakers

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    Last Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Age: 23

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Even if Larry Nance Jr. often flew below the radar during his rookie season with the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers, every weakness was coupled with a reason to feel better about the future. 

    Sure, Nance can't space out the court, making only one of his 10 attempts. But he did shoot 40.3 percent from between 16 and 23 feet, and those shots accounted for just over 25 percent of his field goals. He's a limited player on the offensive end, failing to rack up assists and looking uncomfortable with the ball in his hands. But he knew his limitations and depressed his turnover totals while picking the right spots to attempt shots. 

    All the while, Nance served as a positive defensive presence on a Lakers squad that often struggled to stop a nosebleed. In fact, he joined Tarik Black, Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass as one of just four Los Angeles players to post above-average DBPMs

    The 2016-17 season should feature him in a slightly expanded role, but he's not done proving himself quite yet. 

47. Damian Jones, Golden State Warriors

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    Last Team: Vanderbilt

    Age: 21

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: C

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.2 steals, 1.6 blocks

    Few first-round picks will have more to prove than Damian Jones, who was selected by the Golden State Warriors at No. 30.

    The Vanderbilt product is immensely talented and displays the physical tools necessary to thrive on both ends of the floor. But he was often disengaged during his time with the Commodores and rarely showed the takeover genes that could help him become a consistent star. 

    Golden State isn't counting on him for stardom just yet; it has enough of that after adding Kevin Durant to a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But it surely wouldn't mind having some extra depth at center, since Zaza Pachulia is now the only true 5 at head coach Steve Kerr's disposal. 

    If Jones can adopt the right mentality, he could make an immediate contribution to the overwhelming favorites for the 2017 title. 

46. Jerian Grant, Chicago Bulls

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    Last Team: New York Knicks

    Age: 23

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks

    No pressure, Jerian Grant. After an underwhelming rookie season with the New York Knicks, he'll be asked to start fresh in 2016-17.

    He's now serving as Rajon Rondo's backup for the Chicago Bulls, and a terrific sophomore campaign could push him into the driver's seat for a starting gig. Rondo signed a two-year deal, but he and the Bulls have a "mutual option" for the second, per CSN Chicago's Vincent Goodwill, that could be exercised by either team or player if Grant is ahead of schedule. 

    As Teddy Greenstein wrote for the Chicago Tribune, the end of Grant's rookie go-round gave reason to believe:

    Grant's advocates say he has first-round talent. His overall stats with the Knicks (5.6 points, 2.3 assists, 1.9 rebounds per game) do not reflect that, but his final six games do. Then-coach Kurt Rambis gave him quality minutes (30.8 per game) in April, and the 6-foot-4 Grant took advantage, averaging 14.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 49.3 percent.

    Numbers like that would go a long way in summer league. 

45. Juancho Hernangomez, Denver Nuggets

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    Last Team: Movistar Estudiantes

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Don't expect Juancho Hernangomez to emerge as one of those international prospects who need to spend extra time developing overseas. The 20-year-old is ready to compete, so long as he can carve out a large enough role on the overstuffed Denver Nuggets roster. 

    "Hernangomez is that player off the bench that fans will adore," NBA.com wrote in its draft profile of the Spanish forward. "He'll bring those hustle plays and find ways to get under the skin of the guys he guards. He will occasionally find rhythm in his offense, and the defense will have to respect him."

    ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton was similarly high on Hernangomez, ranking him eighth on his big board and claiming that he had the No. 4 statistical profile—in part because of his stretch-4 abilities and acumen on the defensive glass. 

    Adjusting from limited minutes with Movistar Estudiantes will be tough, but this is the first step toward establishing himself on the NBA scene. If Hernangomez's scrappy play is any indication, he won't let it slip through his fingers. 

44. Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks

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    Last Team: Baylor

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 15.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Taurean Prince was the No. 12 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, but we aren't quite so high on him here. The Atlanta Hawks reached significantly, opting to trade the Jazz for his draft rights because he was a strong stylistic fit for head coach Mike Budenholzer's schemes. 

    There were more than 11 better prospects in the draft, and there will be more than 11 superior rookies in Las Vegas. (On this big board, for example, we have 15.) 

    Nonetheless, Prince will produce against his first professional opponents. He should be a defensive menace right away, and his three-point stroke will carry over if guards are willing to look up while driving toward the hoop and find him spotting up from the corners. 

43. Jordan Mickey, Boston Celtics

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    Last Team: Boston Celtics

    Age: 21

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 1.3 points, 0.8 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 0.7 blocks

    He may have been a lowly second-round pick during the 2015 NBA draft, but Jordan Mickey looked the part of a first-rounder no matter where he lined up as a rookie. 

    Though he played in only 16 contests for the Boston Celtics, kept out of the lineup by the myriad Beantown frontcourt options, he still averaged 13.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 6.9 blocks per 36 minutes. His shot was a bit off, but his defense was on point no matter what player he was guarding. 

