The 2013 NBA draftees will enter the league next year with promise and hope. Their teams likewise will dream of their new draft pick leading them to the promise land. Of course, everything has to start somewhere and in their rookie years, most NBA teams would settle on a consistent season proving that these players will stick around the NBA for a while.
With that in mind, this would be a good time to list who I believe are the top five rookies that have a chance at winning the rookie of the year award.
5. Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings, Shooting Guard
With Tyreke Evans leaving the Kings for the New Orleans Pelicans, McLemore suddenly finds himself as the clear starting shooting guard for Sacramento. Projected as a top five pick, he somehow slipped all the way down to seventh which was a great steal for the Kings.
McLemore is an elite scorer, he can shoot it from the three point line, he can score off the dribble, he can get to the paint and finish. If there is one thing that McLemore will definitely do in the NBA, it will be putting up points in bunches. On a weak Sacramento team that will be looking to rebuild and develop their youth, McLemore will have a longer leash than most rookies so he will feel much more free to take chances.
The only reason I don’t have McLemore any higher is that he doesn’t do anything else extremely well. He isn’t a very good rebounder, defender or passer so his scoring will need to be effective for him have a good season. If his efficency dips, a lot of critics will pan him for not effecting the game in any other ways.
4. Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers, Forward
While everyone was caught off guard when Anthony Bennett was drafted first overall by the Cavaliers, it does not mean he isn’t a NBA ready player. Position wise, he is a bit of an in betweener, he can play both the power forward and small forward. In Cleveland, odds are that he will see a lot of time at the 3, lined up next to fellow Canadian Tristen Thompson.
Offensively, Bennett is a threat in transition, he is explosive and quick for his size and can finish at the rim extremely well. He will throw down a lot of exciting dunks and get the fans to their feet. His game is not limited to running down in transition though, he has range all the way down to the three point line and shot form looks nice. When matched up at the power forward position, he will be able to use his above average dribbling skills to get past his man because he will often have the speed advantage against the bigger man.
Bennett is also a good rebounder who has a knack for getting where he needs to be to get the ball. Rebounding is one of those skills that almost always translates to the NBA.
Where Bennett will struggle in the NBA will be defensively. He is not particularly adept at picking up offensive systems as a defender and is often beaten too easily. A lot of it has to do with a waning effort from time to time of the defensive end and he will need to improve that to be an all star caliber player.
3. Otto Porter, Washington Wizards, Forward
This was probably the easiest pick any NBA team had to make. The Wizards had a guy who was born and has spent his entire life in the DC area fall into their laps and it made sense to take this young man.
If anything, Porter will benefit from having a great partner on the wing in Bradley Beal, who can score from anywhere in the offensive end and having an awesome and quickly developing point guard in John Wall.
Porter is a very versatile player who does a little bit of everything well. He can spot up and shoot threes or score off the dribble. He rebounds well thanks to his great motor and consistent effort level and he is an excellent passer for a forward. His best asset will be his ability to defend his position at the NBA level from day one. The Wizards won’t have to worry about coaching him more than any other player because he is one of the most mature and intelligent rookies coming into the NBA this year.
His one drawback is that odds are, he will not post any staggering numbers. He will be very consistent and reliable but the chances are he will not have any games where he truly impresses with his raw skill. That will hurt him in the eyes of the voters which is unfortunate but his teammates will recognize his abilities.
2. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers, Center
Noel was the consensus first overall pick and it was a shock to everyone when he fell all the way down to sixth due to fears about his abilities to avoid injuries. After being traded on draft day to Philadelphia, Noel seemed devastated at having been thrown by the way side by a lot of NBA teams.
While it must have hurt on draft day, this may end up being a blessing in disguise for Noel. He will now arrive to the NBA with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. He is currently still recovering from his ACL injury but should be ready to take the court once the NBA season is set to start.
As a player, Noel will have the most impact as a defender. He is an elite shot blocker who can go up and swat balls away with both hands. This is a rare skill for big men who tend to only use their dominant hand to block shots. Being able to use either hand makes it easier for Noel to come over from either side of the paint on the weak side and defend a shot. His athleticism and quickness also makes him a good on ball defender for a player his height and will allow him to do well in situations like the pick and roll.
Offensively, he is still very raw but is already an excellent passer. His vision is almost like a guard’s and he can put the ball on a string when it comes to passing it in transition. He will open up a lot of easy opportunities for his teammates in the half court. As a scorer, Noel will do most of his damage in transition where he can use his speed and explosiveness to finish at the rim. In the half court, his game will most be reliant on hook shots and open dunks which is about where his abilities stop as a scorer for the time being.
Noel will put up great rebounding and block numbers. He should have a double digit points average too which means he might end up averaging a double double in his rookie season. That would be genuinely impressive considering the doubts people have placed on Noel in the last month.
1. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic, Shooting Guard
Oladipo is an excellent player. Along with Otto Porter, he is probably the smartest basketball player in his draft class. His basketball IQ is off the charts and he does not require much coaching. Oladipo is the type of player that can look at a play once and then go out and execute it flawlessly.
Another big advantage for Oladipo is that he is probably by far the best on ball defender coming into the NBA. He has active hands, understands how to read and play the passing lanes in order to come up with easy steals. When it comes to his on ball defense, he is extremely adept at sealing his man off and not allowing him to get to the spots he wants. Oladipo is also very good at ending defensive possessions by boxing out his man and grabbing loose balls coming off the rim. As a shooting guard, his ability to rebound the ball will be valuable to the Magic because he will outrebound his position almost exclusively.
Offensively, Oladipo is extremely athletic and will get a lot of his points in transition. He can finish at the rim with both hands and through contact. Oladipo is also a good ball handler and can break down his man in an isolation situation which is how he will score a lot of his points as he develops his shooting stroke a little bit more.
Ultimately, Oladipo will have a lot of responsibilities with Orlando and will play a huge role in their future. Because of this, he will get a lot of offensive touches and exposure. That combined with his amazing defensive abilities should be enough for him to take away the rookie of the year away from Noel in what should be a tight race.
Update: As pointed out by a user, Otto Porter was born in St Louis, Missouri and he played his high school ball in MO as well. That is my mistake.