The Pulse of the NBA
New York, NY (Sports Network) -
With the NBA season tipping off, the preseason provided a little glimpse into the future, especially when it comes to rookie play.
Let's take a look at how the lottery picks fared, and what it may mean for the future.
1. Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets)
The former University of Kentucky star showed the skill set that made him the consensus number one pick in the draft.
Davis averaged 14.9 points, 9.9 rebounds (including 17 against the Mavericks), and 1.6 blocked shots.
There's little doubt Davis will be a factor on the boards and in the paint defensively, but Hornets coach Monty Williams sees the potential for a really good offensive game.
"He's shown some things that I started to see in workouts that I didn't see in college," Williams said. "He's got a nice handle and he can shoot the ball. I think someday he's going to be able to shoot for range consistently."
If Davis puts up representable offensive numbers, it'll be difficult for any other first-year player to wrestle away the Rookie of the Year award.
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats)
A weak outside shot, including poor mechanics, was the one knock on Kidd- Gilchrist coming out of college. The Bobcats staff is working on taking the hitch out of his jump shot, but poor shooting numbers were a problem in the preseason.
He shot just 32 percent from the field and 67 percent from the line in eight games.
But the scoring column is not what prompted Charlotte to take Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick, it's his ability to do whatever it takes to win, which he did in high school and college.
He will defend and rebound at a high level and be a vocal leader. And with his great athleticism and never-ending motor, I'm sure he'll do an adequate job on the offensive end.
Keep in mind, even with his shot being a liability, he was a better foul shooter than Harrison Barnes last season (Kidd Gilchrist 74 percent, Barnes 72 percent), with Barnes being the one who is supposed to have such a sweet stroke.
3. Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard's best game was his first game, in which he had 18 points in 27 minutes against the Hornets. It sort of went downhill from there as his scoring dropped in each of the next seven games, culminated by a zero- point effort against the San Antonio Spurs in the preseason finale, when he missed all six shots from the field.
In all, Beal shot 38 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range. On the bright side, he shot 88 percent from the foul line, connecting on 21- of-24 attempts.
Beal has a reputation as a great shooter, even being compared at times to Ray Allen back to his high school days. But that talent hasn't quite translated on the floor yet. He shot 34 percent from 3-point range at Florida and really never found his stroke last season.
I believe confidence will be a big key for Beal. He has to believe in himself and be aggressive. And aside from his offensive abilities, he's an excellent rebounder and has some decent playmaking skills.
4. Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers)
The former Syracuse shooting guard didn't make a very good first impression with the Cavs and coach Byron Scott by being out of shape for the Las Vegas Summer Rookie League.
Waiters was back in game shape for the preseason, but you couldn't tell it by his play.
In seven games, he averaged 8.6 points in 22 minutes, and shot just 34 percent from the floor. In fairness to Waiters, he isn't just adjusting to play in the NBA, but playing off the ball with Kyrie Irving running the show.
"Playing without the ball (has been the biggest adjustment)," Waiters said. "In college, I pretty much had the ball in my hands all the time. It's new to me. I'm playing off the ball, coming off screens and trying to create my shot. I've just got to continue to keep working."
Coach Byron Scott likes the fact that in addition to his scoring abilities, Waiters has the ability to create shots for teammates.
"I saw him enough in college that he really sees the floor well," Scott said. "He's got great court vision. He finds guys on the perimeter and in the paint. We have a good dilemma with two players (along with Irving) that can create for himself and his teammates. We can put the ball in their hands almost every other play and they can do something good with it."
5. Thomas Robinson (Sacramento Kings)
It was a pretty uneventful preseason for the former Kansas star and it's likely he'll start the regular season coming off the bench.
In six games, Robinson averaged 21 minutes, but only played 20-plus minutes in two contests. He averaged 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds.
There was some talk during the preseason that Robinson might see some time at small forward. So I have to ask why would you want take a ferocious rebounder away from the paint and why would you want someone to play the "three" who doesn't have the offensive skill set?
With Robinson's non-stop motor, his athleticism, and his excellent rebounding skills, I don't have much doubt that he'll have a very productive career.
6. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
The former Weber State point guard, who was the co-MVP of the Las Vegas Summer Rookie League along with the Memphis Grizzlies' Josh Selby, continued to impress in the preseason, too.
Lillard was the leading scorer among rookies, averaging 16.2 points along with 5.8 assists. And unlike many of his counterparts, he shot the ball pretty well, hitting on 46 percent of his shots from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range. And as he did in college, he was dead on from the line, shooting 95 percent (19-of-20)
As much as the likes of fellow lottery picks Beal, Harrison Barnes and Terrence Ross were touted for their sweet strokes, Lillard may be the best shooter among the lot.
He also exhibited pretty good point guard skills, and should be very dangerous as a passer and shooter in the pick-and-roll.
I think Lillard is the one player who has the capability to take the Rookie of the Year Award away from Anthony Davis.
7. Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)
It was a pretty steady preseason for Barnes, who averaged 10.4 points in 25 minutes per game, while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 48 percent from 3-point range.
He showed a little more ability to create his own shot, which was a problem in college, but still didn't do much in the way of creating shots for his teammates, as he averaged 0.8 assists in eight preseason games.