    Mickey spent the rest of his rookie season suiting up for the D-League's Maine Red Claws, where he averaged 18.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 4.7 blocks per 36 minutes. Except this time, he actually logged 33.3 minutes per contest, so those numbers shouldn't be considered misleading. 

    If his offense can catch up to his defense, his claws won't be red ever again. 

42. Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics

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    Last Team: Boston Celtics

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 1.8 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.2 steals

    Terry Rozier didn't play much during the regular season, but injuries forced Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens to deploy him throughout a first-round battle with the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs.

    Rozier shined there, averaging 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists while shooting 39.1 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from downtown. Those numbers aren't impressive in a vacuum, but they are when paired with energy and relentless defensive hustle while venturing into an entirely foreign situation—NBA playoff basketball. 

    Rozier realized just how valuable that opportunity could be, per MassLive.com's Tom Westerholm:

    I'm just grateful for the opportunity I've been given. I'm playing on a playoff team as a rookie. I know things haven't just been given to me. I know I didn't have a spot coming in. I wasn't in the rotation coming in. I'm playing behind some guys who have been playing for a while, some good guys, some great players. I just have to learn from them. I have an opportunity now, and I want to impact the game as much as I can.

    After learning on that stage, summer league shouldn't throw too much pressure at the young guard. 

41. Malachi Richardson, Sacramento Kings

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    Last Team: Syracuse

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SG/SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Don't expect Malachi Richardson to hold back during summer league. 

    His flaws revolve around the inconsistency of his game. He can make poor decisions when handling the ball, often struggles to finish with his left hand and can go cold from the perimeter when his low release point allows too many defenders to contest his shots. 

    But aggressiveness isn't an issue, and he has the requisite skill and athleticism to thrive in nearly every facet of the game. So long as the Sacramento Kings don't ask him to serve as a primary ball-handler, he should be able to make the most of his 6'6" frame during his rookie season, emerging as a steal after he fell to No. 22. 

    At worst, he can just rely on his defensive chops. 

40. JaKarr Sampson, Denver Nuggets

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    Last Team: Denver Nuggets

    Age: 23

    Years of NBA Experience: Two

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.5 blocks

    See if you can find any correlation between these two charts. 

    First, a look at the positions JaKarr Sampson has played throughout his brief NBA career:

    Season% of Minutes at SG % of Minutes at SF% of Minutes at PF% of Minutes at C
    2014-15 (PHI)2747251
    2015-16 (PHI)760321
    2015-16 (DEN)09190

    Second, his effectiveness on both ends of the floor:

    SeasonOffensive Box Plus/MinusDefensive Box Plus/MinusBox Plus/Minus
    2014-15 (PHI)Minus-4.0Minus-0.4Minus-4.4
    2015-16 (PHI)Minus-5.8Minus-1.6Minus-7.3
    2015-16 (DEN)Minus-2.80.2Minus-2.6

    Yes, Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone realized that Sampson was far better as a 3 and adjusted after signing him to a multiyear deal midway through his sophomore season. 

39. Richaun Holmes, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Last Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.8 blocks

    How do you make a positive impression as a second-round pick? Find your niche and work your tail off until there's no doubting your ability in that singular area. 

    Richaun Holmes grew as a finisher around the basket and didn't look so uncomfortable with the ball in his hands by the end of his first season with the Philadelphia 76ers. But his niche involved protecting the rim; even when he wasn't swatting shots, he was using his athleticism to deter players from lofting up attempts in the painted area. 

    According to NBA.com's SportVU data, Holmes faced 9.1 shots at the rim per 36 minutes and still held the opposition to 47.5 percent shooting. Those are elite numbers for a role player, and maintaining them will be important as he attempts to stick in a Philly rotation awash with players who can line up at either power forward or center. 

38. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Last Team: KK Mega Vizura

    Age: 21

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SG/SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks

    "I like to say I'm a complete player," Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot told Philly.com's Keith Pompey. "I play defense, offense and have leadership. I play the fast break and shoot the threes. I like to do everything on the court."

    That's been readily apparent during his international career. 

    After spending the first three years with Antibes in the top two tiers of France's LNB, the swingman made the jump to the Adriatic League's KK Mega Vizura. There, Luwawu-Cabarrot carved out a rather large role and posted stellar numbers while averaging 30.1 minutes. That should help ease the jump to the NBA—as will his diverse skill set. 

    Ben Simmons justifiably gets all the attention for the Sixers, but don't overlook this first-round pick. 

37. Sam Dekker, Houston Rockets

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    Last Team: Houston Rockets

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 0.3 rebounds, 0.3 steals

    If that per-game line looks paltry, it's because Sam Dekker spent so little time playing for the Houston Rockets. Plagued by back problems, he logged a grand total of six minutes during his rookie season, spending the rest either rehabbing or sitting on the bench. 

    But Dekker should be healthy and ready to justify the No. 18 pick Houston spent on him in the 2015 NBA draft. He still possesses a versatile skill set that should allow him to become a jack-of-all-trades, even if he doesn't yet have that singular calling card that can earn a large spot in the Rockets rotation. 

