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Now that the names from the 2014 NBA Draft Class have their teams, the next order of business is the 2014-15 NBA season. With this very talented group of freshmen, it’s really tough to pick who will have a banner season and win Rookie of the Year honors.
That being said, there are favorites and top picks, and here they are:
“Odds” Man Out
A report by SportsInsights.com on June 27, 2014 noted that the famous Bovada betting site has come up with their odds on the 2014-15 NBA Rookie of the Year winner. Here are the top 10:
|Jabari Parker||Milwaukee Bucks||+500|
|Andrew Wiggins||Cleveland Cavaliers||+550|
|Nerlens Noel||Philadelphia 76ers||+900|
|Julius Randle||Los Angeles Lakers||+900|
|Doug McDermott||Chicago Bulls||+1000|
|Elfrid Payton||Orlando Magic||+1000|
|Dante Exum||Utah Jazz||+1000|
|Nik Stauskas||Sacarmento Kings||+1200|
|Shabazz Napier||Miami Heat||+1200|
|Marcus Smart||Boston Celtics||+1200|
The above report said:
On Friday morning, Bovada posted their initial 2014-15 NBA Rookie of the Year odds with the more polished Parker (+500) listed as a slight favorite over the raw and athletic Wiggins (+550).It’s hardly a surprise to see the top two overall picks listed as the favorites, but many bettors may be surprised to see Nerlens Noel on this list — let alone holding down the number three spot. Last season Philadelphia selected the 6’11″ Noel with the 6th overall pick in the 2013 draft, however, Noel missed the entire season as he recovered from knee surgery.
Because he did not play in a single game last year, Noel is considered a rookie for the 2014-15 season. This is not unheard of as Blake Griffin, who was drafted in 2009, was eventually named the 2010 Rookie of the Year after breaking his left knee cap in a ’09 pre-season game.
It was a surprise to see Nerlens Noel high on that list despite his injury, but a bigger surprise was No. 24 pick Shabazz Napier, who was traded to Miami on draft night after being called “my favorite player in the draft” by Heat star LeBron James.
In fact, King James might have been happier than Napier. And he’s got a reason.
Why The Buzz On Shabazz?
Napier was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. He led UConn to the NCAA title twice, including 2014. Napier is considered NBA ready because he played four seasons with the Huskies. A report from HoopsHabit.com, from June 27, 2014, talks about Napier:
Despite his lack of size and strength (listed at 6’1” with a 6’3” wingspan and weighing in at 180 pounds), he is one the toughest, most competitive players on the court, as well as a leader. Plus, he can fill up the stat sheet.
And for those that like the advanced stats- he led the NCAA in win-shares with 9.1, while his 3.1 defensive win-shares was good enough to rank him among the top 10 in the nation.
With his numbers and the intangible called “a winning pedigree,” it’s no wonder why Napier is on that list. With Mario Chalmers’ free agency coming up, Shabazz could possibly be starting for the Heat as early as next season.
Apart from Napier, those on the list were all lottery picks.
Teach Me How To Doug-gie
The Lowest ranked lottery pick name on that list is No. 11 overall Doug McDermott, who was drafted by the Denver Nuggets and then traded, along with Anthony Randolph, to the Chicago Bulls for the rights to the Nos. 16 and 19 picks in the 2014 draft.
McDermott is the best scorer in the draft. In fact, he should teach the other guys on that list a lesson or two about shooting the rock. As a senior, McDermott shot 52.6 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 26.7 points per game.
McDermott ended his career as the fifth all-time best scorer in the NCAA with 3,150 total points. However, according to stat expert Neil Greenberg of the WashingtonPost.com on June 27, 2014, this is what all of us should realistically expect from McDermott:
Here is a good starting point as to what Bulls fans can expect out of McDermott in year one: 11.4 points per game on 44 percent shooting (33.6 percent from three-point range) along with five rebounds, three assists and one steal per game.
If Greenberg’s theories hold, and these are realistic expectations only, McDermott does have a shot at being Rookie of the Year.
The Celtics worked out Marcus Smart three times before the draft. They also have an All-Star point guard in Rajon Rondo, but the Cs drafted him anyways because there was no way they could pass on a sure “All-Star” guard.
Here’s what Danny Ainge sees with Smart and Rondo, per BostonGlobe.com:
I think Marcus and Rondo easily can be backcourt mates. I think Marcus is a guy that we felt could play with Rondo or Avery [Bradley] or Phil Pressey and play on the court at the same time. … Marcus is long enough to guard a small forward.
If Avery Bradley leaves, which now looks imminent, Marcus will play a lot of meaningful minutes for Boston. Ainge doesn’t end there, via the same report:
I think what I love most about Marcus is most his competitiveness. He’s a fierce competitor, he’s an instigator. Strong, physical, long arms, strong hands. I think he has a chance to be a really terrific point guard.
Without even going through Smart’s numbers, he’s going to be a vital cog for the Celtics next season.
One of Nik Stauskas’ assets is his swagger. In fact, more than the shooting and whatever all-around skills he possesses, it’s the confidence that he has that makes him one of the favorites to be Rookie of the Year. ESPN’s Jay Bilas said this in a report by MLive com on June 27, 2014:
Nik Stauskas, I think, is the best shooter in this draft. But he’s far more than a shooter. He’s got a complete offensive game. He’s got a swagger to him. He’s cocky, he’s confident, he’s totally unafraid.
McDermott has something to say about being the best shooter in the draft, but as to being fearless and confident, there is no doubt Stauskas has tons of that. What many kids don’t bring along to the NBA level is what will make Nik a star in the NBA.
