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2012 Draft Prep: How will the rookies fare?

Fantasy Writer
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At this point in the offseason, with two months remaining until the season begins and a full month until teams open their training camps, trying to project and rank players is a thorny business. There is still so much that can change, as players recover from injury and get set to battle for playing time in the preseason.

And that goes for when we are trying to rank players with an actual, proven NBA track record. Dealing with rookies, then, is seen at times as an exercise in futility, as there is often little correlation between production at the collegiate or international level and what a player actually does in the league, especially right away.

The talent pool is so shallow outside of the league that it makes it easy for even fringe NBA-caliber players to rise to the top and put up eye-popping numbers. Even Matt Bonner was a star in college and Europe. And he is a relative success story. The list of collegiate superstars who fizzled at the NBA level is long enough to be a column unto itself.

Still, we know enough about the projected minutes and abilities of the rookies to make a well-educated guess at which first-year players will be able to rise up and have an impact. This far from the season’s start, we can begin to break up the rookies into tiers, letting you know ahead of time who will be worth targeting and what role you can expect them to fill when you begin to put together your rankings for Draft Day.

Starting material

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Anthony Davis, C, New Orleans; Damian Lillard, G, Portland; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Charlotte; Bradley Beal, G, Washington

This is the easiest tier to figure out, since it is where we find the top three picks from the draft residing, almost in order -- Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal all went to teams that can badly use an injection of talent at their positions. The Hornets seem to be following a familiar blueprint with their blue-chip big man, as he has been surrounded by three-point bombers who should give him ample space to work around the basket, the same way Orlando did with a young Dwight Howard. His diverse skill set lends itself to production across the board, which is an attribute he shares with fellow Kentucky alum Kidd-Gilchrist, who will fill up the box score without dominating any one area.

Lillard is going to have the ball in his hands all of the time in Portland, as the Blazers pretty much cleared the decks at point guard to allow him the opportunity to run the show. Lillard was the star of the Summer League, averaging 26.5 points and 5.3 assists per game, while looking like the most NBA-ready rookie in the class. He already has a dynamic pick-and-roll partner in LaMarcus Aldridge and should be worth targeting beginning in Round 6 on Draft Day, as the top rookie after Davis. Beal and MKG slot in right behind him, though each might end up outperforming Lillard in Rotisserie formats.

On the border

Dion Waiters, G, Cleveland; Austin Rivers, G, New Orleans; Royce White, F, Rockets; Andre Drummond, F, Detroit

You could almost divide this tier into two sub-tiers, as Waiters and Rivers share questions about their abilities, but not roles, while Drummond and White enter the season as wild cards across the board. Rivers and Waiters both should fit into starting roles when the season begins, and if not, will earn them before long. The issue is, their respective freshman seasons in college left plenty of questions unanswered about their long-term NBA prospects. Rivers, in particular, will be asked to man the point at times, a role he may not be suited for, as his first instinct is to create for Austin Rivers.

Drummond and White are both incredibly intriguing talents with the potential to crack the starting lineup right away. Drummond is your prototypically raw big man, whose physical abilities wowed NBA executives as much as his mental makeup scared them away. White might be one of the most unique players in the league already, regardless of experience. White could be an in-shape Boris Diaw, with the ability to handle the ball, pass and shoot, but he is stuck on a roster that still has almost 20 players under contract for next season and which seemingly has no concrete direction. Drummond will be asked to handle the defensive duties next to Greg Monroe, as Detroit will almost certainly ease him in on offense. Once he gains center eligibility, Drummond could emerge as a worthwhile starter down the line, though his laughable free-throw shooting will hurt you in category-based formats.

Reservations

Kendall Marshall, G, Phoenix; Donatas Motiejunas, F, Houston; Harrison Barnes, F, Warriors; Terrence Ross, G, Toronto; Marquis Teague, G, Chicago; Terrence Jones, F, Houston; Andrew Nicholson, F, Orlando; Jared Sullinger, F, Boston; Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto; Thomas Robinson, F, Sacramento

For a of variety reasons, these guys represent the sort of players you might choose to take a late-round flier on as an upside play, but with the understanding you might be wasting a roster spot if you hold on too long. There is no shortage of intriguing talent in this group, as Marshall, Motiejunas, Barnes and Ross especially look like possible starters down the line, though they do have entrenched options in front of them on their respective teams.

Of the players in this group who might break out, I like Barnes, Sullinger and Nicholson, as they seem to be in the best position to produce the numbers you're likely looking for. Sullinger and Nicholson are looking at seemingly opposing outlooks for the season -- Sullinger is the big-school, lottery talent who fell in the draft to a team with tons of veteran depth looking to make another deep postseason push, while Nicholson hails from tiny St. Bonaventure and could see big minutes on a lottery-bound Magic squad.

If Only

You can toss the rest of the rookies in a pile here and pick whichever you want as a potential contributor, though you will want to leave them for the waiver wires, if possible. The remainder of the class will likely be limited to a few chances later in the season, once their teams look to rebuild and give minutes to younger players. The best of the rest include Alexey Shved , a flashy, and, at 23, surprisingly young combo guard from Russia who might help fill the playmaking hole left by Ricky Rubio’s continued recovery from knee surgery in Minnesota. John Jenkins brings three years of starting experience in the SEC and the ability to shoot tons of threes at a high success rate, though that skill is somewhat redundant as Atlanta’s roster is currently constructed. John Henson has the ability to be a game-changer on defense if he can only emerge from the glut of forwards in Milwaukee.