    "He's really going to have to put some time in this summer to get up to speed," Jason Terry told Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy. "But he's a heck of an athlete. He plays both ends of the floor. And his outside game is coming around since the injury. And he's a hard worker. So as he continues to develop, he'll be in this game for a long time."

36. Sean Kilpatrick, Brooklyn Nets

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    Last Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Age: 26

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 11.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Sean Kilpatrick finally got his chance. 

    After the Denver Nuggets waived him and the Brooklyn Nets latched on, he played his way through a series of 10-day contracts and parlayed success into a multiyear deal. Over the course of 23 games, he earned more trust, even averaging 15.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists during his final 13 appearances. 

    Kilpatrick still isn't a perfect offensive option. As the Nets improve, it'll be tougher to justify handing him such large responsibilities unless he shores up his perimeter shooting and fits in with the modern NBA's stylings. 

    But he still proved he can get to the basket with regularity, and that alone will afford plenty of opportunities with this rebuilding organization. 

35. Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs

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    Last Team: Washington

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.3 blocks

    The jumper isn't there. The strength isn't, either. 

    But Dejounte Murray is now a member of the San Antonio Spurs, which means we're about to see him in a system that mitigates all weaknesses by focusing on the positive. His ability to work on and off the ball will be ultra-valuable in the movement-heavy schemes, and his defensive acumen should translate immediately. 

    Murray likely won't put up huge numbers as a rookie—whether in summer league or during the regular season. But he'll make a substantial impact by leveraging energy into quality play on the defensive end and blending seamlessly into the vaunted San Antonio system. 

    Don't be surprised when the Spurs (eventually) unleash one of the steals of the draft. Again. 

34. Deyonta Davis, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Last Team: Michigan State

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 1.8 blocks

    Deyonta Davis might be extra motivated to dominate in Las Vegas after sitting in the green room as he slipped out of the lottery and into the second round, where he was greedily snatched up by the Memphis Grizzlies with the No. 31 pick. 

    Though he's shown the ability to finish ambidextrously around the hoop and should eventually have floor-spacing range on his jumper, Davis will immediately settle in as an impact defender. He has the physical tools and timing necessary to guard the interior, and his lateral quickness allows him to switch onto smaller players while holding his own on the perimeter. 

    Davis may not produce great stats during summer league—he's the kind of player you must watch to fully appreciate. But that won't stop him as he looks to make the teams that passed on him turn Spartan green with envy. 

33. Montrezl Harrell, Houston Rockets

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    Last Team: Houston Rockets

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 3.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Energy, energy, energy. 

    When Montrezl Harrell takes the court, he can't help but play with passion. Every rebound is treated as if it's a game-sealing board. Every shot needs to be contested like it's a buzzer-beating attempt. Every fast-break opportunity has immense urgency. 

    The Louisville product didn't receive many chances to showcase his motor for the Houston Rockets as a rookie, but he thrived during a dozen appearances with the D-League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Harrell averaged a staggering 24.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.4 blocks while shooting 53.3 percent from the field. 

    Most importantly, he spent that time working on a three-point stroke. If he can continue improving as a jump-shooter, he'll have a far better chance to stick as an important big in the Houston rotation, especially after this summer's exodus of incumbent talent. 

32. K.J. McDaniels, Houston Rockets

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    Last Team: Houston Rockets

    Age: 23

    Years of NBA Experience: Two

    Position: SG/SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 2.4 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Is this the year the Houston Rockets finally trust K.J. McDaniels?

    After he emerged as a unique commodity with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014-15—a shot-blocking guard who could protect the rim as well as your typical big man—he was traded to the Rockets and quickly fell out of the rotation. His new playoff-bound squad couldn't justify the growing pains that would come with working him into the schemes, and he went from 25.4 minutes per game in Philly to just 3.3 over the course of 10 Houston appearances. 

    As a sophomore, McDaniels played a grand total of 235 minutes in 2015-16, though he didn't spend any time with the team's D-League affiliate. Instead, he quietly learned and presumably worked on his own game. Now, he should be ready to go. 

    He still may not be a strong offensive player, but he's good enough on defense that Houston can easily justify handing him a real role. 

31. T.J. McConnell, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Last Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Age: 24

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks

    When T.J. McConnell was on the floor during his rookie season, the Philadelphia 76ers were outscored by 8.3 points per 100 possessions. That might sound terrible in a vacuum, but context shows the team's net rating plunged to minus-12.3 when McConnell wasn't playing. 

    The difference stemmed largely from the guard's offensive ability. He was able to rack up assists and drive into the teeth of a defense often enough, and it shouldn't be surprising the team's effective field-goal percentage jumped from 47.7 to 50.1 when he was playing. 

    McConnell is by no means going to be a star. His impact, in some ways, is overstated, as the Sixers didn't have any other convincing point guard options until they acquired Ish Smith, as Rod Beard of the Detroit News reported. But he still has experience running an offense, and that should aid him significantly during his sophomore pursuits. 

