Levi: Predicting All Kinds of Rookie Awards for 2014 Draft Class

brunoWhat a draft!

Adam Silver’s first as commissioner will be one to remember, even though it will be hard getting use to the no-booing part from the fans.

We had some nice trades, a 20th pick that made Fran Fraschilla say “He’s two years away from being two years away…”, and latest episode of the Sixers man-crush on an injured guy.

So now that we can attach faces with teams, let us skip ahead, as we so often do, and hand out some fake awards.

Rookie of the Year 

1. Jabari Parker – Obvious choice as Jabari steps in as the Bucks’ main scorer right away. He still has a lot of potential to grow into, but he is the most NBA-ready out of the 2014 gang.

2. Marcus Smart – A rebuilding Celtics team would have Smart on the court anyway you flip it. With Rondo or in his stead. Probably not overly efficient on offense, he should show his defensive upside right from the get-go.

3. Andrew Wiggins – I think it will take Wiggins a bit more time to develop, especially considering his team’s situation with the new coach (Mazal-Tov, David!) and an unrealistic owner. Still, being selected first comes with its own set of rules, so I expect him to be in the mix.

While this award typically would go to the rookie who played most minutes or had the highest PPG, I don’t find too much fault in that. There is a lot that goes into staying on the court and producing, even on a bad team, I don’t see it as a negative as much as simply deferring to the coaches on this. If a coach must have you on the floor, you are valuable. Case in point: Damian Lillard led the league in minutes as a rookie. The team’s record is also not a concern for me – the bad teams pick the better players, and you shouldn’t burden them with saving their franchise in their first season.

All-Rookie team

Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle.

Sudden Starter for a Contender

1. Shabazz Napier – Wasn’t that amazing? They traded up to get him, appeasing the most precious resource they have! LeBron should try getting something else now. Say, a pony, or maybe a new car. I’m only kidding, Napier fills the most gaping hole in the roster, and I would start him as soon as preseason. Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers didn’t disappoint – they are simply not good enough to start on a great team. I bet Napier is.

2. Kyle Anderson – Just when we thought the Spurs (with $9 million in cap space) couldn’t possibly have more great players who are undervalued by other teams – the entire league collectively dropped the ball and handed the champions yet another one. Now, if you think Pop would never start a rookie, let me say this – Pop couldn’t care less about league trends, because he is the one setting them. His line-ups are all about fits, schemes and game flow. If any contender can handle it, it’s Pop’s team.

3. Doug McDermott – The Bulls might be the x-factor in the east. And if all goes well for them, McBuckets may find himself as a key part of a team that can defend anyone, and needs him desperately as a scorer and floor-spacer. Of course, there’s an opposite scenario with Doug. We’ll get to it.

Most underwhelming first impression (commonly known as “the Anthony Bennett award”) 

1. Noah Vonleh – The tools are all in the box. But it may take a while for Charlotte to arrange them in a useful manner. With the team’s playoff aspirations, McBob and Zeller ahead in the rotation – Vonleh might get lost on the shelf, leaving us wondering “wait… that’s it?” Don’t give up on him to quickly though.

2. James Young – Young had his stock dropped a bit, and Boston grabbed him as an upside pick after they already had Smart. I think there’s less pressure on him to perform, and he will have to earn his spot in the rotation through effort and Defense (both not strengths of his). I’m not sure he is there yet.

3. Bruno Caboclo.  Can anything be more underwhelming that being two years away from being two years away?

The Michael Beasley’d

1. P.J Hairston.

2. Mitch McGary.

3. Jusuf Nurkic.

If you don’t know this story, you should. As the “RTP” (Rookie Transition Program) was held back in 2008, an incident accrued, and it featured Michael Beasley, along with Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur. At 2 a.m. the fire alarm went off in the hotel room of the three brand-new Rooks. When the police came they found Rio and Arthur, with two girls (against RTP rules) and the strong scent of marijuana (against state rules, in general…). The two were fined $20,000 each. And Beasley? He would admit later he was involved, sneaking out of the room without getting caught. He was fined $50,000. The funny thing was, he bragged about it to his friends, the word got out, and so he had to confess as the rumor spread. They were not the only rookies to get kicked out of RTP, but that story still trumps everything else that goes on there.

YouTube Approves

1. Zach LaVine – When he gets a step on his man – you rise an inch out of your seat. In transition, when he will fill the lane, you should watch him before he even gets the ball. He may not do much as a rookie, but what he will do, he’ll do with style.

