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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
Pelicans' Omer Asik receives stitches to neck during Monday's game
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2015) Pelicans center Omer Asik required stitches to close a laceration on his neck, reports Fox Sports.

Asik suffered the laceration near the end of the first half and went to the locker room for treatment. However, the laceration will not prevent him from playing in the second half.


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(4/20/2015) Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic was forced to exit Monday's 91-82 playoff win over the Bucks with what the team announced to be a strained left quadricep.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mirotic was seen limping in the postgame locker room. ESPN Chicago reports that a large knot could be seen around his knee. 

Mirotic was injured late in the fourth quarter after a collision with O.J. Mayo. He was also involved in a skirmish with Zaza Pachulia that resulted in Pachulia's second technical foul and subsequent ejection. 

Mirotic scored eight points and brought down four rebounds in the game. 


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(4/20/2015) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 31 points in Monday's 91-82 win over the Bucks in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. 

Butler scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, which included sinking three three-point field goals. The first three-pointer tied the game up at 74-74 and Butler took over from there. His third three of the quarter put the Bulls up 89-80 with 2:20 left in the game. 

Butler also had nine rebounds and two assists. He went 10 of 19 from the field and 8 of 14 from the free-throw line. He finished 3 of 9 from behind the arc. 


Bucks center Zaza Pachulia ejected from Game 2 on Monday
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(4/20/2015) Bucks center Zaza Pachulia was ejected from Game 2's loss to the Bulls after receiving his second technical foul of the game, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Pachulia got into a confrontation with Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic in the fourth quarter and both players were assessed technical fouls. Pachulia scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds before being ejected.


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(4/20/2015) Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans will play while Jrue Holiday has been ruled out of Monday's Game 2 matchup against the Warriors, the team announced

Evans was able to participate in pre-game warmups. He's dealing with a bone bruise in his knee sustained in Saturday's Game 1 loss to Golden State. Evans came into the day questionable and was a game-time decision.

Holiday is dealing with lingering pain from a stress reaction in his leg. He was hopeful of playing but was also deemed questionable and a game-time decision. In games Holiday has played in since returning from the injury, he's seen his minutes limited. 


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(4/20/2015) Bucks forward Jabari Parker said he will not play in this offseason's summer league, according to Racine Journal Times

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(4/20/2015) After missing 17 games due to a calf injury, Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said he's starting to find his shooting rhythm, reports NBA.com.

"The days in between last game and this game, I was able to get some work in, get my conditioning right, get the work in," Crawford said. "It just felt normal."

Crawford scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting during Game 1's win over the Spurs.

"To be out five weeks and not be able to do anything but watch, I mean, you can take some good things from it, but it was more bad than good for me," Crawford said. "You want to be out there so bad and help your team and just be part of the guys."


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Parsons has a right knee injury but was able to play 37 minutes in Saturday's playoff-opener, a 118-108 loss to the Rockets. Harris has an injury to his big toe and was unable to finish Saturday's game.

“They did not do anything today on the court,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “They did lifting and some rehab work. They’re listed as questionable and see where we are tomorrow.”

Both Parsons and Harris are listed as questionable for Game 2 on Tuesday. 


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(4/20/2015) Bucks forward Jared Dudley is listed as probable for Monday’s game at Chicago, reports the Bulls radio play-by-play announcer.

"He can play," coach Jason Kidd said, per NBA.com. 

Dudley is dealing with a left foot issue, but he was able to play 12 minutes in Game 1's loss to the Bulls.

The Bulls are 7 1/2-point favorites over the Bucks in Game 2. 


Bulls G Derrick Rose (knee) has no minutes restriction
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Rose was able to play 27 minutes and scored 23 points in Game 1's victory over the Nets. While Rose will not be limited, Thibodeau said the team remains cautious with Rose making his way back from knee surgery.


 
 
 
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