Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rookie Report

Thanks to a daily dosage of NBA league pass every night, I've had no trouble keeping tabs with last years draft class. After all, scouting players doesnt end when the graduate to the league. That is only the beginning. It is important to stay current with the NBA game and see how each player translates. After watching, you can reflect on why a certain player exceeded or failed to live up to your expectations for them in the league.

Kyrie Irving hasn't been a game changer, but thats not what should have been expected from him off the bat. He's been a decent court general and shot the ball very well - well enough to be leading all rookies in scoring. He won't be a bust, but it isn't a guarantee that he will be the top player from this class.

For the Cavs though, they might have elected to go with the best combination of selections since they also nabbed Tristan Thompson at #4. Thompson has played with a great deal of energy, cleaning up the glass and blocking shots. His post game is more advanced than many pundits gave him credit for, helping him scored over 8 ppg in just under 20 minutes.  He does need to work on his free throw shooting, especially since his best skill may be at getting to the line. If he does that, he will have a chance to be an all-star. Right now, he is shooting under 50% from the line.

I spent a lot of time covering point guards last year and so far, many of them have proven to be worth the time. Kemba Walker hasn't been given a chance to settle into a role yet, but he has been clutch at times. The question to remains with him about whether he can run a team and also be efficient. So far he hasn't shown either of them. The TJ Ford comparison might turn out to be appropriate.

I was a little down on Norris Cole heading into the season because I wasn't sure about his halfcourt offense, but he has been a steal thus far. It helped that he was drafted by the Heat, getting plenty of chances to run out on the break. Still, Cole has proven to be worthy of some of Mario Chalmers minutes already and looks primed to take over the starter role in time.

Jimmer Fredette is another guy I had a lot of questions about and they all still stand. He has looked like an electric scorer at times, but is shooting a poor percentage at this juncture. His shooting is not what is worrisome, though. We know that will come around. What is a problem is his defense. Nothing I have seen so far this year makes me think he can play good enough defense at this level to be effective. He cant stay in front of anyone and to top it off, he has even done a terrible job of getting back and preventing fast break points. Lucky for him, he's on the Kings and the only guy behind him to take minutes is another rookie, Mr. Irrelevent, Isaiah Thomas.

The decision to cut Pooh Jeter and just role with Thomas was a questionable choice. Thomas can't defend and is a inefficient scorer. Hes struggled when pressed and isn't big enough to get his shot of consistently. He's the sparkplug type, a dime a dozen, and I dont believe he is worthy of a NBA roster spot.

Josh Selby is a project, but he looks like an NBA player when he is on the court. He's got to either become a point guard or learn to be more efficient, preferably both, but the tools are all there. He has flashed the athleticism on a few impressive plays this season. He can shoot the ball and kill you in transition. I think his potential should have placed him in the first round.

I viewed Marshon Brooks as a similar case as Selby, despite him having three more years of college experience. Brooks could definitely score the ball, but there were questions about him being a winning player in college. After being drafted by the Nets, he hasn't been able to show he can fit into a contending team, but he has definitely shown he can score the ball as good as, if not, better than advertised. He's scoring 14ppg on 46% shooting on a team that needs someone to take the shots. So far, you can't complain about how he has been playing. He might be the best scorer in this draft class at the moment and his upside is looking towards Jamal Crawford.

I haven't seen too much of Brandon Knight yet as I can't fathom sitting through an entire Piston game. From what I've observed, he has been streaky, showing flashes of potential while also making rookie mistakes. Hopefully the rest of the guards ineptitude doesn't affect his development because he still has a great upside.

As a closet Wizards fan, I have also gotten a chance to look at Shelvin Mack. They were comfortable enough to go into the season with him as the backup point. So far, he has looked a little slow and below average athletically. I don't see anything that he brings to the table in the NBA, maybe he turns into a steady ball handler and can backup the point for years to come like Chris Duhon. Theres nothing to get excited about with him, though.

Andrew Goudelock hasn't gotten much burn. He is pretty much what we thought he was. His great shooting got him drafted and can be used in certain situations. The triangle would have been a better fit for him since you'd rather have him spotting up in the corner than running your offense.

Charles Jenkins has been solid in limited minutes for the Warriors. He is shooting a red hot percentage from the long two range, picking up where he left off at Hofstra with a stellar mid-range game. He has been used as a combo guard, sometimes bringing the ball up, but having to defer to Curry and Ellis a lot. It is critical that he gets used to playing off ball. Its something I picked up on that he needs to work on. He's a smart player and hopefully Mark Jackson turns this team in the right direction so they run a more structured offense - something that would benefit Jenkins.

Jenkins teammate, Klay Thompson, has not hesitated to adopt the Warriors mindset of shooting first, thinking later. He started the season off badly, but his jumper is starting to fall. His shot and quick release are picture perfect, making him a threat to go off for 20 point on any given night. He still needs strength in order to finish inside, evident by the fact that his FG% is lower than his 3-pt %. The biggest flaw for Thompson so far is that he's been completely loss on the defensive end. Especially on help defense, he just seems a step behind everyone else. He seemed like a smart player in college, I think he is just a little slow adjusting to the speed of the NBA game.

I dogged Markieff Morris a lot during his college days, but he has surprised me with his adjustment to the pros. His short wingspan hasn't proved to be a problem rebounding the ball and he's been automatic with his jumpshot - all the way out to the 3-pt line. He has shown good strength and athleticism. Definitely looks on his way to be a solid NBA role player, possibly even a quality starter on a good team down the road.

The #2 overall pick, Derrick Williams, has been solid playing about 20 minutes a game for the Wolves. Adelman hasn't been afraid to play him in crunch time and he seems to be developing chemistry on the second unit with Ricky Rubio. As long as Williams is running in transition, which he has no problem doing, he should get a couple of easy buckets a game. The rest of his game is coming along, he's shown nice shot selection so far. He can do a lot of the things Michael Beasley does, just at a much more efficient rate. Dont expect him to take over Beasley's starting spot, though.

Chris Singleton has lived up to the hype of ACC defensive player of the year, displaying great versatility on the defensive end. He's exactly the type of player the Wizards need more of. In the opening game of the season, he was trusted to cover Deron Williams in the 4th quarter. He can guard positions 1-4. His offensive game is based off open jumper and running in transition and he's been doing so effectively. His 3-pt shot has translated to the NBA distance.

I was a big Bismack Biyombo fan heading into the draft, but even I had my doubts in the back of my mind. Seeing him on a actual NBA court for the first time passed the first test of actually making it overseas. Seeing him in action for 5 minutes passed the second test of proving to be more of a threat than Saer Sene. In all honesty, I think he's adjusted fine so far. His athleticism has definitely translated and he is playing with a good amount of energy. Defensively he is already solid, he just needs to work on not fouling. When he gets the ball offensively, its a little shaky, but he somehow manages to due positive things even though its ugly. Right now he's shooting 38% from the line which obviously needs to go up. All in all, Ive liked what Ive seen from him so far. And unlike some African players, he didn't make it obvious he couldn't play at this level from the get-go.

I'll try to get to Jon Leuer, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, Kawhi Leonard, Cory Joseph, Nikola Vucevic, Josh Harrelson, Iman Shumpert, and Trey Thompkins in the next few days.