30. Jonathon Simmons, San Antonio Spurs

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    Last Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Age: 26

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 6.0 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks

    "[Jonathon] Simmons' plus/minus numbers tell the story of his rookie season," Michael Erler wrote for Pounding the Rock. "He got his feet wet in November, was a true, difference-making revelation in December, still very much an asset in January, barely playable by February, flat out a gasoline fire in March and then he rebounded a bit in garbage-time minutes in April."

    The topsy-turvy season still allowed the undrafted shooting guard to find a home in the NBA, and his role could be more important during 2016-17 as Manu Ginobili presumably takes on diminished responsibilities. 

    Hopefully Simmons has been working on his jumper, because that was the culprit behind his inconsistency. Defenders could back off and prevent him from utilizing his athleticism and aggressiveness, and he sometimes fell into that trap by launching ill-fated deep attempts.

    Summer league is a chance to show off his hard work against weaker competition, thereby earning even more of head coach Gregg Popovich's trust. 

29. Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns

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    Last Team: Washington

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PF/C

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.6 blocks

    Marquese Chriss may have been the 2016 NBA draft's No. 8 pick, but he's not going to live up to that billing as a rookie. It's down the road that he could justify the Phoenix Suns' gamble. 

    "For a team looking to roll the dice on upside, Chriss offers one of the draft's biggest boom or bust picks... A physical specimen," Aran Smith wrote for NBADraft.net well before the selections were unveiled. "Is he Tyrus Thomas or Antonio McDyess? His success will likely be dependent upon how well a team is able to develop him... He has immense potential, but he's still a long ways from realizing it."

    Chriss will immediately assert himself as an alley-oop threat. He'll block plenty of shots right from the get-go, especially during summer league when lesser players are trying to force up shots and earn training camp invites. 

    But the Suns will also have to live with plenty of growing pains, holding tight and knowing that the future holds more success for this 19-year-old. 

28. Michael Beasley, Houston Rockets

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    Last Team: Houston Rockets

    Age: 27

    Years of NBA Experience: Eight

    Position: SF/PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.5 blocks

    That's not a typo. We're really getting set to watch a player with eight years of NBA experience line up at summer league and attempt to prove he's ready to make a positive impact for the Houston Rockets. Of course, this makes more sense because it's Michael Beasley.

    Beasley has become a master of convincing teams he has something left in the tank; he dazzles them with his scoring prowess before letting them down with his complete dearth of defensive ability.

    It makes sense to force him into action against lesser players, if only because it will push him to realize his spot in the lineup is by no means guaranteed. 

    Beasley has played basketball for four different NBA squads since becoming the 2008 draft's No. 2 selection and has even ventured overseas. But he's still just 27 years old—firmly in the midst of his athletic prime. Now, it's time for him to prove the scouting reports wrong before it's too late. 

27. Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors

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    Last Team: Utah

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: C

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.6 blocks

    If there are enduring questions about Jakob Poeltl's ability to make a rookie impact, it's only because of the position he plays. Jonas Valanciunas is firmly entrenched as the starting center, and it's tough to see either him or this 20-year-old shifting over to the 4, where he'd be exposed to the smaller, quicker players in today's NBA. 

    Evaluated solely on his own merits, Poeltl would be a true candidate to win Rookie of the Year. 

    The big man is ready to make the jump, displaying a strong defensive ability and plenty of touch around the hoop. He also dominated during his final season at Utah, finishing with the nation's No. 8 TPA, per NBA Math

    He may be the No. 11 rookie in these rankings, but that's more because of his inevitable role with the Raptors than anything he's done. Like it or not, that's going to diminish his first-year effectiveness. 

26. Kelly Oubre Jr., Washington Wizards

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Washington Wizards

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 3.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks

    "I feel a little bit more comfortable out there. I know how these practices go, and I know that we have to go hard in everything that we do. Pick up everything that we do fast and pretty much just not really expect anything because last year I was trying to expect too much coming in to these practices," Kelly Oubre Jr. recently told Gene Wang of the Washington Post

    This is a different experience for the young small forward, even if he's still embroiled in the developmental process. He's guaranteed a roster spot—the only such player on Washington's summer-league squad—and that takes plenty of pressure off. 

    But Oubre didn't prove much during his rookie season, and the versatile skill set that made him the first non-lottery selection of the 2015 NBA draft hasn't yet surfaced. 

    Fortunately, there's still plenty of time. Oubre was never supposed to be an immediate asset, and he has yet to celebrate his 21st birthday. 

25. Malik Beasley, Denver Nuggets

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    Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Florida State

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks

    It's all about three-and-D play. 

    Malik Beasley is entering a rather crowded Denver Nuggets backcourt, and he'll be fighting for minutes with Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Will Barton. But if he can continue locking down his perimeter matchups while spacing out the court on the other end, he'll be able to contribute as a rookie without being demoted to the D-League. 

