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The Extra Pass: Rookie Report

Jan 18, 2013, 9:00 AM EST

2012 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Getty Images

The Extra Pass is a new daily column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we ask you to put down your TPS report and pick up the Rookie Report:

Since we’re near the halfway point of the season, it’s time to revisit the rookie class and check on some of the bigger names. Who looks like a future All-Star? Which players should be starters going forward? We dissect below:

Sure-fire future All-Stars: Hornets F/C Anthony Davis, Blazers G Damian Lillard

Davis: Despite not having post moves or a reliable jumper yet, Davis has shown incredible instincts on the offensive end. As SI.com’s Rob Mahoney so wonderfully explained, Davis just has a knack for getting open, and his ability to finish on the move has made him a weapon to be dealt with. Davis is averaging nearly 16 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per36 minutes this season with a PER of 20, and that puts him in great company. Only David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Alonzo Mourning and Ralph Sampson averaged those numbers in their rookie seasons.

Lillard: He looks like the real deal already. His understanding and timing in the pick-and-roll is uncanny for a player his age, but it’s his ability to create space for himself that really separates him from other young point guards. According to Synergy Sports, Lillard is already the 14th most efficient scorer (points per play) in the league in isolation and 23rd in the pick-and-roll. With his separation ability and sweet shooting touch, Lillard’s scoring numbers should only ramp up from an already impressive 18 point per game average.

Borderline future All-Stars: Wizards G Bradley Beal, Orlando Magic PF Andrew Nicholson

Beal: This kid has one of the most beautiful jumpers in basketball. His mechanics are flawless — the elbow is in, the release is high, and his body is straight up and down. Don’t let the rough overall numbers fool you (38 percent shooting) — Beal is starting to figure out his role in the NBA. In the month of January, Beal has averaged 18.8 points a game and 61 percent (!) shooting from behind the arc with nearly three makes a game from deep. With John Wall pushing the pace and sucking in defenses, Beal could end up being the best pure spot-up shooter of this draft class.

Nicholson: Give him more minutes, Jacque Vaughn! Nicholson only plays about 14 minutes a night, but he’s been a killer scorer whenever he gets on the floor. Per36 minutes, Nicholson scores 18.4 points on 52 percent shooting thanks to a jumper that has been every bit as good as advertised. Nicholson has knocked in 33-for-72 (45 percent) of his shots from 16-23 feet, a number that puts him right there with the league’s elite stretch 4’s.

Future 6th Man of the Year candidate: Cavaliers G Dion Waiters

Waiters: What kind of shots does Waiters want to get? All of them. The explosive, burly scoring guard takes 17 attempts per36 minutes — a huge number for a rookie. Since the Cavs moved him to the bench nine games ago, Waiters has beaten up on second units with his big frame, totaling over 15 points in five of those contests. It may be a tad early to pigeon hole him, but turning Waiters into a scoring guard off the bench seems like a role perfectly suited for his skill and discretion.

Future Defensive Player of the Year winner: Pistons C Andre Drummond

Drummond: Let’s make something clear — Drummond is not skilled offensively. His jumper is a joke, his touch outside of the paint is laughable, and he shoots 39 percent from the free throw line. That’s what makes everything more insane, though. Drummond leas all rookies in PER at 22.4, and he’s averaging 13 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks per36 minutes. Those are numbers even the great Dwight Howard didn’t sniff in his first season. In league history, Shaq was the only rookie to post 13-13-3 per36 minutes with a PER of over 22. If Drummond can play this well with no discernible skills whatsoever, imagine how good he can be down the line.

Dependable long-term starters: Bobcats SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Warriors SF Harrison Barnes

MKG: He has a long way to go offensively, but Kidd-Gilchrist is still a self-aware plus defender who will be one of the best rebounding small forwards in basketball for a long time (8.5 boards per36). Yes, his jump shot is completely broken, but MKG does so many things well without the ball that he’ll always warrant heavy playing time.

Barnes: I’m not as bullish on Barnes as most. He plays with blinders on too often, focusing on beating just his man and not on what’s going on around him. That said, Caron Butler has made a nice career for himself playing much the same way. There are reasons for optimism here — Barnes has shown off a nice post game, and his 38 percent 3-point shooting is a nice number in limited attempts — but I just think his ceiling as an all-around player is capped.

First big off the bench: Cavaliers C Tyler Zeller, Celtics PF Jared Sullinger

Zeller: He’s just what everyone said he was — a 7-foot big man who can run the floor and shoot it a little bit. He’ll be a perfectly passable backup center for years to come.

Sullinger: Sullinger is almost like a Zach Randolph; a subpar athlete who gobbles up space and has a knack for pulling in offensive rebounds and finishing with creativity. Sullinger has been a surprisingly good defensive player as well — the Celtics are about 6 points better per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor.

Drafted to be a star, but a role player going forward: Kings PF Thomas Robinson 

Robinson: The big man from Kansas only does one thing great, and that’s offensive rebounding (3.6 per 36 minutes). Other than that, Robinson has no consistent way of scoring, and defensively, his desire to stay near the glass hurts him from defending bigs who can step away from the rim. He’ll clean the glass, but Robinson hasn’t shown he’s capable of doing anything else at even an average level.

Most likely to get overpaid one day: Blazers C Meyers Leonard, Warriors C Festus Ezeli

Leonard: By the time he figures out the game and develops some actual offensive skill, he’ll hit restricted free agency. Some GM will look at that giant frame and great athleticism and bet he keeps on developing.