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Player News
Mavericks' Devin Harris to get X-ray on his hand
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:33 am ET) Mavericks guard Devin Harris will go for an X-ray on his hand, according to Mavs.com.

Harris banged his hand late in the contest, and will need more tests. The first scan on Harris' right thumb came back clean, but he will still go for X-rays. Harris played 28 minutes, scoring seven points during the contest. 


Wesley Matthews tears Achilles, will miss the rest of the season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:20 am ET) Trail Blazers forward Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the season, the team confirmed. Yahoo initially reported the injury

Matthews injured himself during Thursday's game against the Mavericks. Matthews went down with a non-contact injury during the third quarter. The team initially said Matthews was dealing with a foot injury. He was sent for an MRI in oder to determine the severity of the issue. 

Matthews is averaging 16.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. 


Trail Blazers' Nicolas Batum doubles up on Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:09 am ET) Trail Blazers Nicolas Batum posted a double-double on Thursday against the Mavericks.

Batum shot 6-12 from the field, including 2-5 from beyond the arc. He sunk his only free throw, finishing with 15 points. Batum set a new season-high on the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds during the contest. He also added six assists and one block. 


Blazers' Wesley Matthews to undergo MRI after injuring left foot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:18 am ET) Trail Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews suffered a left foot injury in Thursday's game against the Mavericks and will not return, the team announced.

Matthews went down with a noncontact injury early in the third quarter. He had to be helped off the court and couldn't put pressure on his left foot.

Matthews finished Thursday's game with four points on 1 of 5 shooting in 18 minutes. He'll undergo an MRI on the injured area, and the team holds "significant concern" about the severity of the injury, Yahoo! Sports reports.


Bulls SG E'Twaun Moore scores career-high 19 vs. Thunder
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Bulls shooting guard E'Twaun Moore scored a career-high 19 points on 9 of 10 shooting in his team's 108-105 win over the Thunder Thursday.

Moore was already in the midst of a fantastic shooting night when, with the Bulls down one point and four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, coach Tom Thibodeau called a play for the fourth-year player. Power forward Pau Gasol took the inbound pass and immediately kicked out to Moore, who buried a three-pointer with a player in his face to put the team up two with two seconds to play.

"I was aware of the time management," Moore said after the game, per the Associated Press. "I knew we only had four seconds (when the play started) and if he kicked it out, I knew there's not much time left. I just shot it with confidence."

Moore played 22 minutes in the victory, seeing 20 minutes of action for the first time since the end of December, and managed four rebounds, two steals and one block in addition to his excellent shooting performance and a quality defensive showing while matched up at times with Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.

"The way E'Twaun competed on every play, that goes a long way," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought we had a number of guys step up."

The Bulls will square off with the Pacers Friday.


Bulls PF Nikola Mirotic scores team-high 26 vs. Thunder
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic scored a team-high 26 points on 5 of 15 shooting, including 2 of 9 shooting from behind the arc, in his team's 108-105 win over the Thunder Thursday.

Mirotic did a majority of his damage at the free-throw line, making 14 of his 16 attempts from the charity stripe. He's seen an increase in playing time over the last three games, averaging 26 points during that stretch. Mirotic also chipped in eight rebounds, two assists and one block in 34 minutes in the win.

The Bulls will look for a third straight victory Friday against the Pacers.


Thunder PG Russell Westbrook scores 43 vs. Bulls Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook scored a team-high 43 points on 14 of 32 shooting, including 3 of 5 shooting from behind the arc, in his team's 108-105 loss to the Bulls Thursday.

While scoring 40 points can't be labeled a disappointment, Westbrook "only" racked up eight rebounds and seven assists, bringing his streak of four straight triple-doubles to an end. He also kicked in two steals while turning the ball over five times in 38 minutes of action.

"He's not happy that he scored a bunch of points and got a bunch of rebounds and assists and we lost the game," coach Scott Brooks said after the game, per the Associated Press. "Russell is about winning and about winning only."

Westbrook has delivered three straight performances with at least 40 points heading into Sunday's matchup with the Raptors.


Mavericks C Tyson Chandler in starting lineup Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Mavericks center Tyson Chandler (hip) is in the starting lineup for Thursday's matchup against the Blazers.

Chandler missed the team's previous three games with a hip injury, but coach Rick Carlisle said earlier Thursday that the center was "looking good" for the Thursday matchup. He has averaged 10.6 points and 11.7 rebounds in 56 games.

The Mavericks are 2 1/2-point underdogs in Portland Thursday.


Thunder rule center Steven Adams (hand) out of Thursday's game
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Thunder center Steven Adams has been ruled out of Thursday's game at Chicago, reports The Oklahoman.

Adams has not played since Feb. 8 after undergoing hand surgery, but coach Scott Brooks sounded optimistic that Adams would be available to play in Sunday's game against the Raptors. Center Enes Kanter has been starting in place of Adams.

The Thunder are 1-point favorites.


Wolves waive Glenn Robinson in order to sign Justin Hamilton
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) The Timberwolves waived guard Glenn Robinson on Thursday, the team announced. 

With an extra roster spot, the Timberwovles signed center Justin Hamilton. Robinson is averaging 1.2 points in 25 games this season.

Hamilton was recently waived by the Pelicans after spending the season with the Heat. In 20 games this season, Hamilton is averaging 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds. Coach Flip Saunders said he likes what Hamilton can offer the team.

"He's got a unique skill set, size and a great basketball IQ," Saunders said. 


 
 
 
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