If Barnes doesn't eventually show he can consistently break guys down off the dribble, I think the Warriors will be disappointed with this pick.
8. Terrence Ross (Toronto Raptors)
Some minor health issues limited Ross to just five preseason games, so it's hard to read much into his performance. He averaged 6.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 19 minutes per game.
Even without much to go on in the preseason, I thought this was a terrible selection by the Raptors with the eighth pick, and it made even less sense when they overspent for another two-guard in free agent Landry Fields
9. Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
The Pistons have to love what they saw out of their 19-year-old big man. There's no doubt about Drummond's tremendous athleticism and physical attributes, but it didn't translate to a very productive season in his one year at the University of Connecticut.
The 6-foot-10, 270-pounder didn't see a whole lot of playing time in the preseason, averaging just under 18 minutes per game, but he certainly made his presence felt.
In eight games, Drummond averaged 9.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks, and had a pair of double-doubles as he put up 19 points and 10 rebounds in just 25 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks and had 13 points and 10 rebounds in only 19 minutes versus the Atlanta Hawks.
Coach Lawrence Franks is already a big believer in Drummond.
"The great thing about Andre, why we have such huge faith in what he's going to be, is that he's a phenomenal young man," Frank said. "He's as coachable of a guy as we have. So anything that he struggles with, we have unbelievable faith that he's going to get it because of the strength of his character."
10. Austin Rivers (New Orleans Hornets)
It was a bit of a painful preseason for Rivers, as he sprained his ankle on two separate occasions. The most recent was against the Miami Heat on Oct. 26, just four days after he initially injured the ankle against the Dallas Mavericks.
While he was on the court, he had a real hard time putting the ball through the basket. Rivers was 16-of-59 from the floor (27 percent) and hit just two of his 17 attempts from 3-point range (12 percent).
With the Hornets plans to re-sign free agent guard Eric Gordon, I didn't quite get the selection of Rivers, and didn't think he deserved to go this high, too.
11. Meyers Leonard (Portland Trail Blazers)
The 7-foot-1 center had his rookie moments, but like he did in the Las Vegas Summer League, Leonard showed a real good feel for the game.
He's very adept at running the pick-and-roll, and he and Lillard should be a very effective duo.
Leonard is very athletic, and look for him to beat his fellow bigs down the floor.
In his first preseason start against the Phoenix Suns, he put up 14 points and eight rebounds in just 21 minutes, and impressed teammate Wesley Matthews.
"He's got a lot to offer," Matthews said. "When he plays with energy, he alters the game and he can make plays. We're going to be seeing a lot of that this season."
In seven preseason games, Leonard averaged 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 16 minutes. The two standout statistics were his field goal and foul- shooting percentages. Leonard shot 76 percent from the floor (16-for-21) and 87 percent from the line (13-for-15).
12. Jeremy Lamb (Oklahoma City Thunder)
The most memorable moment for Lamb came off the court as he was dealt to the Thunder in the trade which brought James Harden to Houston.
So in the blink of an eyelash, the former Connecticut star goes from a young, lottery-bound team to a championship contender.
After playing 20-plus minutes in his first three preseason games, Lamb played only a total of 31 minutes over the final three. Coincidentally, his first and best game came against the Thunder, in which he had 12 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes.
I think the trade will help Lamb's development. Playing with great players will make the game easier for him and speed up the learning curve.
I thought Lamb should have gone higher in the draft, and consider him a better talent than Harrison Barnes (seventh pick) and Austin Rivers (10th pick).
13. Kendall Marshall (Phoenix Suns)
The former North Carolina point guard, who was second in the nation in assists last season, will have to get accustomed to spending a lot more time on the bench than he did with the Tar Heels.
Marshall played in four of the Suns' seven preseason games, and probably won't see a whole lot of action in the regular season as he's third on the point guard depth chart behind starter Goran Dragic and veteran Sebastian Telfair.
When the Suns drafted Marshall, their point guard situation was muddled with Steve Nash's impending free agency, but I still thought it was a real reach to take him at 13, considering his liability on defense and weak jump shot.
14. John Henson (Milwaukee Bucks)
Much like Marshall, his former North Carolina teammate, Henson will probably not get significant playing time this season with veterans Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova ahead of him on the depth chart.
Henson's preseason action was curtailed when he suffered a left knee sprain and bone bruise on Oct. 16 against the Chicago Bulls. He missed the final five games, but managed to show a glimpse of what he might deliver in his limited action prior to the injury.
In his second game against the Pistons, Henson had 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks in 27 minutes.
One of his biggest challenges in the NBA will be to bulk up his 220-pound frame.
"I've heard it my whole life pretty much," Henson said. "It's nothing new. There are going to be some nights where there are bigger guys and some nights with smaller guys. I'll be ready for it. All I've been working on is getting stronger. It's a process, but I'm getting there."
Lost in Henson's defensive and shot-block abilities is a developing offensive game. He's worked on his mid-range jumper and has a very effective jump hook. Plus, he shoots with either hand.
Even though Henson might not get the chance to make an immediate impact, I liked this pick for the Bucks at the bottom of the lottery.