    During his lone season with Florida State, Beasley launched 4.2 triples per game and hit them at a 38.7 percent clip. He also posted a 0.7 DBPM—by no means a shabby finish for a perimeter player only one year removed from high school. 

    Throughout the country, only 44 qualified players managed to match or exceed each of those three numbers—just Beasley, Murray and Brandon Ingram did so as freshmen. 

24. Wade Baldwin IV, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Vanderbilt

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Wade Baldwin IV is by no means ready to lead a competitive team, which actually makes it a positive that he'll get to grow in a lesser role as Mike Conley's backup for the Memphis Grizzlies. He still must learn how to finish plays around the basket and hone his outside jumper, because his middling athletic ability will otherwise prevent him from thriving on offense. 

    But the Vanderbilt product does have a prototypical NBA guard body, and that should help ease the transition. At 6'4" with a 6'11 ¼" wingspan, per DraftExpress, he won't be physically overmatched against any matchup, and his lankiness will help him hold his own on the defensive end. 

    Don't expect Baldwin to assert himself as a Rookie of the Year contender. Just think of him as a solid second-stringer for the time being. 

23. Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns

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    JACK GUEZ/Getty Images

    Last Team: Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv

    Age: 18

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Don't be fooled by Dragan Bender's per-game statistics. 

    During his lone season with Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, he played only 12.9 minutes per game and wasn't one of the team's heavily featured players. Per 36 minutes, he averaged a much more impressive 12.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.2 blocks while shooting 42.3 percent from the field, 33.8 percent from beyond the arc and 71.9 percent at the free-throw stripe. 

    Bender needs to add muscle before he can withstand the rigors of an NBA season, but he's never hesitated to play physical basketball. Plus, he's already a skilled player who can serve as a solid distributor from the blocks while spacing the floor with the threat of his work-in-progress jumper. 

    Though he won't be Kristaps Porzingis, hopping across the pond and making an immediate impact, he's ready to hold down a role in the desert right away. 

22. Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Last Team: Toronto Raptors

    Age: 24

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 3.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Delon Wright's shaky jumper, Kyle Lowry's stardom and Cory Joseph's presence kept the young point guard from earning more run as a rookie. The Toronto Raptors rarely committed significant minutes to him, instead letting him sit on the bench and absorb knowledge. 

    But Wright did thrive during 15 appearances in the D-League, and he looked like a quality floor general when his role grew toward the end of the regular season. During his final eight games, he averaged 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field. 

    Not much has changed on the depth chart: Lowry and Joseph are firmly entrenched as the starter and backup, respectively. But Wright has grown, and the Raptors should feel far more comfortable letting him run the show when both of the experienced options need some rest. 

21. JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Age: 26

    Years of NBA Experience: Two

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 7.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Experience helps here. 

    JaMychal Green spent the first year-and-a-half of his NBA journey laboring away for the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies, and it wasn't until injuries opened the door that he became a legitimate rotation member. With both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph injured, Green moved into the starting lineup for 15 games and averaged 11.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists. 

    This 26-year-old big man is not a glamorous player; it's his work ethic and relentless physicality that allow him to remain successful, especially when working in conjunction with a developing mid-range jumper. 

    Down the road, Green will be surpassed by plenty of the players within these rankings. But for now, his experience—and the fact that he's a known commodity—helps him stand out. 

20. Denzel Valentine, Chicago Bulls

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Michigan State

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks

    What can't Denzel Valentine do on the basketball court?

    During his senior season at Michigan State, he served as a dynamic scorer who could pour in triples while driving into the interior on every other possession. He thrived as a rebounder and basically ran the point, showcasing his impressive vision on a regular basis. He even emerged as a high-quality defensive presence who often read plays and reacted before they actually developed. 

    According to NBA Math's TPA, he added 292.74 points to the Spartans' cause, which wasn't just 2016's top score—in the last six seasons, only seven players have topped it.

    Valentine's unadulterated dominance won't fully translate to the NBA. He's not athletically gifted enough to keep up with superstar wings. He is, however, so good in so many areas that he should still find plenty of success. 

19. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

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    Last Team: Kentucky

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PG/SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 20.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Jamal Murray can score. 

    As a freshman at Kentucky, he didn't just log 20 points per game. He did so while knocking down 45.4 percent of his field-goal attempts and 40.8 percent of his triples.

    In fact, he became the nation's lone freshman to top the 20-point barrier while attempting at least seven three-pointers per game and making no fewer than 40 percent of them. Since 1993, the only other first-year players to join the club are Stephen Curry (Davidson), Andrew Rowsey (UNC-Asheville) and Ken Tutt (Oral Roberts), leaving Murray as the only player to do so in a major conference. 

    Murray won't make offensive history during his initial campaign with the Denver Nuggets, but it's abundantly clear he has the talent to score the basketball from day one. The bigger questions revolve around his role, since the Nuggets are overflowing with backcourt talent and need to devote major minutes to other youngsters. 

18. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

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    Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: California

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks

    "There was so much space on the floor, I didn't know what to do," Jaylen Brown told reporters after his first outing in Utah Summer League, per the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach

    The college game is different from the NBA. The latter always offers more spacing, primarily because of the extended three-point arc. It's played at a quicker pace, and the players are just better. But it's that first part that can make a difference for young players whose games are tailored to the pros (once they figure it out).

    That should help Brown significantly after he was the surprising No. 3 pick, selected because the Boston Celtics failed to trade away their top slot. He's only our No. 5 in these rankings when looking solely at first-year players, but it should quickly become clear that he wasn't too big a reach. 

    Possessing every physical tool imaginable, Brown should thrive as his jumper becomes more potent. And the shot-selection issues that plagued him at California? Those should go away too, so long as he doesn't try to do too much in his more limited role. 

17. Norman Powell

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    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Toronto Raptors

    Age: 23

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Norman Powell served as a defensive specialist throughout his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors. When head coach Dwane Casey called his number, he was asked to bring his energy and tenacity against tough wing matchups, and he often held his own. 

    But toward the end of the campaign, Powell started to blossom on offense. 

    During his last 10 outings, the shooting guard averaged 15.0 points and 2.2 assists while making 54.3 percent from the field and 55.3 percent from beyond the arc. That last number is unsustainable, but it's indicative of the confidence with which he played once trusted to do more.

    Powell has the tools to become an all-around threat on the wings. Now, he has to prove those tools can develop in proper fashion. 

16. Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Oklahoma

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 25.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks

    If Buddy Hield works out, he can replace Eric Gordon and offer the New Orleans Pelicans far more upside on the wings as they attempt to find a marquee running mate for Anthony Davis. 

    Hield is by no means a complete player, and his age has some thinking his upside may be limited. But he improved so much during his senior season at Oklahoma that it's impossible to see anything but success on the offensive end, even if his relative lack of size (6'5") and quickness might prevent him from being an all-around stud. 

    He improved his scoring ability off the dribble, but he remains a top-notch spot-up threat who understands how to position himself in space before letting fly with a quick release. He's a deft slasher who's gotten better at finishing in traffic and overcoming those aforementioned vertical shortcomings. 

    Hield will score in the NBA. The concerns rest with his ability to contribute in other areas, especially on those inevitable nights during which his shot is awry. 

15. Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Providence

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.6 blocks

    The Minnesota Timberwolves may have found something special here, especially if they're willing to remain patient as Kris Dunn's offense develops. He should make an immediate impact as a deft distributor who can slash, but his offensive game won't fully blossom until he improves his jump shooting. Even if that takes a while, it's likely he thrives as a defensive stopper. 

    CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie went into detail about Dunn's defense before the draft, and it's worth repeating in full: 

    That heart shines through on every defensive possession. He's a bear for opposing guards to deal with due to his 6-foot-4 frame, near 6-foot-10 wingspan and elite quickness. Heck, it's even tough for 2 guards to deal with him because of that. It not only translates to a difficult, pesky player to drive against, but he's particularly successful at forcing turnovers -- possessing the highest steal rate in the draft. Steals translate into points at a higher rate than rebounds or blocks, making them incredibly valuable.

    However, maybe the most important aspect to his game is the way he can switch onto bigger players and not be fully taken advantage of. At 205 pounds, Dunn is wiry strong and can use the strength of his lower half and core to at least hold his own on the block. Beyond that, he uses his tenacity and motor to be active with his hands and feet, creating issues for bigger players who think they can back him down in the midrange. Dunn may not have the strength of [Marcus] Smart to be able to legitimately match up with a player like Paul Millsap possession after possession -- as seen in the playoffs -- but his ability will be a legitimate deterrent to bigger players and that's something he relishes.

14. Justin Anderson, Dallas Mavericks

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Dallas Mavericks

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SG/SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 3.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Thus begins a lengthy run of second-year players returning to Las Vegas Summer League.

    Justin Anderson spent his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks searching for a shot that had gone missing. But his offensive issues didn't prevent him from buckling down on defense as a legitimate wing stopper. By every defensive metric imaginable, he graded out positively.

    Dallas allowed 5.3 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, and that wasn't solely due to the teammates he was playing with. His DBPM (1.3) was distinctly positive. So too was his defensive real plus/minus of 1.03, per ESPN.com, which left him trailing only eight players at his position. 

    That stopping ability isn't going anywhere, but the 2016-17 goal has to be improvement on the other end. 

13. Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Sacramento Kings

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PF/C

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks

    Even as a rookie, Willie Cauley-Stein proved willing and able to work as an interior anchor, constantly deterring opponents with his long arms and impressive timing. Cauley-Stein averaged 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks per 36 minutes, but he was aiding the Sacramento Kings even when not recording box-score statistics. 

    According to NBA Math, he saved more points on defense than all but 17 other first-year players in the last five years. From the 2016 class, only Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns and Justise Winslow finished higher, which is due in large part to playing time. 

