The NBA draft has come and gone, and those that were selected are now ready to embark on a journey they have waited for their entire lives. The class of 2014 was a very deep, and only time will tell how special it will ultimately be. Which rookies will show out in their first season? Which will fade cound could be bound for Europe? With the draft behind us and regular season rapidly approaching, it’s time for some bold predictions for the 2014-15 rookie class.
Most Likely to Win Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
You couldn’t dream of a better match than Parker and the Bucks. Milwaukee desperately needed a star and after years of drafting projects, it was high time the Bucks front office selected someone who is ready to contribute from day one. It’s also rare that they found a player who has expressed public enthusiasm to wear a Milwaukee uniform; Parker is a native of nearby Chicago.
Parker became the Bucks’ franchise cornerstone upon hearing his name called by Adam Silver on draft night. There’s a chance he wins Rookie of the Year going away. Parker is the most NBA-ready player in this class and the potential to score 20 points every time he steps foot on the floor. He landed on the perfect team for his skill-set, too, as his well-known defensive deficiencies will be somewhat masked by the length of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Sanders, and John Henson. That trio will be enough to hide Parker on defense. You have to hark back to the days of Ray Allen since the Bucks had a young player or Parker’s caliber; here’s hoping he develops into a similar talent but stays in Milwaukee to do it.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart
Rookie Most Likely to Surprise: Dante Exum, Utah Jazz
The famed Australian mystery man, Exum landed on the right team with the Utah Jazz. He joins a young squad that will have the ability to learn together a la the Oklahoma City Thunder. Am I saying the Jazz are on the Thunder’s path to greatness? No, but they have built a solid foundation that could develop into a quality team in the next couple of years.
Last year, Michael Carter-Williams was the surprise of the rookie class. On a young team, Exum will have the ample opportunity to make and learn from mistakes, and won’t shoulder too much responsibility with Trey Burke already in place, too. Exum has all the tools to be great; let’s hope he can live up to the hype and prove xenophobic doubters wrong.
Honorable Mention: Julius Randle, TJ Warren, PJ Hairston, Shabazz Napier
Rookie Most Likely to Disappoint: Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
There’s no doubt in my mind that Payton will be a good player in the league; I just don’t think he’s the franchise point guard the Orlando Magic need. On paper, Payton possesses many attributes we love in lead guards: terrific length, a tenacious disposition, and the all-around talent to stack the box score. But the Magic wasn’t the right team for him, and it’s going to take time for the Louisiana-Lafayette product to adjust to the NBA game.
Often compared to Rajon Rondo, Payton will not have the luxury of three future Hall-of-Famers to guide him through the rigors of professional basketball. Instead he will have a very young team that, for the moment, lacks any semblance of identity. When Payton shares the floor with Victor Oladipo and , the Magic are going to have some real issues shooting the ball. Prove me wrong, Payton!
Honorable Mention: Nik Stauskas, Noah Vonleh, Zach LaVine