2. Andrew Wiggins – Need I say more? Yeah, i probably do.. I’m going to guess it will take about three days of training camp before Wiggins realizes that he can backdoor from the corner when Kyrie has the ball, and he can get a dunk 50% of the time. I expect some lobs sprinkled in there as well. Transition was always his strong suit, so let’s hope Blatt lets the kids run loose.

3. Aaron Gordon / K.J. McDaniels – Two freakish athletes in a situation to get minutes, in markets that could really use something to cheer about.

Most Techs + Paycheck Hits (“The J.R Smith”)

1. Marcus Smart – Smart has a star mentality, and the Celtics hope he is good enough to deliver. He will go at people on both ends, and I suspect a good portion of those positions will end with either the coach, or the referee thinking: “Wait, you did what now?”

2. P.J. Hairston – The Charlotte Hornets (Hornets! Doesn’t that sound so much better?) desperately need his shooting, and they might be getting a bit more than they wish for from the former D-leaguer. The D-league, if you never watched (and I’m not saying you should), is basically the wild wild west with sneakers. And once he makes a few shots, he may let you know about it. Light’em up, P.J.!

3. Nik Stauskas – we all know the kid from Michigan can shoot, but I’m not sure we all know how delightfully cocky he is. He will get his minutes in Sacramento, and he will hoist them up, possibly irritating some people while doing so.

The GM Hunter award 

1. Gary Harris – I was not high on him as much as most mocks were, but ending up in Denver after all, Harris will get a shot to prove a lot of guys wrong and he may have the type of edge to do it.

2. Cleanthony Early – If he cracks the rotation of a desperate Knicks team, watch out.

3. Nick Johnson/Spencer Dinwiddie – Both feel like they have a place in the league, and I agree. Dinwiddie is going to a favorable situation for a coach who believes in him, so maybe he could make an impact in his first year.

D-League Staple 

1. Zach LaVine – Coach Flip Saunders will have his hands full with this guy. The more talent you have, the more frustrating it gets when you are doing something wrong. I think he’ll bounce back and forth between the two leagues until he gets it.

2. Damien Inglis – I loved the pick from the Bucks, Inglis middle name is “upside” (I know… French people, right?). He has the physical tools right now, but he is still raw and I assume will get a run in the D-league his first season,

Crashing head first into the Rookie wall

1. Julius Randle – I’m guessing he will be asked to do a little too much in his first year as a Laker. Add that to finding out about less glamorous side of being glamorous and all the pressure that will build up on yet another bad Lakers team – I predict his dropoff will be the most visible.

2. Jusuf Nurkic – The biggest dude in the draft is going to feel the grind of 82 games, and it’s going to take its toll on his body.

3. Jabari Parker – The new franchise guy will be thrown in the deep water and told to learn to swim. There are real questions around the league about his body type and whether they will try to make him a slimmed-down SF or keep him at the PF spot.

Coach’s pet 

1. T.J. Warren – I see a love connection here. Coach Jeff Hornacek will fall for what this kid offers on the court, his feel for the game can go such a long way in the Suns system, especially if they give him the starting SF spot and let P.J Tucker go as a restricted free agent.

2. Elfrid Payton – Coach Jacque Vaughn will look at Payton and see himself, at first. And after a while he’ll see the talent attached to Payton’s attitude and will like him even more.

3. Marcus Smart – In time, he will be Brad Stevens’ dream come true on defense.

Coach’s pet peeve

1. Doug McDermott – Just try and picture Thibs and McDermott in a defense practice.

2. Zach LaVine. – “The D-league will make a man out of you!”

3. Marcus Smart – At times, he will be Brad Stevens’ worst nightmare on offense.

Oren Levi is a 27 die-hard NBA fan, and an amateur scout and writer. Follow him on Twitter.




  1. says

    I love Gordon. It’s tough to predict (guess) the situation in Orlando. They have a lot of young wings with interesting skill sets and I’m not sure if they are even trying to make the playoffs. Gordon’s first year will be affected by lots of different things not related to how he performs. The magic shooting coach is the most influential staff member all of a sudden, with him, Payton, Oladipo and Mo.

  2. gsw_hoops says

    All the 4th pick in the draft gets is that he’s athletic? Wow. Tough crowd. Watched him for four years in high school and one at Arizona. The only thing holding Gordon back will be that he doesn’t turn 19 until training camp starts. I predict that he’ll end up about 6-9 235 by year three and the hardest worker on the court.

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