Exum-ining The Pick
The Jazz were almost locked in on Noah Vonleh, but when Exum was available, there was no doubt they wanted his talents. Unlike the other picks who have NCAA stats, he has none, however Exum was dead serious on his NBA dream. As noted in a report by TheGuardian.com, Exum did his best to improve his one big weakness, which is his physique:
To address such concerns Exum has hit the gym, working with respected trainer Rob McClanaghan since February to ensure he is ready for the physical intensity of professional basketball. He even opted to forego watching the NBA All-Star weekend from the stands, so as to not disrupt his work-out regimen.
For an 18-year-old NBA player wannabe, the All-Star Weekend is a dream come true, but not for Dante. Obviously, he just doesn’t want to watch it, he wants to be in it next season.
The Magic needed a floor general, but they took Aaron Gordon instead of Exum. Then they traded Dario Saric, plus a couple of future picks, for Elfrid Payton. Payton’s stock had risen during the workouts as he showed incredible athleticism and great defense. Although he does not have a good outside shot, ESPN’s Chris Ford said this about Payton in the draft combine via TheAdvertiser.com on June 23, 2014:
He’s really one of my favorite players in this draft. I think he’s a sleeper here I think he really came under the radar screen by getting to play for Team USA. They brought him in because of his length and his ability to guard multiple position on the floor. He’s a terrific athlete… he’s not a great shooter. And that kind of was the knock against him. But (he) gets to the basket.
He wasn’t a sleeper, in fact he went No. 10 overall, much higher than everyone predicted. With his skill set and Jameer Nelson’s departure, Orlando might just become Payton’s place.
Let’s Get Ready To Randle
Randle was the highest Lakers pick since James Worthy in 1982, and with that entire void in the LA lineup, he’s expected to contribute immediately. GM Mitch Kupchak said this about Randle via ESPN.com on June 27, 2014:
He’s got big-time skills. He can put the ball on the floor. He can drive. He can get to the rim. I think he’s been criticized with his jump shot a little bit, but we feel with repetition, that’s not going to be a problem at all.
Jump shots aren’t just Randle’s problem, most rookies have that problem. The great ones develop a jump shot once they’re in the NBA. The Lakers know he can do that. Kupchak adds in the same report:
The bottom line is that he plays and competes at a very, very high level. He loves contact.
We heard he gave assistant coach Mark Madsen a hard time playing one-on-one during the workouts. If there was someone who loved contact more, it’s either Karl Malone or Mark Madsen. If Randle has the balls to rumble with Mad Dog Madsen, he’s NBA ready.
Wiggins vs. Parker: The Rivalry
However talented those eight other rookies are, the Rookie of the Year battle will most definitely be between the top two picks in the draft. Here are two swingmen who had equal chances of being the No. 1 overall pick.
Here’s how NBA.com sees both men, on June 27, 2014:
Andrew Wiggins, the Jayhawk bound for Cleveland, and Jabari Parker, the Dukie headed to Milwaukee, can deny the connection all they want, and they did. It’s done, though. A compare-contrast that will last for years, through Central Division winters and two teams trying to build into playoff regulars, the son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and the son of former NBA player Sonny Parker, one similarity on top of another.
With all the talk about similarities, Andrew Wiggins is touted as the one who has the most potential to be one of the greats, but his skill set is not as polished as Jabari Parker’s, whom the scouts and experts called the most NBA ready among the draftees. Parker was the sure thing while Wiggins was the limitless potential.
And on July 11, 2014, when Milwaukee squares off against Cleveland in the Vegas Summer League, it will officially become a rivalry, much like Bird vs. Magic in the ’80s. However, given the very little time between now and November when the NBA season officially begins, it does seem that Wiggins’ weakness is Parker’s strength, and that is the maturity, or lack of it in his game. Wiggins showed flashes of brilliance in college, like scoring 41 points in a game, but he was criticized for disappearing in some important games. Parker on the other hand showed a lot of consistency. In 35 college games, he scored in single digits only twice: going 2-of-10 shooting against Notre Dame on January 4 for just seven points, and 3-of-11 shooting against Viriginia on January 13 to score eight points. Apart from that, Parker scored double-digits in all other games, and at least 20 points 18 times.
Parker is more consistent than Wiggins at this point of their careers, and that’s the reason he is a better bet for Rookie of the Year in 2014-15.
Note From History
One interesting fact from history on the Rookie of the Year winner is that most have been lottery picks. From SportsInsights.com on June 27, 2014:
“Over the past decade rookie of the year’s have included Michael Carter-Williams (#11 in 2013), Damian Lillard (#6 in 2012) Kyrie Irving (#1 in 2011), Blake Griffin (#1 in 2009), Tyreke Evans (#4 in 2009), Derrick Rose (#1 in 2008) , Kevin Durant (#2 in 2007), Brandon Roy (#6 in 2006), Chris Paul (#4 in 2005) and Emeka Okafor (#2 in 2004). As you can see, outside Carter-Williams last season, no player have been named the Rookie of the Year after being drafted outside the top 6.”
In our list, Napier is the lowest draft pick at No. 24. Michael Carter-Williams, last year’s winner, was drafted No. 11. The other lowest ranked player to win the award was Mark Jackson in 1987-88. Action Jackson was drafted with the 18th pick, but aren’t all of them point guards? Good point, but it’s still a long shot for Napier.
McDermott is the other lowest drafted player on our list, and he was No. 11. So he and the rest of the guys on the list fit the bill, as history tells us. That being said, no matter how deep this draft class may be, it looks like a two-man battle right now between the top two picks, who are sure NBA stars.
In the end, it could come down to the maturity of Jabari Parker’s game, as he is the clear favorite at the moment to win the 2014-15 NBA Rookie of the Year.