Posted Aug 13 2010 6:57AM
They all looked great on Draft night. We can say that about NBA rookies. Dressed to the nines and flashing megawatt smiles, not a single rookie tripped and fell on his way to the million-dollar handshake with David Stern.
If only their rookie season was confined to a single night. No, instead, they must bring it 82 nights, plus the postseason if they're lucky, to begin justifying those contracts (money that reflects what they did in college, not what they will do in the NBA) and the faith bestowed in them by nervous general managers.
That's when you'll see the stumbles, some head-first, from players who have no idea what they're about to confront. Looking into our crystal ball, and giving great consideration to circumstances (such as projected playing time), we like some rookies' chances better than others.
Here's a look at 10 who should enjoy a strong start when the season begins:
10. Ed Davis, Raptors. The Raptors would've been looking for a tough guys even if Chris Bosh stayed. This is a team, mind you, that was softer last season than your grandmother's touch. Asking someone like Davis, who only played a minute of college ball, to transform a team's personality overnight is a bit much. But he can be a step in the right direction if he adopts the attitude of his father, Terry Davis, a former NBA player with Miami and Dallas who took a bouncer's approach to basketball. His son is a decent rebounder and inside scorer and is still in development, so if not this season, perhaps the younger Davis can give the Raptors what they lack eventually.
9. Cole Aldrich, Thunder. They traded for him on Draft night because he'll defend in the post, rebound and set screens. Ideally, he'll become another Brad Miller. Should he get the minutes and deliver in those areas of need, Aldrich won't have gaudy numbers but could play a role in the continued rise of the Thunder. If he's nothing but a screen-setter, then he could be on the road to joining the scrap heap of stiffs. It's all up to Aldrich and his work ethic, because the opportunity is there.
8. Greg Monroe, Pistons. It's safe to say that if prehistoric Ben Wallace is hogging more minutes in the post come January than Monroe, the Pistons are in trouble. A team locked in a rebuilding process cannot afford to have over-the-hill veterans outplaying rookies, which means they didn't Draft the right player in the first place (see Milicic, Darko). Monroe showed some flash at Georgetown but is also somewhat raw for a big man. The opportunity for minutes is there for the taking, but pity the Pistons if Wallace spends this season working up a sweat every night.
7. Evan Turner, Sixers. A few months before the Draft, there was debate about which player was more deserving of being selected first overall, Turner or John Wall. We think the Wizards made the right call. That's not to say Turner won't eventually have his rookie moments with the Sixers. But unlike Wall, Turner isn't guaranteed a starting position from Day One, and he does play for a demanding coach (Doug Collins), and will play in front of Philly fans, never an easy task for a rookie. Turner may not have the better rookie year than Wall, but let's check their development after Year Three.
6. Wesley Johnson, Timberwolves. With Al Jefferson gone, somebody has to score for the Wolves, and Johnson (along with Michael Beasley) is the most likely candidate. He brings 3-point range along with an ability to get to the rim, and has the tools to flourish in the triangle offense. Assuming the Wolves aren't going anyplace special this season (a safe bet), they'll give Johnson plenty of minutes (should he earn them) to work through his mistakes and show progress by spring.
5. Gordon Hayward, Jazz. With Kyle Korver gone, Utah could use outside shooting, and the situation is almost perfect for Hayward. Unless he's a total bust, it's hard to imagine him not pushing for starter's minutes at some point this season. Hayward isn't just a spot shooter, either; he can score in other ways, as he showed in summer league. And it helps to have Deron Williams around to create shots for you. Utah has a solid history in Draft decisions and this looks like another one.
4. John Wall, Wizards. When showmanship meets skills, it's an irresistible combination, a blend that creates stars. As incoming point guards go, Wall might be the most entertaining since Jason Kidd. He has a variety of stutter-step moves and passes and could be the rare player who sells tickets just by himself. However, much like Kidd, Wall lacks a polished jumper, which was exposed during summer league when he shot a shaky 37 percent. That may hold him back when it comes time for the Rookie of the Year vote, along with the potential for errors that victimize all rookie point guards.
3. Derrick Favors, Nets. The prevailing opinion of NBA scouts is Favors didn't tap into his potential at Georgia Tech, that he's far better than what he showed in college. Well, without much competition at the power forward position on the Nets other than Troy Murphy, he'll get plenty of minutes to support or destroy that theory. His transition will be helped tremendously by the presence of Brook Lopez, who'll share some of the rebounding and inside scoring responsibility while assuming most of the interior defense load. Since the Nets aren't built to reach the playoffs right away, Favors will be thrown to the fire right away.
2. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings. Could the Kings go two-for-two in Rookie of the Year winners? It's quite possible, because Tyreke Evans, as a point guard, will actually help Cousins' case for the award. The big man brings soft hands to catch passes from Evans, and the rebounding attitude the Kings need. Plus, he knows his way around the rim with the ball. If he's on a mission to shatter all those pre-draft perceptions of him being a big baby, then Cousins will enjoy a relatively-smooth rookie season, and perhaps a smashing one as well.
1. Blake Griffin, Clippers. Remember him? He was the first overall Draft pick in 2009 and a ready-made NBA star before falling victim to the dreaded Clipper Curse, missing the entire regular season. After recovering from knee surgery, Griffin is healthy and ready to start his career. Just to be safe, the Clippers should have him escorted down the staircase and across the street. He'll have a year of pent-up energy waiting to be released, and won't feel the need to press right away, since the Clippers have talent. If all goes well, he'll lead all rookies in rebounding and be among the leaders in scoring.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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