Make sure to keep an eye out for these rookies. Although the majority of them aren’t starting, they can definitely do some damage and take over a starting spot by the end of the season.
9. Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
The Cavaliers lucked out by having two top five picks in the NBA draft. With the fourth overall pick they selected Tristan Thompson out of the University of Texas. Many people criticized Dan Gilbert and the Cavs for taking him that early, but they felt that he brings so much to the table and could not let him go. At 6’8, Thompson has amazing athletic ability with an enormous wingspan and vertical leap. Currently he is on a team that also has Samardo Samuels, Anderson Varejao, Ryan Hollins, and Luke Harangody, but that should not take away from his playing time this season. Hopefully Tristan is able to bring his defensive intensity to Cleveland.
8. Iman Shumpert (New York Knicks)
Even though he is sidelined for 2-4 weeks after an MCL injury in the season opener, expect to see Iman’s name a lot as a key role player for the Knickerbockers this season. The Knicks lost Chauncey Billups to the Los Angeles Clippers, leaving the point guard position wide open. Iman Shumpert is a mold of these new generation point guards that are fast, athletic, and turnover prone, making him perfect to fit into Mike D’Antoni’s quick transition offense.
7. Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili getting old, the Spurs had to find some young star power to take their place in the near future. Leonard was an athletic force last year at SDSU, averaging 15 points and 10 boards for the Aztecs. Leonard is a double-double machine waiting to happen in the NBA. Using his 6’7 frame to its fullest, Kawhi is an outstanding rebounder, but the only flaw to this big man’s game is his lack of a low post game. I see this improving tremendously with Tim Duncan as a mentor. With only Richard Jefferson standing in his way, expect to see Kawhi Leonard get some serious minutes this year for the Spurs.
6. Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons)
Brandon Knight has almost a Rajon Rondo feel to him being an extremely elusive point guard out of Kentucky. The Pistons selected him eighth overall, hoping that he would bring back that jolt their franchise once had with a young Billups leading their team. Knight has amazing scoring ability for being a point guard as he is able to create his own shot. However, Knight needs to clean up his ball handling ability this year in order to be considered one of the elite.
5. Alec Burks (Utah Jazz)
Ever since the Jazz traded away Deron Williams, they have not been the same. In my opinion Burks is one of the most under rated players in this years draft class, as he possesses amazing NBA qualities. He is able to get to the rim at will, create his own shot, and plays great defense. Alec Burks might be exactly what the Jazz need to lift the spirits of a once dominant and point guard led team. I would not be surprised to see his name up in the race later in the year for rookie of the year.
4. Jimmer Fredette (Sacramento Kings)
Jimmer, coming from BYU, is definitely one of the most interesting rookies in the NBA this season. Many did not think that he had the ability to make it in the pros, but now after watching him in his preseason games, people are calling him the Tim Tebow of the NBA. Jimmer is a scoring machine, which should compliment the King’s good frontcourt led by JJ Hickson and Demarcus Cousins. I would not be surprised to see him average at least 13 points this year and help put the Kings back on the map. The only thing that he could use work on is his ball handling strength. If he can master that, every team in the NBA will scheming their defenses to stop this new found machine.
3. Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Instantly after LeBron James left the Cavs and Cleveland in shambles, the city has been in desperate need of a star. With all the hype coming out of Duke and being selected number one in the draft, Kyrie Irving better be ready to carry an insane workload. Even though Kyrie has amazing potential, many wonder if he is ready for the NBA. At Duke last season was plagued with a toe injury, leaving many people to doubt his ability to play.
2. Derrick Williams (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Derrick Williams has a lot of expectations considering his lofty draft selection, but I believe that he is the most talented player to come out of this year’s draft. Being a product of the Arizona Wildcats, Williams can do just about anything you ask of him. He can grind it out in the post and fight for rebounds, but what makes him so special is his ability to shoot the basketball. The T’Wolves are in desperate need of a scorer to help compliment their strong rebounding up front, which Williams can hopefully deliver for them. Derrick Williams is an extremely athletic and exciting player to watch, and I expect to see him all over Sports Center making Blake Griffin like plays.
1. Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats)
Kemba is just a natural talent when it comes to playing the game of basketball. Kemba has outstanding ball handling skills, a great jumper, can get to the rack at will, and can also facilitate the ball. What makes Kemba Walker so good though is his skill of being a pure leader and his passion for the game. Last season he lead the UConn Huskies to a NCAA championship, and the Bobcats expect for him to carry over his leadership traits to the NBA. Many were shocked to see that he fell so low in the draft, getting selected at ninth overall, but if Kemba has the tenacity and heart that I think he does, he wont let that bother him and he will play with a chip on his shoulder. Kemba Walker is also the most clutch performer in the 2011 draft class, so expect to see him hitting some sweet buzzer beater to win some games. Walker has been given the keys to Charlotte, it is now up to him to carry this franchise and turn it into something great.
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