Checking in with the NBA Rookies

Last year, college basketball seemed to be at an all-time high. There were a number of 18-year-olds who were set to dominate the college scene, and they did not disappoint. Their journey in the NBA, though, has not been quite as successful. This year’s rookie class had a lot of talk surrounding them, and may not be living up to it.

The 2014 NBA Draft was one of the most hyped drafts in a long time. Many were comparing it to the 2003 draft that produced Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, who all were selected in the top five. Some of the big names from the 2014 draft were one-and-done superstars such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embid and Aaron Gordon.

With such hype surrounding them, those players had to be spectacular. But that is not the word people are using to describe them. Unspectacular seems more like it fits. Many expected the rookies to come in and be dominant forces in the league like Lebron, Carmelo, and Wade did in their rookie seasons.

Jabari Parker, the second pick in the 2014 draft out of Duke, was the best rookie in the class up to this point in the season. I say was, because he went down with a torn ACL this week. He was second among rookies in scoring with 12.3 PPG. He was also a key factor in turning the Milwaukee Bucks into a playoff- caliber team. He was also shooting an impressive 49% from the field, but only 69% from the free throw line.

Andrew Wiggins was the first pick in the draft in June out of Kansas. In a well-documented saga, he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but traded to Minnesota in order to bring Kevin Love to Cleveland and give Lebron James an impressive supporting cast. Wiggins, along with fellow rookie Zach LaVine out of UCLA (13th pick), have not even been able to become bright spots on a bad team. At an abysmal 5-19 record, the Timberwolves are sitting firmly in last place in the Western Conference. Wiggins is third on the team with 12.6 PPG, while LaVine is sitting at ninth with 9.1 PPG. Wiggins is shooting 39% from the field and 70% from the charity stripe, while LaVine is also shooting 39% from the field, but 82% from the line.

K.J. McDaniels out of Clemson has been the biggest surprise in the draft. Although his numbers aren’t eye- popping, he is the most athletic player in the rookie class and his impressive blocks and high-flying dunks have shocked everyone. There was very little risk in McDaniels once he got to the NBA. He was the last pick in the draft by the cellar-dweller Philadelphia 76ers, and not much was expected of him. He is one of the lowest paid players in the NBA at $ 507,336, but is producing 9.5 PPG, 4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks as a 6’6” shooting guard.

The biggest disappointment out of the draft class so far has been the injury bug. It has bitten the rookie class hard. Of the Top 11 picks in the draft, seven of them have missed time due to injury. Of those seven, four are expected to be out for the season. Those players include Jabari Parker (ACL),  Joel Embid (foot), Aaron Gordon (foot),  and Julius Randle (tibia).

Although it is far too early to be disappointed in this draft class, they have a lot of growing they will have to undergo to be able to be compared to the talent of the 2003 class. A lot of questions will be answered when the 11 players who have gone down get healthy, and ensuring that no one on a bottom-dweller team has lost any confidence.


*Section Photo credit to Nick Laham, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Brace Hemmelgarn, USA Today Sports. 

“I Can’t Breathe”
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