Ultra-hyped NBA rookie class still finding its way
The third-leading scorer among all NBA rookies was selected in the second round. That is not how this was supposed to go.
Remember back in May and June, when everyone said this would be the greatest thing since the 2003 draft — with no less than the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade?
Well, maybe not. Or at least, maybe not yet.
In June, we were debating the No. 1 overall pick: Should it be Andrew Wiggins, an unpolished offensive player with a huge upside who can really defend? Or should it be Jabari Parker, a natural scorer who understands how to win and could make an immediate impact?
Turns out, right now, it doesn’t really matter.
Wiggins was ultimately selected first by the Cleveland Cavaliers, played for their summer team, then was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Love deal.
Parker actually said he preferred to play for the Milwaukee Bucks, and that is exactly who selected him with the second overall pick.
Wiggins has proven to be an unpolished offensive player who can defend. His upside looks reasonably big — but not quite huge. Parker has displayed potential as a natural scorer and his presence has clearly made the Bucks a better team.
But is either of these guys making an immediate impact — a la LeBron or Melo or Wade? Well, no. Not exactly. Just like others from this rookie class, Wiggins and Parker are showing flashes of greatness. But just like all of this rookie class, there are no guarantees. And many of us were expecting more.
Oh, and about that third-leading rookie scorer.
That would be none other than K.J. McDaniels, the 32nd overall pick by the woeful Philadelphia 76ers. McDaniels is off to a nice start, for sure. But it’s hard to know if he’d have as much success on a team that actually won a game during the season’s first month. The Sixers, it seems, are unfit for this level of professional basketball.
Meanwhile, the rest of the lottery has been much like any rookie class — a mish-mash of inconsistency and second guessing.
Third overall pick Joel Embiid of the Sixers is most likely out for the season following offseason foot surgery.
Fourth overall pick Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic is also due to miss some time with a foot injury, and while he wasn’t bad before then, he didn’t exactly bring back memories of Dwight Howard. Or even Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
The beat goes on — and ranges from fourth overall pick Noah Vonleh, a complete non-factor with the struggling Charlotte Hornets, to fifth overall pick Dante Exum, an up-and-down athletic swingman with the Utah Jazz.
Of the top 10 rookie scorers, only four were selected in the actual top 10 of the 2014 draft: Wiggins, Parker, Marcus Smart (No. 6, Boston Celtics) and Elfrid Payton (No. 10, Magic). Only three — Wiggins, Parker and McDaniels — are averaging double figures in scoring. And Parker leads the way at a very modest 11.9 points per game.
Others making at least a little contribution include Bojan Bogdanovic of the Brooklyn Nets, Shabazz Napier of the Miami Heat and Zach LaVine of the Timberwolves. LaVine was selected 13th overall, and Napier and Bogdanovic went 24th and 27th, respectively.
Two others, Nerlens Noel (Sixers) and Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls), were taken in previous drafts and just began their NBA careers.
Granted, it’s still early, and most general managers, coaches and scouts will tell you it takes three seasons to get a real read on what type of impact a player will make. Rookies, to be fair, need time to adjust and develop.
At the same time, that’s the type of grace period many of us never expected to be needed for this rookie class. We expected it to be mostly amazing and right from the start. Instead, it’s more like mostly average with a long way to go.