Ezeli: It seems like he’ll get a little too much credit for the Warriors defense making the leap under Mark Jackson. He also seems like a player Mark Cuban would love to throw an absurd amount of money at (see: Desagna Diop, Erick Dampier, Brendan Haywood).

Second unit leaders: Wolves G Alexey Shved, Knicks F Chris Copeland

Shved: An extremely underrated athlete with good floor vision (5.8 assists per36 minutes), Shved should become a very good third guard once he’s free of the scoring burden that’s been placed on him due to Minnesota’s injury problems.

Copeland: The 28-year-old forward I lovingly refer to as  “created player” because he looks like he was made in NBA2k13 is a natural scoring talent. Per36 minutes, Copeland is averaging 19.6 points per game and is shooting 39 percent from behind the arc. He’s instant offense, even if he doesn’t do much else at all.

Role players that will stick: Mavericks F Jae Crowder, Warriors F Draymond Green

Crowder: A classic 3-and-D guy on the wing with a big motor. If he improves his 3-point shooting (32 percent this year) even more, he’ll be a regular in the league for another ten seasons.

Green: A defensive ace that can rebound very well, Green will continue to warrant playing time so long as he figures out what his role his offensively.

The late bloomer: Bucks PF John Henson

Henson: He needs to develop a much better mid-range jumper and he absolutely has to add strength, but Henson is a mobile, long-armed, shot-blocking big who is rebounding like crazy (12.3 rebounds per36 minutes). He may need to get out from under the shadow of Larry Sanders in Milwaukee, but I’d be shocked if Henson isn’t a successful starting power forward down the line.

Career Athlete: Raptors G/F Terrence Ross

Ross: He’s the best rookie dunker I’ve seen in years. Ross has ideal size for the 2 and a decent 3-point shot (32 percent), but he has no in between game to speak of. That said, Ross won’t be hard up for a home in the NBA — not with athleticism like that.

Out of the league soon: Hornets G Austin Rivers, Rockets F Royce White

Rivers: Pedigree can only take you so far. Rivers has been dreadful this year, and his shot selection and style of play has never meshed with his level of talent. He won’t be an NBA player until he stops taking bad shots, and I’m not sure that will ever happen.

White: Whether it’s fair or not, White represents too much of a risk for potential employers now. It’s a shame — White’s unique point-forward talents would have made him one of the league’s most interesting players. Instead, he’ll likely join the ranks of the “what-if” players that never seem to put it together.

  1. swampdawg80 - Jan 18, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    I agree The Brow is future star, even tho he doesn’t have the ball as much as Lillard(who is balling). But to say Rivers is going to be out of the league I think is too soon to say. I think he should’ve stayed at Duke a little longer.

  2. raidmagic - Jan 18, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Good to read your comments on Nicholson, I was beginning to think disgruntled Magic fans were the only ones who see this in him

  3. connorchew - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    i don’t think rivers will actually be out of the league. he’ll find a home for a long time due to his name. That being said i think he’s one of the more overhyped players that came out of college. I always looked at him as a poor man’s lou williams.. just without half the skill.

  4. samonelastains - Jan 18, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    No mention of Teague? I think he’s done a great job as a rookie, albeit with low minutes.

    • D.J. Foster - Jan 18, 2013 at 2:30 PM

      Good point. I personally haven’t seen enough of him, so I wasn’t comfortable putting him into any of the tiers. We’ll check in on him on the next rookie report.

  5. ajek23 - Jan 18, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Spot on on eveything…. And for u all that dont see rivers on a nightly basis… Dude stinks up the joint… And he got drafted because of his name Doc and coach williams are buds frm their days wit the Knicks.. Rivers is the next Morrison…….

  6. chichi78 - Jan 18, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    I would argue that Drummond has the potential to be a perennial all star too. If he ever got proper mins he could easily average 17 ppg by next year to go along with 11+ rbs abd a few blocks and steals. He gets most of his pts off putbacks and alley oops. More than anything, he is fun to watch, and once his name becomes a household one, he will be voted in by the fans for a decade.

    • camnellum12 - Jan 19, 2013 at 4:17 AM

      Yeah, the writer totally dismissed Drummond. Call me crazy, but he’s had a better season than Anthony Davis, and he barely gets PT. No plays are ever called for Andre, but all he has to do is roll towards the basket and jump, he’s one of the top 3 athletic centers in the league right now (McGee and Jordan being the others). One of the better help defenders in the NBA too. I just wonder why does Lawrence insist on benching him? He may be benching Detroit’s future anchor….

  7. skinsfanwill - Jan 18, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    I personally think Henson will be better than Davis. If he develops a mid range jump shot, it’s over. With him and Sanders in the paint that defense could be great for a long time. Only if Jennings feels like passing the ball, that is.

  8. fanz928 - Jan 18, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Don’t agree

  9. someidiotfromouthereintheprojects - Jan 18, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    it is waaaay to early to start declaring who is a bust and who the future stars are. it’s the nba. in a year or 2, most of these kids will be completely different players, some for the better some for worse.

  10. 00maltliquor - Jan 18, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    D.J. Foster, you are the man!!

    Great analysis and pretty spot on IMO.

    Rivers has been awful, but I still have faith in him. He should have stuck around in college for another year or two, but I think he will eventually figure it out. I wouldn’t give up hope on him. Who cares about his name, even if he was never known as Doc’s son, I would still have the same opinion of him. Wasn’t like Doc was some mega-star anyways.

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