    Cauley-Stein doesn't need to develop on offense to become a valuable player, because of nothing more than his rim-protecting strengths. Everything else would be gravy. 

12. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brooklyn Nets

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    Last Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Age: 21

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks

    The defensive theme continues. 

    Injuries prevented Rondae Hollis-Jefferson from logging too many minutes as a rookie, but he played enough to prove the scouting reports correct. He couldn't connect shots from outside the arc, but he excelled when asked to get up in an opponent's jersey. 

    Though defense was still his primary calling card, he did make one major improvement on offense—Hollis-Jefferson thrived when taking long two-pointers, knocking down 63.6 percent of his shots from between 10 and 16 feet, and 40.6 percent beyond 16. It was that growth that made him look like one of the league's better rookies when healthy. 

    "With his defense and solid shooting, he could have stayed among the 10 best rookies, lottery or not, the entire season if not for the ankle injury," Scott Howard-Cooper wrote for NBA.com about the young Brooklyn Net. 

11. Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Denver Nuggets

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Especially if you include true shooting percentage, it's easy to see that Emmanuel Mudiay improved throughout his rookie season: 

     PPGRPGAPGTrue Shooting %
    October16.03.55.549.4
    November11.63.65.938.1
    December5.43.25.428.9
    January12.73.05.546.0
    February10.32.86.040.8
    March15.83.94.847.9
    April18.83.65.252.8

    Mudiay was always going to struggle. The transition from the Chinese Basketball Association to the NBA is a ridiculous one, and doubly so for a player with a shaky jumper, lack of defensive polish and a turnover-prone nature. 

    Nonetheless, Mudiay gradually grew more comfortable and flashed enough potential at the end of his first go-round that it's easy to remain excited about his future. 

10. Trey Lyles, Utah Jazz

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Utah Jazz

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 6.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Trey Lyles' versatility is staggering, particularly when you take his age into account. 

    The 20-year-old is already able to serve as a stretch 4, and he connected on 38.3 percent of his treys during his rookie campaign. But he's also comfortable creating his own shots, allowing him to put the ball on the floor and use his combination of size (6'10") and speed against overmatched defenders while keeping his eyes up to scan for open teammates. 

    "We're going to use him in some different ways," Utah Jazz assistant coach Johnnie Bryant said about Lyles, per Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune. "He's going to handle the ball a little bit more; obviously he has some perimeter skills, some playmaking skills."

    The strength of the Utah frontcourt will prevent Lyles from truly breaking out during his sophomore season, but it's reasonable to expect a big per-minute jump now that the organization has realized the full extent of what he can do as a modern power forward. 

9. Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls

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    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Chicago Bulls

    Age: 21

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 7.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Bobby Portis is a 6'11" bundle of potential, even if he hasn't become a consistently positive contributor for the Chicago Bulls.

    When granted larger opportunities, he's shown he can handle the extra run—a 20-point, 11-rebound early-season outing against the New York Knicks last year serves as the primary example. But he has yet to develop the ability to thrive as a rotation staple. 

    From beyond the arc, Portis struggled as a jump-shooter during his rookie season. Nonetheless, his free-throw percentage (72.7) and ability to knock down deep twos (40.4 percent from beyond 16 feet) both bode well for his development. His defensive numbers largely indicate he was playing at a subpar level, but it's not difficult to watch him and see the makings of an impact defender. 

    So it goes for Portis, who has shown nearly every tool imaginable for at least a short stretch. It's putting them together that's the challenge, and he should have plenty more opportunities to do so now that Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol have both departed for new locations, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, respectively. 

8. Justise Winslow, Miami Heat

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    John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Miami Heat

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 6.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Forget about Justise Winslow's ineffective jumper, which forced him to shoot just 27.6 percent from downtown as a rookie. Don't trouble yourself over his lack of passing chops and the fact he recorded barely more assists than turnovers for the Miami Heat. Put his lackluster free-throw percentage out of your mind. 

    Even if Winslow continues to struggle in all those areas, he'll be an effective NBA player. He fits in the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist mold, if you need an established example. 

    Fresh out of Duke, Winslow didn't have any trouble guarding tough assignments on the wings. He was able to help against driving opponents before recovering to the perimeter, and he often looked comfortable against legitimate studs in one-on-one situations. NBA Math's defensive points saved indicates that he was already one of the league's top 40 defenders. ESPN.com's DRPM, which doesn't take volume into account, had him at No. 15 among small forwards. 

    Either way, that's impressive for a teenager, since Winslow didn't turn 20 until March. 

7. Josh Richardson, Miami Heat

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Miami Heat

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 6.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks

    The No. 40 pick of the 2015 draft spent the beginning of his rookie campaign trying to earn more playing time. When injuries to players ahead in the pecking order opened up an opportunity, Josh Richardson never looked back.

    From Feb. 19 through the end of the season, he averaged 10.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks while shooting 50 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from beyond the arc. Perhaps even more impressively, he did so while remaining a positive contributor on defense.

    In true three-and-D fashion, he took more than a pair of triples during his average outing, knocked them down more than 45 percent of the time and posted an above-average DBPM. Any guesses how many first-year players have done that? Here's the entire list: Josh Richardson.

    Even if we include players of all experience levels, the club only swells to include 10 members. Talk about a (2015) draft-day steal.

6. D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Age: 20

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: PG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Unless you're Nick Young, it's tough to complain about D'Angelo Russell's rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Despite learning how to play for a team that didn't belong on the same floor as many of the NBA's other squads, he averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 41 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the arc. Those are respectable numbers, but it's even better that he improved throughout his inaugural campaign. 

    He grew as a scorer, learning to pick the right opportunities and gaining a bit of consistency from downtown. He also looked slightly more comfortable on the defensive end, though it's tough for any first-year backcourt player to thrive in this golden age of floor generals. 

    Russell could very well become a star. He's already on the right track. 

5. Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Denver Nuggets

    Age: 21

    Years of NBA Experience: Two

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 12.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Though his defense remains a work in progress, everything on offense seemed to click during Gary Harris' sophomore season. After hitting only 20.4 percent of his three-point attempts as a rookie, he connected at a 35.4 percent clip. In fact, he improved from every distance: 

    Season0-3 Feet3-1010-1616-233-Pointers
    2014-1548.029.436.832.120.4
    2015-1661.341.045.646.135.4

    All of a sudden, he was comfortable scoring from everywhere. The improvement around the basket helped in particular, because it made him a more diverse threat to opposing defenses who could no longer try to push him into the paint.

    Harris doesn't have the same type of upside possessed by the other players populating the top 10 in these rankings. But he's entering his third professional season, and that gives him enough of an advantage for 2016-17. 

4. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Duke

    Age: 18

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.4 blocks

    "If you can score the ball, you can play at any level," Brandon Ingram told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News when asked about his skinny frame. "I don't think it's a big adjustment. Playing against stronger guys, I know I have to adjust a little bit just like what I did at the college level. You never know what to expect. So just come in here, play aggressive and play as hard as you can."

    We do know the 6'9" forward can score the ball. 

    Ingram shows flashes of Kevin Durant when he drives through a defense and attacks the rim. He's not nearly as effective a jump-shooter, but his lanky limbs still grant an appearance similar to that of the new Golden State Warrior. 

    Regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench to spell new addition Luol Deng, per The Vertical's Shams Charania, during his rookie season, Ingram will score with aplomb. And for a team looking to replace Kobe Bryant—both on the court and as a franchise icon—that's a great way to start. 

3. Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs

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    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Age: 22

    Years of NBA Experience: Two

    Position: SF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 4.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Kyle Anderson simply isn't the type of player who normally shows up at Vegas. He's already carved out a role with the ever-competitive Spurs, he has two years of NBA experience, and he was last year's NBA Summer League MVP. Nonetheless, he's going to play, and he's going to dominate the younger competition as his game continues to grow. 

    Though he's still slow as molasses and has trouble generating open looks on offense, Anderson has learned how to become a defensive stopper. The San Antonio Spurs are already comfortable handing him tough assignments, and he's made them look smart throughout his two-year career. 

    According to ESPN.com's DRPM, only four small forwards were better on defense in 2015-16: Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Robert Covington and Wesley Johnson. Regardless of position, just 53 players proved his superior, and many were big men—the position favored by this particular metric. 

2. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Team: Phoenix Suns

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: One

    Position: SG

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks

    It didn't take long for this teenager to become a significant scoring threat. 

    From March 1 through the end of the season, Devin Booker averaged 21.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from downtown. He wasn't particularly efficient, but he was granted the ability to learn on the job for a down-in-the-dumps Phoenix Suns team that didn't mind moving further up in the draft-lottery sweepstakes.

    As the Suns grow more competitive, Booker won't be allowed to shoot with such reckless abandon. But his brief tenure serving as the unabashed go-to option should help him develop into a tremendous offensive threat. 

    Booker should be considered a serious candidate to lead the Las Vegas competition in scoring. 

1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Kim Raff/Associated Press

    Last Team: LSU

    Age: 19

    Years of NBA Experience: Rookie

    Position: SF/PF

    2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Maybe Ben Simmons can't shoot. Maybe he's improved his jumper since playing his final game for LSU. Either way, he's more talented than anyone else in the field. 

    Even though Simmons hasn't played an official game, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and Nikola Jokic are all watching from afar, and none of the two-year vets (led by Gary Harris and Kyle Anderson) have this type of star potential. 

    Right away, Simmons' vision should be on display. He's a master of threading the ball through traffic in both transition and the half-court set, and his ability to control the tempo of a game should help the Philadelphia 76ers feel far more comfortable in what's essentially a pickup setting. 

    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @fromal09

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball-Reference.com or NBAMath.com.

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